This year’s Oscar nominees aren't racially diverse, but they highlight topics that are often overlooked

Social media users, especially on Twitter with the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, shared their disapproval of the annual awards ceremony not embracing diversity. But there's a silver lining with the nominations.
Jan 14, 2016

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  • On Monday, the nominations for the 88th Academy Awards were announced, with much of the discussion about the nominations focusing on diversity.

  • Or, the lack thereof. Social media users, especially on Twitter with the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, shared their disapproval of the annual awards ceremony not embracing diverse actors, actresses and directors.

  • For example, the movie "Straight Outta Compton" — which received a lot of favorable reviews from critics — didn't earn a Best Picture nomination. Nor did "Creed," which was headlined by black actor Michael B. Jordan, who didn't receive an acting nomination, even though both Jordan and the movie received overwhelmingly positive reviews, The Wall Street Journal reported.

  • "No people of color were nominated for best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, or best supporting actress and no films featuring African-American actors were nominated in the best picture category," The Wall Street Journal reported.

  • But this year's Oscar nominations did highlight faithful themes and family relationships, which have offered a hopeful message for viewers compared to years past. Last year, Deseret News National's Mark Kellner found that only the film "Selma" — about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his struggle with white church leaders — scored a best picture nomination. The film's original song, "Glory," was also nominated for best original song.

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  • This was despite the popularity of faith-based films in 2014 and 2015. "Noah," for example, earned more than $100 million at the box office, and yet didn't receive a nomination, Kellner reported.

  • "No one should confuse the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award nominations with a popularity contest, which means faith-friendly films are often left out of the picture," Kellner wrote.

  • But this year, things are different. Look no farther than "Spotlight," a movie centered around the Boston Globe's investigation into the Catholic Church's cover up of sexual assault, which received a best picture nomination.

  • The film didn't just focus on the journalism of it all, but also about how each of the Globe's journalists "was a lapsed Catholic, and each grappled with the emotional toll of such a weighty story," Religion News Service's Jacob Lupfer wrote. It became about how people interact with their faith, when their religious institution has done something wrong.

  • And it isn't the only film with faithful themes to do so. "The Revenant" — often criticized for being a violent film that isn't recommended for all families to see — tells the story of a widower father, Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is up for best actor, as well), who seeks revenge on the man who killed his son (with the backdrop of an ice-covered Old West).

  • The film also becomes a spiritual journey after director Alejandro G. Iñárritu — who is up for best director — "moves from the material to the mystical and tries to elevate an ugly story into a spiritual one." He uses common images (a spiral) and haunting images (Glass sees his ex-wife, who guides him on his journey) to comment on spirituality's impact on people, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote.

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  • Glass' spiritual relationship with his late ex-wife and his need to avenge the death of his son also show the hero's family-centered beliefs, which drive the film's narrative and connects with viewers.

  • "By giving Glass an Indian wife and mixed-race son, it's a strategic move (and another bit of sizzle) that turns a loner into a sympathetic family man," Dargis wrote.

  • The film "Room" also touches on the family theme, as the story centers around a woman (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay) escaping a room they were locked in by their abuser. They then have to experience the world together for the first time as mother and son.

  • The sometimes-dark film is illuminated by Larson's acting — she's up for best actress — as she handles the role of prisoned, abused single mother, The Guardian reported.

  • "Perfectly structured, exquisitely written and conceived, and containing a pair of performances from Larson — my favourite young American female actor — and the extraordinarily alert and alive Tremblay that appear to fuse seamlessly into a single piece of acting, it is the finest, most perfect small film of the year," John Patterson wrote for The Guardian, "an emotional epic about maternal love within the strictest confines imaginable."

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Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.

Website: https://twitter.com/HerbScribner

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