Oscar nominations: Asians are shut out, again. So are female directors. What gives?
"Crazy Rich Asians" and "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" are some of the most shocking snubs for the 2019 Oscar nominations. USA TODAY
We are officially clear of 2015's kickoff #OscarsSoWhite catastrophe.
True, "Roma" stars Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira saw love from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the lead and supporting actress categories, respectively. And Mahershala Ali ("Green Book") and Regina King ("If Beale Street Could Talk") were nominated in supporting categories.
But Asian actors have zero nominations across acting categories this year, and the popular "Crazy Rich Asians" was shut out of best picture. The highest-profile nomination for an Asian film this year is "Shoplifters," an acclaimed Japanese film from director Hirokazu Koreeda, nominated for best foreign language film.
"While representation for African-American and Latinx films and actors was decent this morning, Asian performers missed out on best-picture inclusion for 'Crazy Rich Asians' and a supporting-actress nomination for co-star Michelle Yeoh," says IMDb.com correspondent Dave Karger.
To drag some notable numbers into broad daylight:
- Not one of the eight best-picture nominees centered on an Asian storyline. A decade ago, the academy expanded the number of nominations for best picture from five to a possible 10 films in a bid to increase the presence of blockbusters in the Oscar mix.
- Only four of the possible 20 acting nominations this year went to people of color.
- That's still just 20 percent. According to recent Census estimates, 40 percent of the U.S. population identifies as non-white.
- Not one film nominated for best picture was directed by a woman, and women were shut out of the best-director category this year.
From "Black Panther" to "Bohemian Rhapsody," here are the eight movies nominated for an Oscar in the best-picture category. USA TODAY
It's true: Best director remains completely male even after 2018 wrought what IndieWire hails as career-best work from directors including Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace”), Tamara Jenkins (“Private Life") and Chloe Zhao ("The Rider").
"We can still count on one hand the women who have been nominated for best director," tweeted Hollywood activist Melissa Silverstein.
Only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won best director (in 2010 for "The Hurt Locker").
The underlying problem is perception, says USC professor Stacy L. Smith. “The default position for having a female director seems to be when the story is about a girl or a woman – we know that there are fewer movies made with female leads than male leads each year. White male directors, however, do not face this constraint," says Smith, author of a study in January that found out of the 100 top-grossing films of 2018, just four women were at the helm.
"Until female directors are considered and hired to tell female- and male-driven stories, we will only see small steps toward equality."
It was a good year for Spike Lee, who received three nominations in major categories for his "BlacKkKlansman" (the film earned six overall), including best director. But a best-director nomination for Ryan Coogler of "Black Panther" was MIA. Both films are up for best picture. (Amazingly, these are Lee's first nominations for best picture and best director.)
"The diversity at the Oscars this year is much more evident in the best-picture category than in any other category," Karger says.
The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study found that studios have begun hiring a greater percentage of black directors to helm top-performing films – and yet, women and Asian directors continued to see no change.
A second study released in January found that female directors actually lost ground over the past year. The percentage of women working as directors on the 250 top-grossing films in 2018 dipped from 11 percent in 2017 to 8 percent, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found.
As the academy itself continues to diversify, what are the lessons to be gleaned?
If we're talking show business, diversity actually brings a boon. “Films with casts that were from 21 percent to 30 percent minority enjoyed the highest median global box-office receipts and the highest median return on investment,” UCLA's 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report found.
But "until women, people of color, the LGBT community and people with disabilities are considered for leading and supporting roles in every story, we will continue to see an imbalance of perspectives in film," Smith says.