Oscar could have made history this year with a (well deserved) nomination for Ava DuVernay for her direction of Selma, but instead he’s left looking a little pale, what with the sea of white male nominees worshiping at his feet.
The Academy Award nominees were announced with the usual fanfare this morning, accompanied by more than a little head-slapping at the snubs — especially in light of how incredibly pale and male each category looks. But none of these snubs was as hard to digest than that of the blatant lack of female nominees in the Directing category.
Both Ava DuVernay and Angelina Jolie caused major buzz this year with their deft direction of human-rights centered films, DuVernay for her masterful direction of Selma and Jolie for Unbroken. We were less surprised to see Jolie left off the list after she failed to make the Golden Globes cut, but DuVernay, who would have been the first female African American director ever nominated for an Academy Award, has received consistent and considerable praise, including a Golden Globes nomination, for her direction of Selma.
The film, which chronicles Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign for equal voting rights in 1965, focuses on King‘s historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and the political maelstrom that surrounded the civil rights leader at the time.
The powerful civil rights film was made to feel all the more poignant by recent current events, and yet, DuVernay was completely overlooked and we can’t help but wonder if the Academy delivered its snub due to the manufactured political controversies surrounding DuVernay’s depiction of Lyndon B. Johnson as “less than sympathetic” to the Civil Rights movement.
DuVernay herself responded to these criticisms from her Twitter account, saying, “Notion that Selma was LBJ’s idea is jaw dropping and offensive to SNCC, SCLC and black citizens who made it so.” She also linked to a New Yorker magazine article that confirms Johnson asked King to postpone his fight for voting rights in the following tweet:
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) December 28, 2014
This point of controversy is important because every historical film ever made has taken liberties with the facts because real-life drama hardly ever follows a traditional three-act structure. But in this instance, the politicians who came out en masse against DuVernay’s portrayal of Johnson were loud, insistent and hell-bent on being heard, because, you know, white people.
Maybe Hollywood listened a little too closely.
Or maybe the Academy just prefers movies about white men doing manly things, because the Academy itself is notorious for being primarily white and male, and there aren’t a whole lot of women directors out there who find themselves driven to make yet another movie about yet another white dude doing more white-dude stuff.
Which isn’t to say we disagree with all of the nominees for Directing.
Alejandro González Iñárritu absolutely deserves to be considered for his unbelievable work on Birdman, and we can’t even try to deny that Linklater is anything other than deserving of his nomination for Boyhood. Wes Anderson‘s nod for The Grand Budapest Hotel is spot-on for the mesmerizing story and artistic maturity evident in his most recent work. All three of these films were undeniably captivating in their scope and vision.
But was Bennett Miller’s direction of Foxcatcher really superior to DuVernay’s handling of the Selma voting rights march? Did Morten Tyldum, who directed the historical drama The Imitation Game really out-direct DuVernay?
Or, in a year that included far too little diversity on-screen, is Oscar merely reflecting the unfortunate male-centered whitewash of a shell that seems to have come down around Hollywood while the world around it continues to fight for gender parity and basic civil rights?