White, Male


The 2015 Oscar nominations, announced this morning, loudly echo Martha Lauzen’s most recent report on the “celluloid ceiling” for women in Hollywood. What Lauzen said about her findings can equally be said of today’s nominees:

[They] drive home the point that men continue to construct the vast majority of the visual and aural worlds featured in U.S. films.

Let’s start with the good news: There are two categories completely dominated by women—best actress and best supporting actress!

The rest of the nominations, as a whole, are disproportionately dismal for women and for people of color.

The biggest disappointment is the lack of recognition for Ava DuVernay and the African American actors in her film Selma. Yes, it got a best picture nomination, and one for best song, but why wasn’t DuVernay on the Best Director list? Is it because of criticism of how she handled LBJ’s role in the civil rights movement? Here’s what Melissa Silverstein had to say about it in Indiewire:

This snub feels like a kick in the teeth to women directors everywhere. [DuVernay] ticked all the boxes. Made a movie about a historical figure whom people know. Made a movie about a man [indeed, all the best-picture nominees are about men]. Great reviews. Great lead performance. … Movies that women direct don’t usually get the studio financial support of millions of dollars to compete in the Oscar race. Selma did. It played hard. But the LBJ partisans played harder, and clearly they won. They knocked down a movie of towering significance, and quite frankly it makes the Academy members look like idiots.

And here’s what Scott Mendelson added in Forbes:

Selma is not the first “based on a true story” picture that has come under fire for historical inaccuracies. But it is the rare black-centric historical drama told explicitly from the point of view of its black protagonists. So it is both ironic and infuriating that it has now been defamed because of the (I would argue false) notion that it isn’t nice enough to a really powerful white guy who plays a key supporting role.

And, by the way, why wasn’t David Oyelowo nominated for his much-praised portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr.? In fact, there are no actors of color among the best acting nominees, let alone recognized—or given a chance to be recognized—in so many other categories of achievement. As The Atlantic put it, these are “The Oscars Haven’t Been This White in 19 Years.

Then there are all those categories in which women are left out of the clubhouse: cinematography, film scoring, screenplays, visual effects, sound mixing. Not surprisingly, women are best represented in fashion-related categories: costume design, makeup, set decoration. And documentary film—in which “Hollywood” has little involvement—is rich with women in its credits; this time, two of the five Best Documentary Feature films and two of the five Best Documentary Short films are directed by women. (You go, Laura Poitras, Rory Kennedy, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Aneta Kopacz!)

And what about Mica Levi?

She’s one of the rare women composers getting “Hollywood” attention these days. And that’s not surprising, since women scored only 1 percent of the top 250 films in Lauzen’s study. But while others have recognized Levi’s talent on the film Under the Skin—she won Best Composer at the European Film Awards and was tied for the honor of Best Music/Score from the Los Angeles Film Critics—the Oscars had no room for her. Instead, the Academy stuck with standard favorites such as Alexandre Desplat (two nominations) and Hans Zimmer.

I suppose the only other good news this morning is that so many people are pissed off about the nominations. That indicates a growing recognition that the film industry needs much more diversity and gender parity. And even if Academy voters are behind the curve, regular moviegoers are showing their love for DuVernay’s Selma and also-unnominated Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. Keep casting those votes at the box office so that Hollywood knows how much we want to see films about, and made by, women and people of color!

And prepare yourself for the stupid red-carpet questions that will be asked women at the upcoming Oscar ceremonies. …

Photo of Oscar from Flickr user Rachel under license from Creative Commons 2.0


Michele in Mendocino



Michele Kort is senior editor of Ms.






Michele Kort is senior editor of Ms. She is the author of Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro and coeditor (with Audrey Bilger) of Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage.