With no person of color receiving acting nominations, the 88th Annual Academy Awards show was noticeably lacking a few of its brightest stars. Many chose to skip the ceremonies to protest the lack of diversity.
As actor and host Chris Rock said, if Oscar hosts had to be nominated, he wouldn’t have a job. Being black and hosting the Oscars during a year when African Americans are boycotting the show placed Rock in a precarious position. But, being the funny man that he is, helped diffuse the situation:
“So, I thought about quitting. I thought about it real hard. But, I realized, they’re gonna have the Oscars anyway. They’re not gonna cancel the Oscars because I quit. You know? And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart, O.K.?”
Despite stellar performances by Will Smith in “Concussion,” and Idris Elba in “Beast of No Nation,” and rave reviews for “Straight Outta Compton,” the Academy did not see fit to include them on the short list of Oscar hopefuls.
The pressure was on for those who did attend. Hart, who was a presenter, said on Saturday at an event for Rally HealthFest, “It’s a sticky year for the Oscars, a very sticky year. I don't think you go to the Oscars this year and not make your presence felt. Not in an ignorant way, but in a conservative, professional way. So people understand that you do understand the importance of values and issues and bringing people together, which is ultimately what we all want."
Kerry Washington told “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts:
“A lot of people have asked me why I'm here tonight, and the thing I'm thinking about is, if you look at the history of movements, the history of change, a lot of the voices are needed at the table. I really respect and actually admire some of the people who are not here tonight, I really get it, but for me, I felt like my voice — in my heart — my voice is best used at the table."
Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg has been extremely critical of the Hollywood movie-making culture. She said:
"I make movies for a living. Let me tell you what the problem is. It's not that the people doing the nominating are too white. They're not looking at a movie and saying 'That's very white.' 'I'm not going to nominate that black movie' … The problem is, people who can help to make movies that have blacks and Latinos and women and all that, that money doesn't come to you because the idea is that there's no place for black movies."
She also said she didn’t think it was right to boycott the show with Chris Rock hosting. “Boycotting doesn't work, and it's also a slap in the face to Chris Rock. I find that also wrong. So I'm not going to boycott, but I'm going to continue to bitch, as I have, all year round, because I'm tired of seeing movies where no one is represented except a bit of the population.” She urged people of color to complain about the lack of diversity “not just once a year, but all year.”
Like Goldberg, music icon Quincy Jones wants to talk about diversity, not just on Oscar night. The 82-year-old Oscar, Grammy and Emmy winner says he agreed to appear as a presenter on the condition that he can later address the film academy's Board of Governors to discuss inclusivity and the future of film.
Meanwhile, down the street from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, where the awards show was held, Rev. Al Sharpton held an anti-Oscar rally.
Demonstrators held signs reading "Hollywood Must Do Better" and "Shame on You" to protest the second straight year of all-white acting nominees. A woman said people of color pay good money at the box office to support films, and deserve to see diversity on the big screen.
"This will be the last night of an all-white Oscars," Sharpton said.