A guide to the Oscars 2017

Oscars In Different Hands

graphic by Avery Hom

This Sunday, the time has come again to see which artists will go home as the proud owners of a certain golden award. Although many had concerns regarding another year of a whitewashed Academy, 2017 seems to be the year of change.

Last year, the Oscars faced much backlash as a result of nominating only white actors and actresses in top categories. Many film critics were angered by the lack of diversity in nominations, and they pointed out the talents of many actors of color, such as Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan. As a form of protest, many Twitter users adopted the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

This year, the Oscars have moved past their #OscarsSoWhite stage, with diverse nominations for actors, actresses, and films. Of the released Oscar nominations this year, six were for black actors, setting a record in Oscar history. Denzel Washington and Ruth Negga were nominated for their leading roles in Fences and Loving, respectively, while other black nominees in supporting roles included Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris of Moonlight, Viola Davis of Fences, and Octavia Spencer of Hidden Figures. Meanwhile, the Best Picture category honored many films that explored African American identity, such as the critic darling Moonlight, which follows the story of a gay black man from Miami through the critical points of his life, or Fences, which brings the story of a African American father raising his family in the 1950s.

Although the Oscars this year have taken a large step towards diversity, it is still a long way from full inclusivity, as it has neglected other minorities. This begs the question of whether this year’s break from a set of whitewashed nominees is simply a reaction to last year’s protests, or whether it will soon become the norm to see Oscar Awards in diverse hands. If so, it should be time to also consider nominations for other marginalized people in the future. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see better representation in the Oscars in the near future.

Key People To Watch For In This Year’s Oscar Run

Oscars tend to be a meal served with multiple sides of controversy, and this year is no exception. However, while most of last year’s dissension regarded the lack of diversity in the nominations, this year’s area of contention is the worthiness of some of the nominated talents.

Of the figures that have stirred protest amongst film critics, the two that rise above the rest are Mel Gibson and Casey Affleck. Gibson has been nominated for Best Director for his work in the critically-acclaimed movie Hacksaw Ridge, which has scored six Oscar nominations in total this year. It is not Gibson’s directing that arises controversy, but rather the implications of his nomination – that Hollywood has forgiven him for his past actions.

Mel Gibson has had a long record of anti-semitism, racism, domestic violence, misogyny, and homophobia. One of many notable moments in his troubled past include when he went on a expletive-filled, anti-semitic rant during his arrest in 2006 for drunk driving.

When asked to address his actions during his November appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he referred to the incident as, “a rough patch, not my proudest moment. It’s a moment in time. It’s a pity that one has to be defined with a label from, you know, having a nervous breakdown in the back of a police car from a bunch of double tequilas, but that’s what it is.” Following this, the crowd cheered.

graphic by <span class="credit credit- "><a href="/credit/"Avery/" title="View all of this person's work">"Avery</a></span>

graphic by Avery Hom

Another figure of much controversy during this year’s Oscar run is Casey Affleck, who was nominated for Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea. Much like Gibson, Affleck’s nomination elicited objections from many who were quick to point out that the Academy had disregarded sexual harassment allegations that were made in two different settled lawsuits against him. These allegations date from seven years ago, when two women who had worked on Affleck’s film I’m Still Here filed sexual harassment suits against him, claiming that he had both physically and verbally harassed them. Both claims were resolved for an undisclosed amount in 2010 although Affleck repeatedly denied all the allegations made against him. Many critics fault the Academy for nominating him, citing the nomination as hypocritical considering their supposed effort to promote greater diversity, especially gender diversity, in the film industry.

One of his largest critics was Fresh Off The Boat actress Constance Wu, who wrote several strongly worded tweets, one of which reads, “He’s running for an award that honors a craft whose purpose is examining the dignity of the human experience and young women are deeply human.” Wu’s comments were met with much support by Twitter users, receiving several retweets and likes.  

Other than these figures of controversy, another nominee who stands out as being important to watch  in this year’s Oscar run is Lin Manuel-Miranda, who is on the brink of an EGOT. Manuel-Miranda is nominated this year for an Oscar for best original song for writing “How Far I’ll Go,” from the animated movie Moana. If he wins, Manuel-Miranda will become one of a dozen people who have reached EGOT status by winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Furthermore, Manuel-Miranda could potentially be the first MacPEGOT holder, seeing as he has also received a Pulitzer (for his work in Hamilton) and a “genius grant” from MacArthur Foundation in 2015.

Table Graphic

graphic by Avery Hom

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