The Oscars Are Slightly Less White This Year – February 22, 2017

This year’s slate of Oscar nominees includes seven people of color in the best and supporting acting categories. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had been criticized for the lack of diversity among nominees in recent years. They responded by adding more people of color, more women and more international members to the group that selects nominees and winners.

But the Academy still has a long way to go: Of its more than 7,000 members, women make up only 27 percent of voters, and people of color make up only 11 percent. That lack of diversity also shows up when you look at who has won in the past. Here are the most common attributes of previous winners, compared to the 2017 nominees.


Everyone laughed at Chris Rock’s biting Oscars monologue. But will Hollywood actually change? – Updated by Michelle Garcia on February 29, 2016, 11:40 a.m. ET `

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at Mar 1, 2016 1.24

Chris Rock’s biting monologue Sunday night at the Academy Awards pulled no punches on Hollywood’s longstanding lack of diversity.

“I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the white people’s choice awards,” Rock said in his opening joke. “I realized if they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job. You’d be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now.”

Rock, however, also turned his fire on the Academy’s critics. Why was this the first year for protests over the lack of people of color included among nominees — where were the critics in the 1950s and ’60s, when black people were mostly shut out of Hollywood?

“[Back then] we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer,” Rock said to uncomfortable laughter. “When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about who won Best Documentary Foreign Short.”

Rock played to his greatest strength: making everyone cringe while also making us laugh at just how messed up things really are. Two of Rock’s most searing monologues on race garnered applause and even cheers. The first was when he asked why this particular ceremony has caught so much heat. The other was one that directly addressed police brutality.

“This year the in memoriam package is just going to be black people shot by the cops on the way to the movies,” he said, to a room full of uneasy applause.

Throughout the show, Rock confronted the entertainment industry — mainly the producers, studio heads, and financiers who really run things, as well as the industry’s top actors. In a poignant anecdote, Rock recalled a Hollywood fundraiser for President Barack Obama. A handful of people there, he said, were people of color.

“At some point you get to take a picture with the president,” Rock said. “I said, ‘Mr. President, you see all these writers, and actors, and producers? They don’t hire black people. And they’re the nicest white people on Earth. They’re liberals. Cheese!’ Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist. But it’s not that racism you’ve grown accustomed to. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.'”

Later in the show, a sketch reimagined some of the year’s biggest films with black actors dropped in. Divisive actress Stacey Dash wished everyone a happy Black History Month, and Jack Black was honored for being a great black actor. For another segment, Rock went to a movie theater in Compton to ask black moviegoers what they thought about the whole controversy.

Everyone laughed at Chris Rock’s criticisms — but few are trying to change

Rock told Hollywood what it should already know but has nonetheless made few decisive steps to change.

Last week, the New York Times asked 27 Hollywood players what it was like to really work in Hollywood if you’re not straight, white, and male.

America Ferrera, who is Latina, recounted going into auditions and being met with resistance for her race. “What do you do when someone says, ‘Your color skin is not what we’re looking for?'”

Eva Longoria said: “Networks say, ‘We’re on board with diversity,’ and they’ll develop it, but they seldom program it. We don’t have enough people in the decision-making process.”

Producer Effie Brown recalled: “[Initially], I had a real issue with Teamsters, who [were] predominantly male, predominantly white, and having that moment of ‘Oh, you really aren’t listening.’ And that’s when I started spouting my résumé. It’s a little demoralizing that you have to explain yourself.”

These long-held prejudices aren’t just anecdotal. A new study says the industry’s “epidemic of invisibility runs throughout popular storytelling.” According to the University of Southern California, 33.5 percent of all speaking roles in films released between September 2014 and August 2015 were for women, and 28.3 percent of speaking roles were filled by nonwhite actors.

Perhaps that’s because among those making the ultimate decisions, 94 percent of film studio heads were white and 100 percent were male between 2012 and 2013, according to a University of California Los Angeles 2015 study on diversity.

The excuse among the powers that be has long been the idea that white people are the majority of the moviegoing public. From film schools to studios, decision-makers see movies with casts of color as too alienating. But half of frequent moviegoers are nonwhite, according to the UCLA study. What’s more, films with racially diverse casts had the highest median global box office receipt and the highest median return on investment.

Those old excuses? They ring pretty hollow these days.

Since the nominations were released and #OscarsSoWhite returned for a second year in a row, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs put into motion a plan to widen the diversity among Oscar voters. But that doesn’t solve the deeper problems preventing films involving women and people of color from being made in the first place.

