Oscars: White, not gold


The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has taken over social media since this year’s Academy Award nominations were announced on Jan. 14. The trending topic was in reaction to the incredible lack of diversity in the film nominations, including an entirely white slate in all four acting categories. Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee and several other celebrities have pledged to boycott the awards ceremony as a demonstration of their letdown.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first black, female president of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, has spoken out about her disappointment in this year’s nominations. In a statement released by the Academy, she says she is “both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.” She then outlined her plan to double the amount of diverse voting members by the year 2020. A Los Angeles Times study found that in 2012, the Academy was  94 percent white, 77 percent male and the average age of members was 62.

Oscar boycotters are hoping that their actions will serve as a call to action for Hollywood executives to increase jobs for minorities in the film industry, and they are encouraging the public to support the underrated films made by and starring minorities that were released in 2015. Whether you will be watching the Academy Awards this year or not, be sure to check out some of these incredible movies that represent the talent of Hollywood’s diverse filmmakers.

“Dope”- This indie-comedy was a bright spot in the summer movie season, telling the story of three nerdy teenagers who accidently get wrapped up in a drug deal after a night out. It follows Malcolm, played by the up-and-coming Shameik Moore, as he and his friends try to escape the wrath of the dealers looking for drugs.  The film features a majority black cast and crew, including actors Kiersey Clemons and A$ap Rocky, director Rick Famuyiwa and producers Forest Whitaker and Pharrell Williams. The film showcases black teenagers in a fresh way without reverting to the stereotypes present in many other films.

“Beasts of No Nation”- This Netflix film is considered one of the biggest Oscar snubs the year. Despite incredible reviews, this movie, with an entirely black cast, did not receive a single nomination from the Academy. Idris Elba stars as a commandant in charge of training child soldiers during a war in Africa. Although not an easy viewing experience, “Beasts of No Nation” is an important film about the brutal realities of civil war.

“Creed”- Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) returns to the big screen and introduces us to a new boxing hero, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan). Stallone received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance, but Jordan and director Ryan Coogler were not so lucky. Both had previously been snubbed for their work on “Fruitvale Station.” “Creed” introduces a new generation to the world of Balboa and has the potential to be just as loved as the original.

“Tangerine”-This small movie is groundbreaking for doing something uncommon in the film industry: casting transgender actors to play transgender characters. The story takes place in a single day, following a transgender prostitute recently released from jail as she chases down her cheating boyfriend. This smart, political comedy demonstrates the incredible talent that can come from independent films and diverse casts.

“Chi-Raq”- Based on the Greek classic “Lysistrata,” addresses the issue of gun violence in Chicago’s South Side. Lysistrata, the strong-willed girlfriend of a gang leader, leads the women of her neighborhood in an abstinence movement in hopes of ending the reckless violence that their husbands and boyfriends are taking part in. Although the storytelling is at times weak, “Chi-Raq” allows its actors to shine through while creating a political commentary on the current state of Chicago.

“Bessie”- Starring Queen Latifah and Mo’nique, this HBO biopic chronicles the life of the 1920’s blues singer Bessie Smith. The film was directed and co-written by Dee Rees, an up-and-coming black female in the film industry. The film helps fill the void of movies about African American women in the 20th century and addresses the racial prejudices that Smith faced head on. Latifah’s superb performance carries the movie through and makes it a must see for 2015.

“Furious 7”- Perhaps not an Oscar-quality movie, but the seventh installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise presented one of the most diverse ensembles of the year. Featuring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese Gibson, this fast-paced, action-packed film makes for an entertaining viewing experience. The box office hit manages to keep audiences pleased 15 years after the original and serves as an example for the importance of inclusive casting. Boycott or not, The Academy Awards will air on Feb. 28 on ABC.

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