The Oscars: So White and So Elitist

By John Frame, Class of 2017

By John Frame, Class of 2017

Last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science released its nominations for its annual Academy Awards (known as the “Oscars”), which honor outstanding achievement in filmmaking. Following two years where the Academy “failed” to nominate a single minority actor (remember “#OscarsSoWhite”?), the Academy made amends this year including seven minority nominees across all four acting categories, as well as recognizing four films (of nine) about non-whites in the Best Film category.

But what does it say that minority filmmaking is still not consistently provided the same recognition as films made by and about the majority? And what about favoring the obscure over the blockbuster?

To answer this question, one need only look at the membership of the Academy, which, according to a 2016 report from the Los Angeles Times, is 91% white and 76% male. Blacks, Asians, and Latinos make up just 7% of the total membership body. With a mean age of 63, the membership is a whopping 85% over the age of 50.

With those statistics, it’s no wonder that the Academy skews more traditional in its selection of nominees and winners each year. Many of the films that receive recognition rarely earn the big bucks while in theaters, and very few blockbusters earn recognition, let alone a win.

The last blockbuster film to win the Academy’s top prize was 2003’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($377M), the final installment of the groundbreaking trilogy. Many believe that film’s win was a honor for the entire franchise and the technical achievements of director Peter Jackson and his mastermind team. But that’s neither here nor there.

The statistics on minority nominees and winners in the major categories are so low that Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, an African-American, had to walk a fine line in support of diversifying the Academy’s membership and, most recently, when she instituted initiatives that aim to double the number of minorities and women by 2020. Only one black female has ever won the Oscar for Best Actress (Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball, 2001); four black men have won the Best Actor Oscar; and a total of 10 black actors and actresses have won in the supporting categories over 88 years.    

...minority filmmaking is still not consistently provided the same recognition as films made by and about the majority...

So the Oscar voters are white and old and out of touch. Perhaps even racist. But who cares, right?

Well, not exactly. At a time when our nation is more visibly divided than it has been in recent memory, the importance of honoring the diversity of American culture is really the issue at play here. Americans, on the whole, appear to view our government, media, and public figures as elitists. This continues to fuel a rebellion of what makes America unique and, dare I say, great. The Academy, like many other public institutions, has a duty to represent all facets of American culture. After all, the Academy is at the heart of our most authentic and oldest of pastimes: movie-watching.

This year, the Academy has a chance to honor some of the greatest performances in some of the greatest films ever made by minorities: from Viola Davis’ and Denzel Washington’s masterclass acting in the adaptation of August Wilson’s award-winning play, Fences, to the filmmakers of--and performers in--films like Moonlight, Hidden Figures, and Lion. The hope is that we will see a turning point this year, where the Academy members start looking towards a future of honoring the whole of the film industry and not just a few of its obscure parts.               

John is a lover of films and hopes that the Academy does the right thing this year and awards its top prize to Moonlight, over the fluffy La La Land.

OUT OF THE LOOP

A frequent feature of the hottest happenings (mostly) outside of the Loop

Alex Aksakov '17

Alex Aksakov '17

Spring is in the air, Boothies, and there is no better time than now to get out and explore Chicago! So put away those winter boots and Canada Goose coats, hop in an Uber, and get familiar with these awesome events and venues that are (mostly) beyond the loop.

LIVE CONCERTS

From Iggy Pop (April 6, Chicago Theatre) to Rihanna (April 15, United Center), there’s something to satisfy every music taste and budget. Beyoncé is headlining United Center May 27-28, following her controversial Super Bowl performance. The legendary Smashing Pumpkins (April 14, Civic Opera House), Kanye’s GOOD Records music label boss, Pusha T (April 5, Vic Theatre), and British pop sensation Ellie Goulding (May 6, Allstate Arena and Lollapalooza) are on their way as well. And how could I call myself your entertainment guru if I didn’t mention everyone’s favorite “Belieber”, Justin Bieber (April 22, Allstate Arena). Since these are highly anticipated shows, you might have to purchase tickets at a premium through third-party sellers or sell your right arm, whichever you prefer.

Beyonce's The Formation World Tour at United Center, May 27-28

Beyonce's The Formation World Tour at United Center, May 27-28

DJ PERFORMANCES

The club scene is also packed with some big names. If you’re looking to chill out and lounge, St Germain at the Vic Theatre (3145 N. Sheffield Ave, April 10) might be your jam. Chicago house fans should check out Smartbar (3730 N. Clark St) where house monster line-up DJ Sneak, Felix Da Housecat, and Todd Terry will be spinning on April 9. German techno guru, Stephan Bodzin, who recently played a killer set for the famous Boiler Room internet music project, will be rocking the dancefloor at Spybar (646 N. Franklin) on April 30. And if you’re looking to tap into your inner Western Euro persona, French electro duo Digitalism will be playing live at Double Door (1572 N. Milwaukee Ave) on May 24.

SPiN Chicago, 344 N State St

SPiN Chicago, 344 N State St

KILLER NEW VENUES

We know you want to be ahead of the crowd, so hop in line at some of the fresh new spots around town. River North’s newest hot spot, SPiN Chicago (344 N. State St.), opened its doors in February and quickly became one of the trendiest social venues in Chicago. A combination of a restaurant/bar/club and ping-pong joint, SPiN Chicago joins New York, Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco as the newest location. They hold special events (“Happenings”) several times a week with DJs, original cocktails, and some pretty lively table tennis tournaments. Definitely worth checking out.

CULTURAL EVENT

After Dark, Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, April 22

After Dark, Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, April 22

Concerts and clubs not your scene? Evening Associates, a group of young Art Institute of Chicago professionals, organize a monthly event called After Dark that is held in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute. A blend of an art gallery, classy cocktail party and DJ performance, it attracts Chicago’s young and stylish. On April 22, they’ll host guided tours of Van Gogh’s Bedrooms, live performances, and DJ sets. A must-visit for all Booth art connoisseurs.

And don’t forget to save the date for AudioBooth’s Battle of the Bands on May 20. Booth bands will be looking to defend their crown against Kellogg. Come for the frosty beverages and stay for the great music!