Rick Bentley

Diversity not the only failing of this year’s Oscars

Chris Rock will host his second Oscars telecast Sunday, Feb. 28.
Chris Rock will host his second Oscars telecast Sunday, Feb. 28. ABC

The 88th Academy Awards will long be remembered for the lack of diversity in its nominees. But let’s be honest, this is really nothing new for the academy.

Except for a few years, such as 2013 when “12 Years a Slave” won best picture and saw John Ridley win for writing and Lupita Nyong’o for supporting acting, the academy history has not embraced diversity.

If you look closer, the academy also has shown other forms of exclusion. There’s a long list of actors and productions not among the nominees demonstrating the need to revamp the nomination and voting practices. Here are just a few examples of other places where the Oscars could improve:

Tunnel vision flaws: It’s almost a lock that Leonardo DiCaprio will finally pick up an Oscar for his work in “The Revenant.” And yet, it’s DiCaprio’s co-star, Tom Hardy, who should be taking home the statue.

Hardy, who did receive a nomination as a supporting actor for his performance in “The Revenant,” was not recognized for his work in “Legend.”

His portrayal of the Krays, one of Britian’s most notorious pair of twin criminals, is brilliant. His double duty is so distinct and strong it wouldn’t have been a stretch to give him two nominations in the lead actor category.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding DiCaprio because he has not won an Oscar (he definitely should have for “The Aviator”). And, there are all those stories about how the bear in “Revenant” got a little too familiar with the actor.

The truth is, despite the best efforts of the academy, a lot of the voters don’t see all of the nominated work, which leaves voters open to persuasion from what they read and hear about the nominee. There is a massive advertising push by studios to promote their productions, which includes massive newspaper and magazine advertisements, special screenings and mailers.

It holds true in other categories, such as the animated feature film. A movie like “Inside Out” will get a lot of attention because the Disney promotional machine is behind the Pixar movie. But, a beautiful production like “The Prophet,” based on the novel by Kahlil Gibran, may not get much notice because it didn’t have a big theatrical run.

Sentimentality rules: Even if Michael B. Jordan’s snub wasn’t part of the bigger lack of diversity picture, it is embarrassing that he got overlooked but co-star Sylvester Stallone got nominated as supporting actor for “Creed.”

To honor Stallone’s mumbling and ignore the actor who provides the real heart and soul of the film is a big failing.

Stallone’s nomination (a strong potential to win) comes more from remembering the Italian Stallion in his prime. Stallone lost his only other Oscar nomination in 1977 when the academy voters gave the statue to Peter Finch in “Network.”

Finch was great, but there was also a large dose of sentimentality going on as the actor died just before the awards were presented. He became the first person to win a posthumous Academy Award.

Sci-fi snub: The academy has never shown respect for actors who turn in great performances in action movies featuring a lot of special effects. Don’t throw in “The Martian” as an argument – that film is more science fact.

Both Daisy Ridley of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and Charlize Theron of “Mad Max: Fury Road” turned in standout performances.

Ridley’s portrayal of Rey is loaded with life and energy. It is her inquisitiveness and fascination with the world around her that makes the movie work.

Theron’s strong and determined work has been overshadowed by all of the technical aspects of “Mad Max.”

The same thing happened with Alicia Vikander. She picked up a supporting actor nomination for her work in “The Danish Girl,” but she was far better in the sci-fi thriller “Ex Machina.” Though it’s not known if her work was submitted for Oscar consideration in both films.

Old and young: Not everything about the voting process is broken. The academy has come under fire because many of the voters are older. But that hasn’t slowed the momentum of young actors getting recognized in leading and supporting role categories.

Of the 10 women contending for an Oscar in those two categories, six are 32 years old or younger. Four of them are in their 20s. It’s good that young performers like Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence and Saoirse Ronan are getting noticed.

But there is a downside to the youth movement – many veteran actors aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Maggie Smith, 81, should have been recognized for her work in “The Lady in the Van.”

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of performances every year and culling that down to five means worthy nominees get left out.

What to do: The academy has to work out a better format for determining the right category for the nominee. Mark Ruffalo’s role in “Spotlight” is so big it doesn’t feel right that he’s in the supporting category.

Strict rules should be set in place that outline the exact category where an actor should be entered. The academy already has such rules in place for documentaries.

As for the voting, there’s no way to remove the human factor. How much the production or actor is liked or disliked is going to creep into the decision making. That’s especially true when voters don’t see every performance before voting.

It would help to add more voters from outside the Hollywood ranks. Those who report on the film industry are more apt to have seen every film in the running. But, even writers are going to bring their personal feelings to the voting.

Until someone writes a mathematical formula to judge who is the best, it’s going to have to be accepted that any awards show – even the biggest of them all with the Academy Awards – is going to show the flaws of a human touch.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

88th Annual Academy Awards

  • 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, KFSN (Channel 30.1), with the “Oscars Opening Ceremony: Live From the Red Carpet” show at 4 p.m.
  • Host: Chris Rock
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