Arts, News

Academy writes new script in face of a boycott

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Boycott, however, splits blacks in the film industry

By Frederick H. Lowe

With a boycott by black actors and a director dominating movie-theater marquees for the upcoming Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has approved a series of sweeping changes to make the mostly white-male academy more diverse.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The Academy’s 51-member board announced on Friday it is committed to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy’s president. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing the membership composition.”

The 5,500 voting members of the Academy select the nominees for each award, as well as the winner among the five nominees. All members vote on Best Picture, while peers vote for nominees and winners in the other non-specialized categories (directors vote for Best Director, actors for Best Actor, etc.), according to the Voting and Fair Democracy Research Center.

This year, like last year, no African American actors or actresses made the cut for 2016 Academy Awards that will shown on ABC –Television next month.

Most of the Academy membership is white and male

The Academy doesn’t disclose the composition of its membership, but in 2014, The Los Angeles Times reported that Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The L.A. Times found. Blacks comprise about 2% of the academy’s members and Latinos comprise under 2% of the group. The Los Angeles Times also reported that membership is generally for life, and hundreds of academy voters haven’t worked on a movie in decades.

Cut to change

Beginning this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years and will be renewed if that new member has been active in film industry during the decade, said Boone Isaacs.

“In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award,” she added.

Members who have not been involved in the film industry in 10 years will be moved to emeritus status and will lose their voting rights. Emeritus members will not pay dues, but they will enjoy all the privileges of membership, Academy officials said.

The new changes will be applied retroactively.

The Academy announced its plans after actor-director Spike Lee, actor Will Smith and actress Jada Pinkett Smith, said they would not attend or watch the Oscars because none of the nominees were African American Some black actors are boycotting the Oscars. One of the biggest nights on television is scheduled for February 28.

The voting for the Oscars received an X-rated response from some blacks in the industry, and boycott supporters are using the hashtag #Oscars so White.

A different view

Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling told a French radio station the boycott is seen as racist to white people.  She has since apologized for her comments. Rampling has been nominated for best actress for her performance in “45 years.”

Black Oscar winners are not following the boycott script

It’s not clear how much traction the boycott is gaining among black actors and actress in the industry.

So far, it’s mixed.

For example, Academy Award winner Denzel Washington hasn’t announced his support and neither has

Jamie Foxx who took home the coveted statuette for his 2005 Best Actor  performance in “Ray.”

Washington has won two Oscars for his movie performances. He won a Best Supporting Actor award for  1989’s “Glory.” In 2001, he won the Oscar for Best Actor in “Training Day” Washington holds the record of six nominations for Oscar.

A close knit community divided over ideas

Washington starred in “Inside Man,” a well-received 2005 movie directed by Lee. He also starred in “Malcolm X,” which Lee made in 1992.

It is not known if two time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington will support the boycott.
It is not known if two time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington will support the boycott.

Academy Award winner Whoppi Goldberg called the boycott a slap in the face to Chris Rock, who will host the Oscars.

Goldberg had a part in Rock’s critically acclaimed 2014 movie “Top Five.” Goldberg was named Best Supporting Actress in 1990’s “Ghost.”

Rock said he will remain host of the Oscars, but he’s rewriting his monologue because of the recent turn of events.

The producer of this year’s Academy Awards is African American as is Boone Isaacs, the Academy’s president.

More changes at the Academy

The Academy also noted it will establish three new governor seats nominated by the president and confirmed by the board, which will immediately increase the organization’s diversity.


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  1. If there isn’t a film with a role played by a black actor Oscar worthy…what changes? Distribution and positive criticism of films with US deserve as much attention as other works.

  2. I like the film “Concussion” because it told me something I didn’t know.

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