Courting Controversy: 2016 Oscar awards

Entertainment Editor

The  88th annual Academy Awards ceremony is set for Sunday, Feb. 28 and this year the ramp up for the ceremony has featured more than a look at the past year in film.

In addition to the celebration of supposed  best in film and art in Hollywood, this year’s ceremony is laced with controversy as some of Hollywood’s most luminous stars have taken to social media with race complaints. Leading the charge was Jada Pinkett-Smith, whose husband Will Smith was left off the ballot for his performance in “Concussion.”

Her remarks about the lack of diversity in the nominations ignited a firestorm of controversy with some calling for boycotts and others calling the situation overblown.

The Academy Awards ceremony is generally a topic of conversation in most circles. The movie industry itself makes billions of dollars which feeds into the global economy.  Most movie-goers are either avid movie buffs or simply those that use it as a means to a longer conversation, but either will watch the oscars.

In more recent years, the Academy has come under pressure for not being as diverse an institution as it could be. This year’s reaction has probably been boiling under the surface for some time, as evidence from the instantaneous negative reaction to this year’s nominees.

The host, Chris Rock,  has the responsibility of  balancing the event as a tradition, and the current situation throughout the evening’s festivities. Although Rock’s publicist has denied his directly changing parts of the monologue to reflect the current situation, according to the Hollywood Reporter, there is still some talk of the material reflecting the current, “#OscarsSoWhite” movement on the Internet, primarily on Twitter. Despite the controversy that is surrounding the annual event, the films up for awards each have their value as pieces of award worthy cinema.


“I’m only watching the Oscars this year to see what the celebrities will say and do about the obvious racism,” said County College of Morris student Natalie Cortez. “It’s time the Oscars change, I follow the hashtag on Twitter, and I never realized how bad they were in representation of other races.”  

This year’s ceremony has a lot to prove, as many more people may be viewing it than in prior years. Although celebrities like Pinkett Smith have called for a boycott of the ceremony, the negative press may just draw a larger audience out of curiosity.

Controversy aside, the nominees this year are decent films. Some are standouts among others that do not necessarily prove themselves to be in the same caliber. From “The Revenant,which looks like the frontrunner after the Screen Actor’s Guild awards, to a true shocker for Best Picture, “Mad Max: Fury Road, 2016 will prove to be a very dynamic year in Oscar nominated films. Each of the films for Best Picture is different in their own right. Of course, the academy  snubbed films like critics’ favorite, Carol” and “Steve Jobs,which many groups have cited a bias within the academy for.

“When I read the list for Best Picture, I was upset,” said CCM communication student, Hannah Thomas. “I loved ‘Carol’ and thought it really had a chance. I think the awards are going to be fun and elegant as always, but this year I feel like they’re going to be a little uncomfortable, given the situation.”

No matter how great this year’s nominees are, and the hope for Leonardo DiCaprio to finally get his award, there are tense feelings surrounding the ceremony. The controversy and racist accusations against the Academy have truly had an impact on public opinion of the awards.

“I don’t know if I really want to watch the Oscars this year,” film enthusiast and English student at CCM, Will Francik said. “I don’t want to give them views so maybe they’ll finally listen and award those who deserve it. I’ve seen every nominated film, and I just don’t get it. They weren’t great films. All had their flaws. The academy is stuffy and old; it definitely needs to change.”

Perhaps it is time for the Academy Awards to change. The president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Issacs, has put several new rules in play for next year’s nominations. She, as president has been changing elements about the Academy since she became president in 2013, and now three years later, bigger changes have come.

Her Academy has been facing negative press since the nominations were released. No matter how much damage control and press junkets the Academy does in preparation for this year’s ceremony, the controversy will reign supreme in the thoughts of those watching and paying attention.

No matter how many predictions or thoughts the public has on the subject, they will be watching carefully for the reaction to the current situation with racism and diversity in Hollywood. It could prove to be one of the most interesting ceremonies of the last 88 years, possibly since Marlon Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather to accept his award in 1973.