Lowdown on the Oscars Controversy…

Controversy is in the air surrounding the upcoming 88th annual Academy Awards, also known as the god of film awards- the Oscars on February 28th.

The uproar boils down to many influential actors and actresses and key figures in the film industry boycotting the glitzy ceremony claiming not enough ethnic minority actors/actresses have been nominated this year and last.  Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 20 major actors shortlisted for this year’s Academy Awards, which is set to be held at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, are, for the second year in a row, all white.

The dispute has sparked many accomplished actors and directors to shun the ceremony, refusing to go as a stand against the lack of diversity in the filmic industry. Jada Pinkett Smith, a.k.a Fish from Gotham and Niobe in The Matrix sequels, released a video on Facebook announcing that she will not be attending the Oscars.

Her actor husband Will Smith, has since shown his support for his wife’s decision and has also stated he will not be attending the star studded event. “For me, at its best, Hollywood represents and then creates the imagery for that beauty,” Smith said. “But for my part, I think that I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country and make our Hollywood community great. So when I look at the series of nominations of the Academy, it’s not reflecting that beauty,” the accomplished actor, who many tipped to be nominated this role for his role in sports drama, Concussion, told Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor also stressed his wife’s decision not to attend the ceremony was not fueled entirely by his lack of nomination for Concussion, but mainly because diversity in film is something she feels strongly about. In his Good Morning America interview he added: ““The nominations reflect the Academy. The Academy reflects the industry [Hollywood] and then the industry reflects America,” Smith said. “There is a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind.”

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In hitting back against a another video posted on Facebook, this time by Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actress Janet Hubert, who said: “”I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living, and made millions and millions of dollars from the very people you’re talking about boycotting just because you didn’t get a nomination, just because you didn’t win,”, Jada Pinkett Smith urged people to look beyond the Oscars at the bigger picture.

She told Entertainment Tonight: “”This whole Oscar controversy isn’t really about the Oscars,” she adds. “Really, in my plea to ask all communities and people of color to take back our power, is so that we can use it in all sectors of our community, and right now, specifically with African-American people, we have some very serious issues that I think we as a people have to move together on. I’m hoping we can find ways to step together in this instead of finding ways to fight each other. I got love for everybody.”

It’s worth noting that the Oscars haven’t always been dogged by controversy over discriminating against ethnic minority actors and actresses. Will Smith said it was “huge” for him that the two times he has been nominated for an Oscar  for Ali in 2001 and for The Pursuit of Happyness in 2006 – he lost to African-American actors, Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. Whatsmore, 12 Years a Slave (2013) became the first film directed and produced by a black filmmaker (Steve McQueen) and also the first to be written by an African-American (John Ridley) to win the Academy Award for ‘Best Motion Picture of the Year’.

Stan Lee, director, film, The Oscars

Giving it a miss: Director Stan Lee told Good Morning America he will be going to the New York Knicks basketball game instead of the Oscars.

Others have followed suit on the so called #OscarssoWhite debate. Oldboy director Spike Lee has followed suit saying he would also not be attending  this year and stars including George Clooney to Lupita Nyong’o have also expressed the concern over the lack of diversity in contenders.

Mark Ruffalo, who is up for best supporting actor, also spoke out in a bid to improve opportunities for actors from black and ethnic minority communities in the movie industry. Previous Oscar winner, Reese Witherspoon stated that all filmmakers deserve recognition, as two time Oscar nominee Viola Davies said the problem was with the lack of black films being made in the first place, whilst Whoopi Goldberg says the issue isn’t totally about the Academy.

African-American, comedian and actor Chris Rock is also still planned to host the ceremony, and has apparently rewritten his jokes and script for the entire show in the wake of the current controversy. Academy Awards producer Reginald Hudlin indicated to Entertainment Tonight that he and his team are prepared for Rock to make some controversial statements.

“And, yes, the Academy is ready for him to do that,” Hudlin said. “They’re excited about him doing that. They know that’s what we need. They know that’s what the public wants, and we deliver what the people want.”

Chris Rock, The Oscars

Host: Chris Rock will be hosting the Oscars- whether he speaks out about the controversy remains to be seen.

Others gone beyond sitting on the fence and not speaking out. Actress Charlotte Rampling, nominated this year for her role in the British drama 45 Years, caused a stir, saying the notion of boycotting the Oscars is racist against white people and boldly suggested maybe some black actors weren’t good enough to get nominated.

What has all these influential film figures speaking out achieved so far?

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs has said she will take steps to ensure positive changes are afoot within the Academy itself. The Academy’s first black president told in a statement : “This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”

Variety reported that last Friday the Academy announced it would shake up its membership to encourage more diversity, aiming to have twice it’s current number of female and ethnic minority members by 2020, further reinforcing Isaacs statement.

Cheryl Boone Issacs

Shake Up: Academy President Cheryl Boone Issacs said the Academy aims to double it’s numbers of minority and female members by 2020.

For a fully list of this year’s Oscar Nominees click here. 

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