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This year’s Oscar nominations have become a major topic of controversy as, for the second year in a row, every nominee in an acting category was white. The criticism of this year's selections has been strong, and there have even been calls to boycott the awards from some corners of Hollywood. Now, some members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences are speaking out and while some are admitting there may be some problems with the process as a whole, individuals are insisting that racism is not part of it.
While no black actors or actresses were nominated for Oscars this year a number of individual members have come forward to say that they did vote to nominate people of color and that those people simply did not get enough votes because the number of great performances was incredibly high. Actresses Penelope Ann Miller was one Academy member who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter to say that she tried to nominate black performers and she doesn’t appreciate being called racist because they didn’t make the short list.
To imply that this is because all of us are racists is extremely offensive. I don't want to be lumped into a category of being a racist because I'm certainly not and because I support and benefit from the talent of black people in this business. It was just an incredibly competitive year.
Her comments were echoed by another Academy member who felt that everybody was being painted with the same brush. While this member asked to remain anonymous, it’s clear that whoever they are, they don’t like the implication that racism was involved in their vote.
I'm very offended by the idea that some people are calling us racists — race was the furthest thing from my mind when I cast my ballot, and in fact I nominated one person of color for an award. Such a sweeping declaration is extremely irresponsible.
Of course, the problem is that unless every member of the Academy comes forward and shows their hand, which won’t happen, it’s impossible to know what the voting actually looked like. Were there black actors who very nearly made the cut, or was Penelope Ann Miller's nomination one of the few?
John Ridley, the screenwriter behind 12 Years A Slave, probably has the most realistic take on the situation. He figures most Academy members just never saw Beasts of No Nation, and that has more to do with demographics than overt racism.
Straight Outta Compton was a great film; I think it just lost some Academy members who are older. There were a lot of omissions of white people that I think were just as disappointing — I'm sure [Spotlight's] Michael Keaton is bummed, you know?
It’s true that there were many actors, as well as directors, of different races who are worthy of nominations that did not receive them. At the same time, if great movies lost out on nominations because the older, and admittedly mostly white, members of the organization didn’t bother to see them, or simply didn’t "get" them, then that does seem like a missed opportunity.