This year’s Oscars will be remembered for the righteous outcry against Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters for nominating primarily white male nominees and snubbing people of color, particularly those involved in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma.

The overall group of 6,028 Academy Awards voters is over 90% white and 76% male. The average of academy members is 63.

It has been adding new members and apparently sought to diversify under the leadership of Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, an African American woman, however, according to the Los Angeles Times, at the current rate of “diversification” the Academy still will be 89% white and 72% male by 2023.

What makes the state of the Academy even worse is its voters do not always watch the films nominated for awards. The attention voters give to viewing movies often depends on buzz or what is popular. They are concerned with what will appeal to a mass audience, not what happens to be the best film, story or performances that year. And some of them have no problem with being blunt ignorant jerks about it.

From The Hollywood Reporter, a “longtime member of the Academy’s 378-member public relations branch”:

…[L]et me say that I’m tired of all of this talk about “snubs” — I thought for every one of [the snubs] there was a justifiable reason. What no one wants to say out loud is that Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there’s no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male, I don’t think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were. And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance — they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies. When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it? I’ve got to tell you, having the cast show up in T-shirts saying “I can’t breathe” [at their New York premiere] — I thought that stuff was offensive. Did they want to be known for making the best movie of the year or for stirring up shit?

In other words, what David Oyelowo, who played MLK and should have been nominated, said, “We, as black people, have been celebrated more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings or being at the center of our own narrative.”

The problem of white supremacy or the attraction to films with a white male gaze is compounded by the views of Academy voters who loved American Sniper.

The film about Chris Kyle, who was deployed in Iraq from 2003-2009, has contributed to a rise in attacks and threats against Muslims in the United States. It is war propaganda that masquerades as a social drama about the plight of a military veteran but really asks viewers to empathize with a racist cold-blooded killer.

Academy voters have appreciated the film because it has done so well at the box office and resonated with Americans. The attacks by people critical of how it portrays Iraqis (or, more broadly, Muslims) are seen as illegitimate. As one voter put it, “American Sniper is the winner of the year, whether or not it gets a single statuette, because for all of us in the movie industry — I don’t care what your politics are — it is literally the answer to a prayer for a midrange budget movie directed by an 84-year-old guy [Clint Eastwood] to do this kind of business.”

That said, here are a few specific thoughts about likely winners and then a list of picks:

Boyhood deserves all the praise it has received. Maybe it wins many awards tonight. It just needs to be recognized that this is a story about a lower middle class white boy who grows up in Texas. That it has so much buzz and widely appeals to Academy voters merely reinforces problems of diversity. This independent film can do well while Fruitvale Station about Oscar Grant, a young African American man who was shot and killed by a BART police officer, gets entirely ignored.

Citizenfour, the documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, has some of the most compelling moments of any film nominated. It still is an imperfect film and the fact is that Virunga and Finding Vivian Maier are both stronger nominees. If you prefer social issue documentaries, Virunga deserves the award for its vivid and gripping presentation of neocolonialism in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and how exploitation threatens the survival of mountain gorillas.

—While Selma may not be the best film made and Ava DuVernay may not have done better work than Richard Linklater did on Boyhood, the fact is it deserves every bit of what little recognition it receives tonight.

—Ironic and glib humor about the whiteness of the Oscars may grow insufferable before the night is over. People should genuinely speak out about the state of the Academy or just remain silent.


Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Should Win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Best Actress

Will Win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Should Win: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Should Win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Best Animated Feature

Will Win: Big Hero 6

Should Win: Big Hero 6

Best Cinematography

Will Win: Birdman

(*Should’ve Been Nominated: Selma)

Best Costume Design

Will Win: Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Documentary Feature

Will Win: Virunga

Should Win: Virunga

Best Documentary Short

Will Win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Should Win: White Earth

Best Film Editing

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Boyhood

Best Foreign Language

Will Win: Ida

Should Win: Leviathan

Best Makeup

Will Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

Should Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Original Score

Will Win: The Theory of Everything (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

Should Win: The Theory of Everything (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

Best Original Song

Will Win: “Glory” – Selma

Should Win: “Glory” – Selma

Best Animated Short Film

Will Win: The Bigger Picture

Should Win: A Single Life

Best Live Action Short Film

Will Win: The Phone Call

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: American Sniper

Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: American Sniper

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Grand Budapest Hotel 

Should Win: Nightcrawler

Best Actor

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything)

Should Win: Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything)

Best Director

Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Best Picture

Will Win: Birdman

Should Win: Selma or Theory of Everything


Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."