Maybe Kevin Hart’s moving speech was the call to action everyone needed to hear to make sure what happened in 2016 doesn’t happen again. Hart spoke directly to entertainers of color who were shut out of the big show this year.

“Tonight should not determine the hard work and effort you put into your craft,” he said. “These problems of today eventually become problems of the old. Let’s not let this negative issue of diversity beat us. Let’s continue to do what we do best and work hard.”

Swag Reflex – By Helene Olen FEB. 26 2016 6:01 PM

This year’s Oscars goodie basket is worth a record $230,000. Even the academy is disgusted.

Products from the Distinctive Assets “Everybody Wins at the Oscars” nominee gift bag given out at the 2007 Academy Awards. --  Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Products from the Distinctive Assets “Everybody Wins at the Oscars” nominee gift bag given out at the 2007 Academy Awards. —
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Psst—did you hear about the controversy at the Oscars? No, I don’t mean the dearth of minorities nominated for Academy Awards, which is a real and shameful scandal.

I’m talking about the swag bags.

This year’s purported thank-you package for Oscars presenters and prominent nominees, a basket containing goodies worth an estimated $230,000, is causing a furor. First, activists opposed to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories urged a boycott of the costliest item, a $55,000, 10-day jaunt to Israel including first class airline tickets and luxury accommodations.

Then the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences stepped up with a lawsuit.That gift bag? Has nothing to do with them, no way, no how. Instead, the academy would like Distinctive Assets, the promotional and product-placement company that’s distributing the things to the 25 nominees in the directing and acting categories and host Chris Rock, to cease advertising its giveaway as the “14th Annual ‘Everyone Wins’ Nominee Gift Bags in honor of the Academy Awards®.” Specifically, the academy is alleging trademark infringement.

Why is the academy ticked off? It’s not because someone asked, “Hey, why does Leonardo DiCaprio (estimated 2015 earnings: $29 million) need a free round of laser skin tightening treatment valued at $5,500, a $45,000 junket to Japan, and a $275 roll of Swiss toilet paper?” Surely he’ll show up to the Oscars anyway.

The academy is angry because of the combination of almost obscene luxury—$230,000!—and family-unfriendly freebies like a $250 vibrator and something called a Vampire Breast Lift ($1,900) that apparently besmirches the Oscars’ good name. “Press about the 2016 gift bags has focused on both the less-than-wholesome nature of some of the products,” reads the complaint, which goes on to mourn “the unseemliness of giving such high value gifts … to an elite group of celebrities.”

Watch All Eight of Slate’s Video Essays on This Year’s Best Picture Nominees – By Laura Bennett, David Ehrlich, Aisha Harris, Dan Kois, Willa Paskin, Alan Scherstuhl, Dana Stevens, Jacob T. Swinney, Julia Turner, and Forrest Wickman

 Every movie deserves a defense.  Image by Slate. Stills via Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros.

Every movie deserves a defense.
Image by Slate. Stills via Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros.

Over the past few weeks, as part of our series “The Best Case for Best Picture,” Slate staffers and critics have mounted their strongest arguments for the movie they think should win the Oscars’ biggest prize. It hasn’t been easy: They’ve also had to contend against the counterarguments of Slate culture editor Dan Kois. From the quiet romanticism of Brooklyn to the pulse-racing spectacle of Mad Max: Fury Road, this year’s Best Picture contenders are all over the map. But every movie deserves a defense. Watch them all, and decide which movie you think comes out on top.

How to Fix the Oscars: Abolish Nominations – By Adam Sternbergh January 29, 2015 1:36 p.m.

Photo: Gary Hershorn/Corbis

Photo: Gary Hershorn/Corbis

When Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons, Julianne Moore, and probably Eddie Redmayne ascend the Oscar dais to collect their respective awards for Best Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Actress, and Actor, you may feel a strong sense of déjà vu. That’s because this exact quartet all won SAG awards for acting. (They also all won Golden Globe awards for acting, as well as many pre-Oscar critics’ awards.) At this point, Arquette, Simmons, and Moore are stone-locks to win; Redmayne could possibly lose to Michael Keaton, though that’s looking increasingly unlikely. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the only meager kernel of suspense these four categories have to offer you this year.

The SAG awards alone have become such an accurate predictor of the Oscars that, over the past five years, 18 of 20 SAG winners have gone on to win their Oscar category. (The exceptions: In 2013, Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor over SAG winner Tommy Lee Jones; in 2012, Meryl Streep won Best Actress over Viola Davis.) This is a huge problem for the Oscars, and a pretty big turn-off for Oscar viewers. The acting categories make up four of the Big Six Oscar categories (along with Best Picture and Best Director), so unless you’re a big fan of death montages or weirdly anachronistic musical numbers, the main reason to tune in to the Oscars is to find out who wins. With acting, we already know 90 percent of the time.

