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Calls for boycott of Oscars grow over diversity of nominees

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Comedian Chris Rock, center right, shook hands with singer and social activist Harry Belafonte, center left, during an event celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Riverside Church in New York on Monday. Rock, who is scheduled to host the Oscars Feb. 28, has unveiled a new promotion for the broadcast, calling the ceremony “The White BET Awards.”

NEW YORK » Amid calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards over its all-white acting nominees and Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith both announcing they would sit out this year’s ceremony, the academy’s president said it was time for major changes — and soon.

Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement promising more diversity, and quickly, after both Lee and Pinkett spoke out Monday.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Lee said he “cannot support” the “lily white” Oscars. Noting that he was writing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lee — who in November was given an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards — said he was fed up: “Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all,” he wrote. “We can’t act?!”

In a video message on Facebook, 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 it was time for people of color to disregard the Academy Awards.

“Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power,” she said. “And we are a dignified people and we are powerful.”

She added: “Let’s let the academy do them, with all grace and love. And let’s do us differently.” The video had amassed 4.5 million by mid-Monday afternoon.

Last year’s all-white acting nominees also drew calls for a boycott, though not from such prominent individuals as Lee and Pinkett Smith. Whether it had any impact or not, the audience for the broadcast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, was down 16 percent from the year prior, a six-year low.

Isaacs has made a point of presenting a more inclusive show this year. The Feb. 28 broadcast will be hosted by Chris Rock and produced by “Django Unchained” producer Reginald Hudlin and David Hill. On Saturday, Rock, unveiling a new promotion for the broadcast, called the ceremony “The White BET Awards.”

When Oscar nominations were announced Thursday, Isaacs acknowledged she was “disappointed” that all 20 acting nominees were again white and promised to “continue the conversation” on diversity. Isaacs has worked to diversify membership for the academy, which a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times found is overwhelming white and male.

But on Monday, Isaacs was more explicit and promised an examination of the academy and a more intense drive to diversify.

“This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes,” she said in a statement released Monday night. “The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. 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.”

Many awards handicappers expected nominations for Idris Elba of “Beasts of No Nation” and Benicio Del Toro for “Sicario.” The N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton” also failed to earn a best picture nomination, despite some predictions it would. Ryan Coogler’s acclaimed Rocky sequel “Creed” scored a nomination only for Sylvester Stallone. (Lee’s own movie, the Chicago gang violence hip-hop musical “Chi-Raq” — celebrated by some and scorned by others — also went unnoticed.)

The hashtag “OscarsSoWhite,” created last year, was quickly resurrected online following the nominations. The Rev. Al Sharpton — who last year met with former Sony head Amy Pascal following leaked emails that some viewed as racist — on Friday lambasted the academy.

“Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher up you get the whiter it gets and this year’s Academy Awards will be yet another Rocky Mountain Oscar,” said Sharpton.

In his post, Lee made it clear the Academy Awards is only part of the problem in an industry with deep-rooted diversity issues. In his Governors Awards speech, Lee said, “It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than be the head of a studio.”

“The Academy Awards is not where the ‘real’ battle is,” wrote Lee. “It’s in the executive office of the Hollywood studios and TV and cable networks. This is where the gate keepers decide what gets made and what gets jettisoned to ‘turnaround’ or scrap heap. This is what’s important. The gate keepers. Those with ‘the green light’ vote.”

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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        • Yep, they’re racist for even noticing. If they pointed out some black performances that they think was overlooked, I’d have a little more respect, but they are demanding some kind of bulls quota. There are more Asians than there are blacks, but they don’t scream as loud about it.

        • I have mixed feelings about this. Is the fact that for two years in a row there have been only white actors nominated for Oscars, but no blacks, Hispanics or Asians, or any other ethnicity of color, mean that for these past two years, there really were only “good enough” white actors? Or IS there some kind of bias in the nomination process? OR, and this in my mind seems more likely…there still just isn’t enough diversity in the movie roles themselves? So there’s not enough opportunity for people of color to get roles that will be Oscar contenders.

    • yes Im tired of watching basketball with only one white guy or maybe one asian on the team. Hire some whites and asians for diversity! wait…that would be racist of me to ask.

  • “Lily White Oscars” No Flava” ??? what a bunch of bigots showing zero cultural sensitivity and out right ethnic phobia. Who cares about the oscars anyway, its just a bunch of hollywood back slapping. They even found a way to insult the beautiful mountains of Colorado.

  • Hey, stop your whining already. If people feel the same way as you do, then let them make up their own minds whether they will attend or boycott the Oscars. All of you got paid good and are currently living the lifestyle of the rich and famous so you have nothing to complain about.

  • I’d like to see the diversity of the Oscar judges. It could actually be that they honestly voted for the deserved actors, etc., in their opinion, and the winners happened to be caucasian. Does the Academy need to set limits on how many people of each race should get awards? Does there need to be an Affirmative Action policy established? If the judges are equally diverse, then their should be no question about race when the envelope is opened and the winner announced.

  • This is sad them acting like cry babies and poor losers. i seen “Straight Outta Compton” it not worthy of a oscar. creed was a good movie. but it bring you back to rocky more then anything else.

  • There have been non-white Oscar winners in the past. If the black people want black Oscar nominees every year, they are asking for too much. What is their &$%@#^* problem?

  • I, for one, believe there should be strict racial and ethnic quotas for the Oscars, a certain percentage for each and every oppressed group in the country, to include gays/lesbians (oh, wait, they’ve already filled that quota). Meanwhile, given the long history of racial disparity in the entertainment industry, the most oppressed groups should receive ALL the Oscars for a decade or so. It would only be fair, right??

    Forget box office success or financial returns or the number of movie goers drawn to a movie because it’s all about race and oppression, you see.

  • Why is it always between white and black? Aren’t the world and, movie industry, included made up of many color of races? You don’t hear them complaining or crying “foul”! The color of races in the world are like that of the rainbow. Yellow, red, violets,etc.! Have you notice no black or white in a rainbow?

  • Oh whoa is me Ms. Jada P. Smith – average at best actress. Spike Lee – will nevah evah meet a Caucasian he likes. One of the most bigoted people in the film industry – IMO. Bottom line The Reverent an AMAZING movie. Straight out of Compton – entertaining but certainly not best picture quality. O’Shea Jackson Jr. was good in the movie, but hey I don’t vote.

    #Marines lives matter. Keep it real.

  • Everyone wants a pat on the back, everyone wants to be a victim. So the Oscars should just randomly find black actors to give awards to because they are black? Give me a break. More than 1/2 the NFL is black, more than 3/4 of the NBA is black – do whites and asians need to say “hey, hire more white/asian basketball players, we need to be fair” We elected a president because he is black. Whether you love him or hate him, we can all agree we was not the most qualified for the job. We hired a football coach because he was asian, see where that got us. You award people who are the best and this year, OMG poor blacks, the white actors were the best this year.

  • Stopped watching the Oscars. Just Google the winners and watch them when Redbox rents them. You Po’s nag too much. So ungrateful for the hand that feeds you. Do you see Asians, Indians, French, British, Swedes, Eskimos, Hispanics, or Polynesians complaining? Go form your own Hollywood and make your own black Oscar shows.

  • Blacktress Janet Hubert posted a four minute video on Facebook. Actress who played Aunt Viv along side Will Smith on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”

    “I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living and has made millions and millions of dollars from the very people that you’re talking about boycotting just because you didn’t get a nomination, just because you didn’t win?” she continued. “That’s not the way life works, baby.”

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