The 96th Academy Awards is finished, with Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer winning for Best Picture. It should have been a minority-led film.

THE OSCARS – The 96th Oscars held on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby¨ Theatre at Ovation Hollywood and televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide. (Disney/Frank Micelotta)
JIMMY KIMMEL

American Fiction has won an Oscar for Adapted Screenplay, De’Vine Joy Randolph for Best Supporting Actress in The HoldoversGodzilla: Minus One for Best Visual Effects, The Boy and the Heron for Best Animated Feature, and Kris Bowers for Best Documentary on his film, The Last Repair Shop. That’s great, but it still feels like we haven’t yet allowed a nonwhite film to win Best Picture since Moonlight won in 2017.

 

THE OSCARS – The 96th Oscars held on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby¨ Theatre at Ovation Hollywood and televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide. (Disney/Scott Kirkland)
DA’VINE JOY RANDOLPH

I love movies for escapism and enjoyment. They hold a mirror to society and all of the issues still present that have to be addressed and fixed. Films hold great weight when it comes to sparking the audience’s imaginations about how to make society more inclusive and welcoming of all people. But how can a film industry system that is supposed to have learned from America’s dark past and accepted people from diverse backgrounds continue  to administrate a “whites only” policy for Best Picture on numerous occasions, such as with Nolan’s film about the man who created the atomic bomb, a weapon that changed Japan forever? It’s frustratingly shocking and it has to stop.

THE OSCARS – The 96th Oscars held on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby¨ Theatre at Ovation Hollywood and televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide. (Disney/Scott Kirkland)
AL PACINO, CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, EMMA THOMAS, CHARLES ROVEN

Showcasing diversity and signifying the Academy Board is treating everyone as equals is wonderful. However, the board seems like they are stuck at merely having diverse nominees as window-dressing while awarding white-led films the ultimate prize. If the Academy wants to drive home the point that they do care about diversity, they need to award more minority-led movies for Best Picture as proof. So here are some reasons why the Oscars have to award diverse films instead of using them as window dressing.

THE OSCARS – The 96th Oscars held on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby¨ Theatre at Ovation Hollywood and televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide. (Disney/Scott Kirkland)
BEN PROUDFOOT, KRIS BOWERS
  1. More diverse Best Picture nominees must be present every year

 

A few nights ago, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture. The film is about the man behind the creation of the nuclear bomb and its subsequent use in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s a historical tragedy that will inspire Toho to make their cinematic rebuttal of the atomic bombs in the 1954 original Godzilla movie.

THE OSCARS – The 96th Oscars held on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby¨ Theatre at Ovation Hollywood and televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide. (Disney/Scott Kirkland)
MASAKI TAKAHASHI, TAKASHI YAMAZAKI, KIYOKO SHIBUYA, TATSUJI NOJIMA

Why did Nolan’s movie win? Especially when Godzilla: Minus One took home an Academy for Best Visual Effects (and won Best Picture at the Japanese Academy Awards) by homing in on the themes of the original film–devastation and rebuilding in Japan after WWII? Godzilla: Minus One focuses on the aftermath after Oppenheimer, in a way. So why not give Godzilla: Minus One more recognition for how it handles these culturally-specific themes?

Distributed by Warner Bros Pictures/New Line Cinema

It sends a lot of signals about how much the Academy cared more about preserving “whiteness” while using the guise of showcasing diversity and inclusion at the Oscars. The Color Purple 2023 musical remake was snubbed of Oscar nominations due to alleged negative press and the SAG-ARFTA strike of 2023. Only Danielle Brooks received a  nomination for Best Supporting Actress. However, there still would have been a chance for voters to voice their opinions about this movie.

Miles Morales shoots webs while sliding down a metal surface
(Photo credit: Sony Pictures)

The Academy board has to give other movies that aren’t based around white people more of a chance. Let other minority-led films like MoonlightKillers of the Flower MoonAmerican FictionSpider-Man: Across the Spider-VerseThe Boy and the Heron, etc. take the lead and get recognized for their contributions to the filmmaking medium. It is a surefire way to inspire minorities who want to grow up to become filmmakers and storytellers to become inspired by films that reflect them.

 

2. It’s time for the Academy and the United States to have a difficult and progressive conversation about race.

Distributed by Amazon MGM Studios

Critical Race Theory is a learning method that needs to be adapted by the Academy board, and by extension the country itself to talk about race in America.

THE IRRATIONAL — “Point & Shoot” Episode 106 — Pictured: Travina Springer as Kylie — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

Since the existence of Hollywood and the Oscars, the people who vote for which movies to win have been historically white. There have been attempts to make diversity a priority but saying that the board has diverse people is not enough to satisfy people. To truly understand why this toxic system continues and how it can be rectified, the Academy board must become well-versed in understanding how much racism, segregation, slavery, and the brutal treatment African Americans and other minorities have endured since the founding fathers wrote the Constitution.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures/Apple Original Films

By learning about the atrocities and injustice brought upon minorities by white America, we can have conversations about how to better ourselves as a society. We can also become more accepting, gracious, kinder, empathic, and reflective of our diverse communities through celebrating those different than us. “Reflective” is a keyword in the case of the Oscars. Oppenhemier’s win for Best Picture was not a reflection of the Oscars’ diversity but a singular, perverse one of the people who awarded it.

It is not to say Nolan and the people who worked on this movie were perpetuating racism, even though the film did receive backlash for its mostly-white cast (Ronald Auguste was cast as Manhattan Project scientist/technician Earnest Wilkins Jr.). What I am pointing out is how the board’s choice for Oppenheimer to win Best Picture is not reflective of the stories and talents on display in 2023’s more diverse films.

 

3. Give diverse and minority talent a chance. Not a tiny fraction, but a real chance at winning.

Distributed by A24

A minority film winning Best Picture would be a great sign that the Academy is listening to their critics. Several minority/nonbinary/women/LGBTQ led films could be nominated to show people that they do care for diversity. In addition, more diversity among the nominees would give these types of films a fighting chance to win. Even without a win, more diverse nominees can inspire someone of a marginalized community to try their hand at creating their own story.

THE OSCARS – The 96th Oscars held on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby¨ Theatre at Ovation Hollywood and televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide. (Disney/Scott Kirkland)
ROBERT DOWNEY JR., DAÕVINE JOY RANDOLPH, EMMA STONE, CILLIAN MURPHY

That is the hope I wish for in the Academy, the Golden Globe and Hollywood–for the Academy to give a fair chance to diverse cultures that have been ignored for centuries or forced to play token parts.

THE OSCARS – The 96th Oscars held on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby¨ Theatre at Ovation Hollywood and televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide. (Disney/Frank Micelotta)
JIMMY KIMMEL

Hopefully someone in Hollywood will be convinced to take the first steps to recontextualize the way things are handled on the business end. Maybe we can have the first Native American film win for Best Picture, a film that will make the cast of Killers of the Flower Moon proud. Or the next LGBTQ film to win right beside Moonlight. Or the next Asian film like Godzilla: Minus One or The Boy and The Heron. Or the next animated feature led by a person of color. The point is that every person who had been racially marginalized deserves a fair shot. A fair shot that hopefully happens in this lifetime.

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