So, having already definitively and brilliantly fixed everything that’s wrong with the Best Picture category, let’s turn our attention to the acting categories. It’s ridiculous that every year, the best we viewers can hope for, drama-wise, is that one out of four races might come down to one of two nominees. (Last year: Nyong’o versus Lawrence; this year: Redmayne versus Keaton.) The acting-category conundrum is a tricky one to solve, however, since the increasingly long gauntlet of pre-Oscar awards shows has effectively drained these particular categories of all suspense. The primary problem is that the people who vote for Guild awards like SAG are the exact same people who vote for the Oscar nominees, and are also largely the exact same people who vote for the Oscars. (The difference being that while only SAG-member actors can vote for the SAG awards, all Academy members can vote for Oscar winners but not Oscar nominees.) So having guild awards in advance of the Oscars is like staging an exit poll before an election, then tallying every single person’s vote before the actual election is held. You’re not going to hit it 100 percent of the time, but you’re going to come depressingly close.

This wasn’t always the case: The SAG awards, for example, are only 20 years old. So it’s not that hard for some of us to recall a time when the ripping of the envelope preceded something like actual surprise. Sadly, that’s no longer the case, and the Oscars need to fix this. And in order to fix this, they need to do something radical: abolish nominations. Then, on Oscar night, read out the top-five vote-getters in each acting category in ascending order over the course of the evening — culminating, finally, with the winner.

After all, the revealing of the five nominees in each acting category is the only moment in this whole damned process that retains any drama. Will Jennifer Aniston get a nomination? What about Jake Gyllenhaal? Who will get chosen? Who will get snubbed? The nominations still provide actual suspense — which is precisely why the Oscars need to get rid of them. Or, rather, co-opt them and move them to Oscar night itself. Because once the five nominees are set, weeks in advance of the ceremony, you’re basically left with Julianne Moore and Four People Who Will Lose to Julianne Moore. This dread certainty only solidifies over time, as each pre-Oscar award is handed out.

Now instead, imagine this: Over the course of the night, rather than just reading out the winner in each acting category, presenters come to the podium, open an envelope, and say, “For Best Supporting Actor, in fifth place: Edward Norton, for Birdman.” Rather than spending a whole night waiting to lose to J.K. Simmons, Norton would actually be surprised, and probably pleased, and maybe a little pissed he came in fifth and not first (or third). In any case: Surprise! Suspense! Real human emotion! In response, the hall would cheer. People who had Norton placing third in their Oscar pool would groan. The rest of the hopefuls would shift in their seats and wonder if they’ll squeeze into the top four. And instead of showcasing one winner and four losers, as the current system does, the Oscars would showcase five winners — even if the top prize still inevitably ends up going to Simmons.

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Oscars 2014: Academy Awards ceremony gets biggest TV audience in 10 years – 4 March 2014 Last updated at 05:06 ET

Ellen DeGeneres hosts the Oscars ceremony

Ellen DeGeneres took the helm of the 2014 Academy Awards

Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, was watched by 43 million TV viewers in the US.

According to broadcaster ABC, it was the biggest audience for the Academy Awards in a decade.

The audience was 6.4% bigger than last year when the event was fronted by Seth McFarlane, according to ratings figures from Nielsen.

The most recent biggest TV audience was 43.6m in 2004, when The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King cleaned up.

The most watched Oscars ceremony on television came in 1998, when the triumph of Titanic with 11 Academy awards was seen by 55.3 million viewers.

Last year’s choice of irreverent host McFarlane drew criticism from some quarters. DeGeneres – hosting the event for the second time – was seen as a safer pair of hands.

The comedian and TV host received mixed reviews for this year’s ceremony, but her tenure was seen as a step away from recent attempts to draw in younger audiences.

Despite this, data from ratings trackers Nielsen suggested that there was an increase of 1% in the 18 to 34-year-old audience bracket.

Regardless of the critics’ views, Degeneres’ staged a “selfie” photograph with several of the stars in the audience which was a hit on social media, setting the record for the most retweets on Twitter – more than two million.

The comic declared she wanted to break the record for the most retweeted photograph in history, featuring herself surrounded by the front row talent – and best supporting actress winner Lupita Nyong’o’s brother.

She broke the record within the hour, and in doing so, broke Twitter’s servers too.

Twitter said that 14.7 million Oscar-related tweets were sent worldwide during the telecast.