Saturday 10 December 2016

Pledge of changes after calls for boycott of 'lily white' Oscars

Published 20/01/2016 | 06:41

Jada Pinkett-Smith said she would not attend or watch this year's Oscars ceremony (AP)
Jada Pinkett-Smith said she would not attend or watch this year's Oscars ceremony (AP)

Amid calls for an Oscars boycott over its all-white acting nominees and Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith both announcing they would sit out this year's ceremony, the academy's president promised major changes.

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Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs pledged more diversity, and quickly, after both Lee and Pinkett spoke out.

Lee said he "cannot support" the "lily white" Oscars, while Pinkett Smith also said she would not attend or watch the event in February.

Pinkett Smith, whose husband Will Smith was not nominated for his performance in Concussion, said it was time for people of colour to disregard the Academy Awards.

"Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power," she said. "And we are a dignified people and we are powerful."

Last year's all-white acting nominees also drew calls for a boycott, though not from such prominent individuals as Lee and Pinkett Smith.

Whether it had any impact or not, the audience for the broadcast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, was down 16% from the year before, a six-year low.

Ms Isaacs has made a point of presenting a more inclusive show this year. The February 28 broadcast will be hosted by Chris Rock and produced by Django Unchained producer Reginald Hudlin and David Hill.

When Oscar nominations were announced on Thursday, Ms Isaacs acknowledged she was "disappointed" that all 20 acting nominees were again white and promised to "continue the conversation" on diversity.

She has worked to diversify membership for the academy, which a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times found is overwhelming white and male.

But on Monday, Ms Isaacs was more explicit and promised an examination of the academy and a more intense drive to diversify.

"This is a difficult but important conversation, and it's time for big changes," she said.

"The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the make-up of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond."

Many critics expected nominations for Idris Elba for Beasts Of No Nation and Benicio Del Toro for Sicario.

The NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton also failed to earn a best picture nomination, and Ryan Coogler's acclaimed Rocky sequel Creed scored a nomination only for Sylvester Stallone.

Later, Lee clarified that he never used the word "boycott", but that he is simply not going to attend the ceremony.

He reiterated that he believes the larger issue is Hollywood's hiring practices, saying the focus on the Oscars "is a misdirection play".

Instead, he argued for a version of the NFL's Rooney Rule, which stipulates that a minority coach must be interviewed for any head coaching vacancy.

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