Even The Academy’s Black President Is “Disappointed” By This Year’s Very White Oscar Nominees

The (very white) Oscar nominations were announced this morning and even the president of the Academy can’t hide her disappointment.

Out of all the films nominated this year, most notable were the absence of any actors of color in any of the major categories. Ryan B. Coogler and Michael B. Jordan of Creed were both snubbed. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu did get a Best Director nod for The Revenant. Straight Outta Compton was nominated for Best Original Screenplay…but the twist there is that all of the writers were white. Aside from these exceptions, the unbearable whiteness of the nominations speaks volumes on the glacial pace of change in Hollywood.

Speaking to Deadline, Cherly Boone Isaacs said “Of course I am disappointed, but this is not to take away the greatness (of the films nominated.) You are never going to know what appears on the sheet of paper until you see it.” But, she’s not unaware that the Academy’s laborious public efforts at doing diversity are dragging. She added, “We have got to speed it up.”

Last year’s Oscar nominations snubbed Ava DuVernay for Selma in the Best Director category and ignored David Oyelowo’s powerhouse performance in the same film. But, when asked by Vulture, Boone Isaacs denied that the Academy had a “diversity problem.” This makes little to no sense if you have eyes and pay any sort of attention to the movies that come out of Hollywood and the people that are rewarded for them.

Winning an Oscar doesn’t always mean that you were terribly “good,” either. It’s half merit and half recognition from a group of what one assumes are peers. An example: The Revenant cleaned up at the Golden Globes earlier this month, and Leonardo DiCaprio will most likely finally get that golden statue he’s had his eye on for as long as any of us can remember. The conversation around awards and their recipients has changed. What should be about actual merit now seems to be about who “deserves” such a thing.

The Revenant is a fine movie; it’s beautifully shot and well-executed, but DiCaprio’s Oscar-beard and his willingness to eat raw bison liver on camera while also grunting and dragging his broken body through the Western wilderness doesn’t necessarily mean that he “deserves” an Oscar. His performance was fine, but it felt like overwrought cinematic thirst, the equivalent of tweeting in earnest at brands and celebrities, begging for recognition.

Last year’s #OscarsSoWhite backlash is back in action this year, and rightfully so. There were an awful lot of really great movies out there with actors of color doing wonderful work. It’s one thing to acknowledge the need for diversity. Doing something — anything, really — about it is entirely different.