NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — There was late word Monday night that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences plans to address a lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations, amid growing calls for celebrities to boycott next month’s awards.
The call for the boycott came after minorities were left off the high-profile list of nominees.
In response to the criticism, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who herself is black, expressed her own disappointment about the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations. She conceded that change was not coming fast enough.
“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership,” Isaacs wrote. “In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”
She continued: “As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.”
Earlier Monday in a lengthy Instagram post, Spike Lee said he “cannot support” the “lily white” Oscars. Noting that he was writing on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lee said he was fed up: “40 white actors in two years and no flava at all,” he wrote.
“For too many years when the Oscars nominations are revealed, my office phone rings off the hook with the media asking me my opinion about the lack of African-Americans and this year was no different,” Lee wrote. “For once, (maybe) I would like the media to ask all the white nominees and studio heads how they feel about another all white ballot.
“As I see it, the Academy Awards is not where the ‘real’ battle is. It’s in the executive office of the Hollywood studios and TV and cable networks,” added Lee, who was awarded an honorary Oscar last year. “This is where the gate keepers decide what gets made and what gets jettisoned to “turnaround” or scrap heap.
Lee’s recent film “Chi-Raq” did not get nominated at all.
In a video message on Facebook, Jada Pinkett Smith also said she wouldn’t attend or watch the Oscars in February. Pinkett Smith, whose husband, Will Smith, wasn’t nominated for his performance in the NFL head trauma drama “Concussion,” said “begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity.”
The video personally addressed Chris Rock, who will be hosting the Oscars this year. Rock was at the Riverside Church on the West Side of Manhattan Monday night for an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He read a speech by James Baldwin while other artists also performed historic speeches.
But Rock did not address the growing Oscar controversy at the Riverside Church event. He left that for Twitter.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the lack of diversity in the Academy Award nominations unacceptable.
“I literally don’t understand it,” de Blasio said Monday. “There are so many opportunities to honor actors of color and we’ve all seen numerous movies that were highly acclaimed or great commercial successes with leading men and women of color and tremendous supporting actors of color, what’s going on here?”
De Blasio said other industries are making progress in celebrating diversity and Hollywood has a long way to go.
After the nominations were announced last week, de Blasio took to Twitter to say he and his wife “are sick of only one kind of American being celebrated.”
Nominees for the Oscars were announced last week, reigniting the Twitter hashtag from last year, #OscarsSoWhite.
All 20 acting nominees are white.
Some observers believed Idris Elba deserved a best supporting actor nomination for the Netflix movie “Beasts of No Nation” and that the NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton” warranted best picture and best director consideration. (It was, however, nominated for best original screenplay.)
Meanwhile, the only nomination for “Creed,” a movie made by a black director and starring a black actor, went to Sylvester Stallone for best supporting actor.
Other Hollywood stars said nothing will change until the Academy itself changes.
“You have to think about the diversity of the Academy. It isn’t as diverse as like our society looks,” said actress Gina Rodriguez. “So as soon as that becomes more diverse than perspectives will become more diverse.”
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