Oscars’ Diversity Problem Has a Simple Solution

There is no NFL on this weekend, but another passion of mine (film) is front and center with the Oscars on Sunday night. I used to watch the award show annually until Shakespeare in Love absurdly beat Saving Private Ryan, so I quit on it for a solid decade until I recaptured a love of film around the time No Country for Old Men won.

But now you can’t really have an Oscars discussion without the issue of diversity at the forefront ever since #OscarsSoWhite became a popular hashtag. The other issue has been about the lack of women nominated in categories that are open to both genders such as Best Director or Best Screenplay.

Personally, I’ve always been of the belief that you pick the best options available and you don’t discriminate over gender or race. The Oscars doesn’t need a Rooney Rule. If you think Greta Gerwig should have been nominated for Best Director in what became an all-male field, then that’s fine. Just tell me which of Martin Scorsese, Todd Phillips, Sam Mendes, Quentin Tarantino, and Bong Joon Ho you’re kicking off the ballot.

For me, the Oscars have always had diversity problems, though I’ve looked at it more from the viewpoint of they don’t pick enough foreign films to highlight great efforts from other countries, and they aren’t inclusive enough in terms of genre. You’ve basically had to make a drama to win a lot of the major awards for decades. Comedies rarely get anything and it’s even worse for action/horror/comic book type of “genre” movies. I think this was a big part of my Oscars burnout as a youth because I really couldn’t care less about The English Patient and other yawns they would push on us as being instant classics.

From that standpoint, I think the 2020 field is diverse and impressive to include a South Korean film with subtitles for the major awards of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Parasite is an incredible film, and while I haven’t seen the full field of nominees yet — I’d really like to see 1917 — it’s the one I would pick to win most of these awards. I also think Joker being up for 11 Oscars is a phenomenal feat for a “comic book movie” that is far more of a character study than any traditional comic book movie. Still, 5-10 years ago I don’t think it would have received any Oscars buzz as the Academy has tried to include more genres. I haven’t seen Jojo Rabbit, but a dark comedy getting recognized is nice to see as someone who loves that genre. Don’t forget, Rushmore (1998) barely received one Golden Globe nominee, let alone anything from the Oscars.

So change has been slow, but the process has been improving over the years to include more diverse films. If the Academy wants to stop taking so much heat for its choices, then the solution is actually very simple.

Nominate more films. 

The most prestigious award of them all is Best Picture, yet did they not already dilute it a bit with raising the nominees to 10 in 2009? We have nine this year, so this has been the standard for a decade now. If you’re willing to “weaken” the field of the top award, why would you not nominate six or eight films for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and the four acting awards? Right now they go with just five nominees for those awards.

This way Gerwig could be nominated for Best Director and more non-white actors could also be included. It’s really that simple, and reading a few more names and showing a couple more short clips isn’t going to overrun a broadcast that is already too long each year anyways. Hell, get smarter and ditch the music performances. You’re not the Grammy’s. You’re supposed to be highlighting films.

How would it not be a benefit to all if more films are nominated? All of these companies would love to stick a “Oscar-nominated” sticker on the Blu-ray of their release. Underrated films like The Lighthouse and Midsommar could get more attention if you include them in expanded categories.

Continuing to nominate five films like they did in the 1930s doesn’t make any sense in a world where so many films are released each year. Just a little expansion can go a long way in making the field more diverse. At the end of the day the Academy still has to vote for the one best choice to win the statue. Sure, people are going to complain then too, because that’s just how people are.

Like how I still complain about that god damn Shakespeare in Love, which was a Harvey Weinstein production in case you forgot…Now that was a shameful moment in #OscarsSoWhiteSoMale history.

Go Parasite.