The 92nd annual Academy Awards on Sunday night will mark the end of an awards season that has been consistent in giving acting accolades to Brad Pitt, Renee Zellweger, Laura Dern and Joaquin Phoenix but polarizing in its lack of diversity.
The Oscars in particular have drawn ire in recent years for having too few nominees who were female or people of color.
While the Academy has made significant strides — doubling the percentage of people of color within its membership and boosting the number of female members to 32%, up from 25% since 2016 — this year’s list of Oscar nominees has shown that issues of representation persist.
Only two of the 20 actors and actresses nominated were people of color, and no female director was nominated this year. Of the nine films nominated for best picture, only the South Korean movie “Parasite” featured a predominantly nonwhite cast, and only one, “Little Women,” was centered around numerous female characters.
Notable snubs for the 2020 ceremony included Greta Gerwig in the directing category, Jennifer Lopez and Awkwafina in the acting categories, and films such as “Dolemite is my Name,” “The Farewell,” “Us,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and “Queen and Slim,” which were absent from the ballot altogether.
It is expected that presenters and award winners could use their time at the podium to call out these disparities.
Phoenix, who has secured several wins already for his performance as Arthur Fleck in “Joker,” used his acceptance speech at the BAFTAs last week to call out the film industry for becoming a “system of oppression.”
“I feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” he said during the telecast. “I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.”
Phoenix was quick to note that he views himself as “part of the problem,” saying that he hadn’t done everything in his power in the past to make sure the sets he worked on were inclusive.
In the past, award shows such as the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes have been a place for the film industry’s elite to air grievances about inequalities in Hollywood and to make political statements about women’s rights, gay rights and police brutality against people of color.
Notably, in 2017, Meryl Streep spent part of her acceptance of the Cecile B. DeMille Award to attack President Donald Trump, without naming him directly. In the wake of Trump being acquitted of both charges in the Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday, celebrities at the ceremony could be tempted to speak out during their speeches or interviews on the red carpet before the show.
Front-runners for the biggest prizes of the ceremony, which will take place at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, include “1917,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Parasite.”
While the acting categories seem to be set in stone, top awards such as best picture and best director are still up in the air. Sam Mendes has been the favorite to win for his work on “1917.” Still, Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) and Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”) aren’t total underdogs.
Similarly, Universal’s “1917” is the front-runner for the top prize of best picture. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Parasite” are also in contention, but “1917″ has garnered wins this awards season from the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild and the BAFTAs.
“1917” is also expected to win the best cinematography award for making the film appear as if it were all shot in one take.
“Parasite,” South Korea’s first nominated film at the Academy Awards, is expected to win best international feature and is a strong candidate for best original screenplay.
“Judy,” a biopic about Judy Garland, received only one nomination: best actress. Zellweger is expected to win for her portrayal of Garland.