The Culture Movies First Look

2017 Academy Award nominees: A breakthrough on diversity?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences broke its two-year streak of nominating only white actors with the inclusion of multiple actors of color. But studies show minorities and women are still few and far between in Hollywood.

'Moonlight' star Mahershala Ali (l., with actor Alex Hibbert) has been nominated for the Academy Award for best supporting actor.
David Bornfriend/A24/AP | Caption

The 2017 Oscar nominations show a big step forward after the controversy of the last two Academy Awards when only white actors were nominated. This year, multiple actors of color received nominations, though statistics show that Hollywood still has plenty of progress to make when it comes to representing people of color and women in the industry. 

Seven people of color were nominated for acting prizes, but the list of contenders for the best director prize is an all-male one.

Actress Ruth Negga received a nomination for Best Actress for her role in “Loving” and she was joined by “Elle” actress Isabelle Huppert, “Jackie” actress Natalie Portman, “La La Land” actress Emma Stone, and “Florence Foster Jenkins” actress Meryl Streep in the category. Actor Denzel Washington received a nod for Best Actor for his work in “Fences.” Also nominated in that category were “Manchester by the Sea” actor Casey Affleck, “Hacksaw Ridge” actor Andrew Garfield, “La La Land” actor Ryan Gosling, and “Captain Fantastic” star Viggo Mortensen. 

Meanwhile, “Fences” actress Viola Davis, “Moonlight” actress Naomie Harris, and “Hidden Figures” actress Octavia Spencer received nominations for Best Supporting Actress in addition to “Lion” actress Nicole Kidman and “Manchester by the Sea” actress Michelle Williams. “Moonlight” actor Mahershala Ali and “Lion” actor Dev Patel received nominations for Best Supporting Actor as well as “Hell or High Water” actor Jeff Bridges, “Manchester by the Sea” actor Lucas Hedges, and “Nocturnal Animals” actor Michael Shannon. 

"Arrival" director Denis Villeneuve, "Hacksaw Ridge" director Mel Gibson, "La La Land" director Damien Chazelle," "Manchester By The Sea" director Kenneth Lonergan, and "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins were nominated for the best director prize.

Stung by the #OscarsSoWhite criticism, these nominees come after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited its biggest and most diverse class ever to join earlier this year. The Academy is comprised of members of the industry who vote for the Awards nominees. 

According to the Academy, 41 percent of the people being invited to join this year are people of color and 46 percent are female. If every person invited joins the Academy, the membership will be 11 percent people of color and women would make up 27 percent of the group. 

So this year’s nominees are an improvement over the 2016 and 2015 slate. However, there is still farther to go. A 2016 report released by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism looked at the 2014 movies released by major studios and the TV shows that came out between September 2014 and August 2015. 

According to the study, 28.3 percent of characters with lines belonged to minority groups and one-third were women. “The prequel to #OscarsSoWhite is HollywoodSoWhite,” study author Stacy L. Smith told the Associated Press. "We don't have a diversity problem. We have an inclusion crisis.”

Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was reported to be looking at the lack of female directors in Hollywood as of last year. But a report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film that came out earlier this month found that women made up 7 percent of the directors who worked on the 250 movies that were the highest-grossing domestically in 2016. That’s a drop from the year before.

"I would say I’m dumbfounded,” study author Martha Lauzen told Variety. “It is remarkable that with all of the attention and talk over the last couple of years in the business and the film industry, the numbers actually declined. Clearly the current remedies aren’t working."