Straight Outta Compton was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This is notable not only because it’s the critical and commercial hit’s only Oscar nomination, but because it means the film’s only representatives at the ceremony will be white. When the words “Straight Outta Compton” are uttered by whichever celebrity is chosen to present the award, the camera won’t cut to any people of color. It’ll cut to these two:
And not only because they’re the nominated writers, but because no one else involved with the film was on the guest list. Though TMZ reports Ice Cube “would’ve RSVP’d a ‘No,’” the New York Daily News added this:
It may not be as glaring as it seems: The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences is notoriously stingy with tickets to the most important event of the year for the film industry.
Sure, they’re stingy, but there are still plenty of precedents for non-nominees being invited. Only last year, Rene Russo showed up. What 2014 film was she in? Just Nightcrawler. How many Oscar nominations did it receive? Just one—for Best Original Screenplay.*
At the 84th Academy Awards, Zachary Quinto was seen strolling on the red carpet with the screenwriter of Margin Call, J.C. Chandor. Only one of them was nominated that year, and it wasn’t Quinto.
Mark Ruffalo wasn’t one of the two people involved with You Can Count on Me nominated for an Oscar in 2001—that would be Laura Linney, for Best Actress, and Kenneth Lonergan, for Best Screenplay. Yet Ruffalo showed up to the 73rd Academy Awards with his wife—and I doubt it’s because Laura Linney was given a +2.
The list goes on. After making his debut in 2006's Casino Royale, Daniel Craig—nominated for nothing that (or any) year—was a presenter at the 79th Oscars. Daniel Radcliffe, another star of a successful franchise who has never been nominated for an Oscar, was a presenter at the 85th. But they’re just a pair of easily found names plucked from a long list of actors and actresses who’ve been invited to present without having been nominated themselves—a long, mostly white list that includes Tobey Maguire, Jessica Biel, James McAvoy, Jennifer Garner, Liv Tyler, and even sometimes actress and Honest Company founder Jessica Alba.
The Academy can both nominate whomever they want and invite whomever they want to their annual party. Sometimes they choose people from movies in contention, sometimes they choose people from movies that aren’t, and sometimes they choose people exclusively because they’re beautiful, able to read from a teleprompter, and look good on stage.
Not inviting the cast of Straight Outta Compton may be a mild example of this—I’m not sure I expect the Academy to invite the cast of Pitch Perfect, either—but their active exclusion can easily be interpreted as even more evidence of an Academy’s preference about the types of people they’d prefer to walk among their silly, giant golden statues.
*A commenter mentioned Russo is married to Nightcrawler’s writer, Dan Gilroy, and that she may have been his +1 to the 2015 Oscars.
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