The film academy is crippled by its narrow vision of what’s Oscar-worthy – Los Angeles Times

Ever since the announcement of this year’s nominations for the Academy Awards I’ve been thinking a lot about Nicki Minaj. Allow me to explain.

At last year’s MTV Video Music Awards an ongoing row online and in the press erupted when Minaj, in accepting a prize, glared across the stage toward host Miley Cyrus and asked, “Miley, what’s good?”

In the wake of the Oscars controversy over the lack of people of color represented among the acting nominees and lack of women and people of color in the directing nominations and elsewhere, I like many have been asking myself how and why all this happened.

Full coverage: Oscars 2016 | List of nominees | #OscarsSoWhite controversy

The controversy started with the Oscar nominations and overall membership of the academy. But it quickly became a discussion about Hollywood itself, about what kind of movies get made and who makes those decisions. Which led me to think about the limited kinds of movies the academy thinks of as “Oscar” films — and I keep thinking of Nicki and asking myself, “What is good?”

That is, what are the signifiers of quality that make a movie worthy of an Oscar, what are the benchmarks the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are looking for? Largely it’s far too obvious, as we are all now painfully aware of who makes up the academy’s membership and the kinds of movies they favor.

And while diversity has become the most-used shorthand for how the conception of an academy movie needs to change, perhaps the word “expansion” is one that should also be on our collective minds. There needs to be an expansion of what the modern Oscar movie can be, away from strictly the tastefully respectable movies that have too often recently come to dominate the field.

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In that way the 10 nominations for “Mad Max: Fury Road” may be the most positive aspect of this year’s season, as a propulsive, eccentric, apocalyptic action movie with a revolutionary undercurrent sure didn’t seem like an Oscar sure thing when it first premiered nearly a year ago.

But there are downsides to this season of controversy as well. Sincere, worthy little-movies-that-could titles such as “Room” or “Brooklyn” can suddenly be recast somehow as oppressors, beneficiaries of a rigged system. That’s unfair, but it’s also where we find ourselves.


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