Oscar nominations lack diversity

By Jacob Baker

The highlight of the 2010 Oscars was when female director Kathryn Bigelow took home a total of six awards for her film “The Hurt Locker” and became the first woman to win best director. In 2010, the academy featured diversity in it’s selections, and a decade later, the nominations have taken a major step back in terms of gender and racial diversity.

For the 92nd annual Oscars, the nominations fail to recognize any women in the best director category and are lacking diversity in most other major categories.

In 2018, Greta Gerwig, director of “Little Women,” became one of the few women nominated for best director for her film “Lady Bird.” Gerwig made a strong case for a nomination in 2020 and possibly a win with her adaptation of “Little Women,” however, she did not receive a nomination.

In addition,it’s worth noting that even though Bigelow won best director, her 2010 film“The Hurt Locker” was centered around men and their ordeals at war.

To much disappointment, the Korean film “Parasite,” which has been recognized for six nominations, doesn’t have a single nomination for any of its cast members.

Media studies professor Randy Caspersen said he has been watching the Oscars since he was in high school.

Caspersen said he knows how the Oscars work. He had a book called “Inside Oscar” that analyzed the trends and of the Oscars and Caspersen said he’s been on the production side of film and TV for a long time, working on shows like “Judge Judy,” making documentaries and narrative shorts of his own and being an Emmy voter himself.

At this point, Caspersen said he knows the trends of the voters and isn’t in a hurry to be disappointed anymore. Caspersen said he believes the Oscars have a problem with diversity.

Voting is conducted by fellow nominees in respective categories and through online voting overseen by academy members for the best picture category. The problem is the academy lacks diversity with among its voting members.

“Every year we go through this,” Caspersen said. “It comes down to movies tend[ing] to be really white. They’re made by big people in big positions who don’t want to take risks, and they still think color, different sexualities, different populations are risky, so they become niche material.”

The biggest surprise is that “Joker” leads the 2020 award show with 11 nominations, including best actor, best director, best cinematography and best picture. The film also landed a nomination for best score. The score was composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, marking the seventh time a woman has been nominated for the award.

A comic book film getting this many nominations is unheard of for the Oscars.

“I thought I would hate ‘Joker,’” Caspersen said. “I actually thought it was really interesting and compelling. I really kind of bought into it as a character study.”

It was beautifully directed, and actor Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Joker, was great enough to win the Oscar. It’s an unusual film to get the most nominations, when that is typically the characteristic of bigger scale epics, not a small character study, Caspersen said.

Besides “Joker,” the nominees aren’t surprising. They lack racial and gender diversity in most major categories. Compared to 2010’s awards, it seems 2020 is a step back on multiple fronts. The Oscars has not yet broken its white-centered trends.