Sunday 17 December 2017

Black stars call for Oscar boycott over all-white nominees

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith pose on the red carpet as they arrive at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards earlier this month.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith pose on the red carpet as they arrive at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards earlier this month.

Jake Coyle in New York

Calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards are growing over the second straight year of mostly white nominees, as Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith each said yesterday that they will not attend this year's ceremony.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Lee said he "cannot support" the "lily white" Oscars. Noting that he was writing on Martin Luther King Jr Day, Lee - who in November was given an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards - said he was fed up: "Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all," he wrote. "We can't act?!"

In a video message on Facebook, Pinkett Smith also said she wouldn't attend or watch the Oscars in February. Pinkett Smith, whose husband Will Smith wasn't nominated for his performance in the NFL head trauma drama '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 16pc from the year prior, a six-year low.

This year, academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has made a point of presenting a more inclusive show. The February 28 broadcast will be hosted by Chris Rock.

When Oscar nominations were announced on Thursday, Isaacs acknowledged she was "disappointed" that all acting nominees were again white. Though there were few performers favoured for nominees, many awards handicappers expected nominations for Idris Elba of 'Beasts of No Nation' and Benicio Del Toro for 'Sicario'.

The NWA biopic 'Straight Outta Compton' also failed to earn a best picture nomination, as some predicted. Ryan Coogler's acclaimed 'Rocky' sequel 'Creed' scored a nomination only for Sylvester Stallone. The hashtag "OscarsSoWhite," created last year, was quickly resurrected online following the nominations.

Rev Al Sharpton lambasted the academy. "Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher up you get, the whiter it gets," said the prominent civil rights activist.

Irish Independent

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