As usual, the announcements of the nominations for the 2015 Oscars have been met with howls of outrage and despair. There’s no pleasing everyone, of course, but this year Oscar’s choices seem particularly wrong-headed and blinkered.
The biggest issue for many is the lack of diversity in the films that were picked. Ava DuVernay’s Selma and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, both of which were hotly tipped for Best Film nods, lost out despite killer reviews and solid acclaim from the punters. Only Alejandro González Iñárritu falls outside the white male spectrum of Best Director nominees with Birdman, and even he’s no stranger to the statuette.
An Oscar film is nearly a genre in itself. Very specific types of movie, performance and mood are celebrated time and again, at the expense largely of more populist fare. However, both Selma and Unbroken are very much films of the Oscar type, and the smart money was on the two at least making the shortlist. Does their non-appearance fuel accusations of a voting panel that doesn’t like the idea of a female director? Could it be, as some commentors are claiming, that shunning Selma is tantamount to racism?
I’d urge caution here. After all, last year’s Best Film award went to 12 Years A Slave, which rocketed both Steve McQueen and Lupita Nyong’o into the limelight. Oscar can have its enlightened moments. But it’s glaringly obvious that there isn’t a coloured face in the Best Actor and Actress categories: the first time that’s happened since 1997, which is especially galling considering the powerhouse performance of David Oloweyo in Selma. It’s pretty clear that people are starting to call last year’s results a fluke, and the safe, dull list for 2015 a return to business as usual.
But the wrong-headedness continues across the board. Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s extraordinary The Lego Movie failed to got a nod in the categories that mattered, snagging only Best Song. More freakishly, the mighty Bill Plympton, who many had hoped to see in both Best Short and Best Animated Feature, was completely ignored. For fans of a film-maker at the top of his game, this is particularly frustrating.
I’ve long been of the opinion that Oscar is increasingly irrelevant, and this year’s nominations haven’t dissuaded me from that position. It’s good to have the argument about diversity, but as long as the voting panel is overwhelmingly made up of old rich white men, results like last year where a black man and a Mexican ruled the stage are always going to be a token aberration.