More stars speak out against Oscars

NEW YORK • Actors George Clooney and David Oyelowo joined those calling for changes in the movie industry and at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose members did not nominate any actors of colour for the Oscars for a second straight year.

Clooney told Hollywood trade paper Variety in comments published on Tuesday: "If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job. Think about how many more African-Americans were nominated. I would also make the argument, I don't think it's a problem of who you're picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?

"I think around 2004, certainly there were black nominees - like Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman. And all of a sudden, you feel like we're moving in the wrong direction. There were nominations left off the table."

The films with black stars that he felt deserved more recognition: boxing drama Creed, NFL drama Concussion starring Will Smith, Beasts Of No Nation with Idris Elba and N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton.

A day after calling for an Oscars boycott, director Spike Lee, who has an honorary Oscar, said Hollywood had fallen behind music and sports in reflecting racial diversity. Documentary-maker Michael Moore said he would join the boycott, along with Jada Pinkett-Smith, wife of snubbed star Smith. But as of Tuesday, no other major stars had said they would boycott the Feb 28 ceremony.

Ms Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the African-American president of the Academy, on Monday pledged big but unspecific changes and a review of the way members are recruited.

Membership is by recommendation of two members or is automatically awarded to Oscar nominees. The list of 6,000 or so members has never been disclosed although a 2012 Los Angeles Times study found its members were nearly 94 per cent white and 77 per cent male.

Oyelowo, widely perceived to have been snubbed last year for his performance as Martin Luther King Jr in Selma, said the Academy needs to move fast to fix the problem. "This institution doesn't reflect its president. I am an Academy member and it doesn't reflect me and it doesn't reflect this nation," he was quoted by The Wrap News as saying in a Hollywood gala speech on Monday.

John Singleton, who was nominated for an Oscar for directing the 1991 film Boyz N The Hood, said nominations for the industry's most prestigious awards are a lottery. "People complain even when we have a lot of nominations. It is what it is. I've been in the game for 25 years. You never know - it's the luck of the draw for you," he was quoted as telling Variety.

Janet Hubert, who appeared in the 1990s series The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, accused the Smiths of hypocrisy, saying they have made "millions and millions of dollars from the very people that you're talking about boycotting just because you didn't get a nomination".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline 'More stars speak out against Oscars'. Print Edition | Subscribe