With the lack of diversity in this year's Academy Award nominations, the film industry is yet again discussing the issue as a cause for improvement. Most prominently, this failure has now been noticed by one key member of the Academy – and she intends to do something to try and remedy the situation.
In an official statement, reported by The Wrap, Academy president Cheryl Boone Issacs made the following remarks which directly addressed the issue:
I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. 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.
Taking a look at the films that were nominated this year, in both the acting and film-making categories, you can't help but feel that the membership roster of the Academy is more than a little different when it comes to the tastes of the common film-goer. Despite their attempts to try and include more blockbuster films like last year's Mad Max: Fury Road, inclusions of such a film are dismissed as blatant attempts to bait the general public into caring about the Oscars. If anything, the fallout from the 2016 nominations has hinted that perhaps the way to combat the stuffy image the Academy is to make sure that their membership reflects the diversity that they wish to promote.
It's always this time of year, when the nominations are announced, that The Academy comes under the most fire. Favorites are snubbed, strongly buzzed performances are overlooked, and films that were yesterday's front-runner become tomorrow's also ran candidate. One such case in point is F. Gary Gray's smash hit, Straight Outta Compton, which had Oscar buzz all over its theatrical release this past August. A film that told a vital story in the history of hip hop and race relations, Gray's film only secured one Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, despite the Producers Guild of America Awards, the Critics' Choice Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards all honoring the film not only with nominations - but with wins in various categories.
Admittedly, all of this talk of the other awards that Straight Outta Compton has received leads us to wonder just where the membership demographics of those various bodies of judgment rank when compared to the Academy's members. Perhaps the voting bodies for both the Producers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild hold the key towards ensuring a more diverse Academy voters. With the gauntlet thrown by Cheryl Boone Issacs herself, the next year promises to help the Oscar voting pool to become just that.
There's a chance that this intervention in the name of diversity may have come too late to prove the Oscars as relevant in the public eye, but it's a chance that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are going to have to take. In the meantime, the 88th Annual Academy Awards will be held on February 28, and more than likely roasted by the wit of returning host Chris Rock.