List of all Oscar nominated movies

Critics blame all-white Oscar nominees list on studio heads’ conservatism

The absence of non-white acting Oscar nominees for a second straight year has led many to criticise the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its lack of diversity. But a growing chorus of film business figures are instead pointing the finger at another culprit: the executive ranks of the major Hollywood studios.

Director and producer Spike Lee weighed in this week. In an interview on Good Morning America, he said the real problem is with the people who decide which movies get made and released.

“This whole academy thing is a misdirection play, ” said Lee, director of the critically acclaimed independent movie Chi-Raq and a longtime critic of the Hollywood establishment. “This goes further than the Academy Awards. It has to go back to the gatekeepers.”

Lee’s statement echoes a past comment in which he said it is easier for an African American to become president of the United States than to become head of a Hollywood studio. Lee said in a social media post on Monday that he would not attend the 2016 Oscars ceremony, although he did not call for a boycott, as some activists have done.

Multiple film business insiders and analysts agreed with Lee that it stems for the top of the biggest film companies, which are mainly headed by white men. They say the academy needs a more diverse crop of movies to choose from and that depends on the decision-making power of high-level executives. Others, however, suggested that Lee presented an oversimplified view of the green-lighting process, which has grown more complicated as the industry has become increasingly international and risk averse.

It’s a delicate issue for the industry. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures declined to comment. Twentieth-Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and the Walt Disney Co. did not respond to requests for interviews.

The dearth of non-white nominees is noteworthy given the financial success that movies with diverse casts have enjoyed in recent years, some analysts said. The Rocky spin-off Creed and the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton both had black leads, and enjoyed impressive box-office returns.

“In a year with huge commercial hits with African-American leads, someone should be noticing the trend enough to respond with more African-American movies, including those with Academy Award potential, ” said Bill Mechanic, veteran producer and former head of Fox Filmed Entertainment. “More diverse executives will result in more diverse movies.”

The dispute has cast a spotlight on green-lighting – Hollywood jargon for studios giving the go-ahead for a movie to be made. It can be an opaque process, with major decisions ultimately made by the studio heads, along with a committee that typically includes presidents of production, marketing and publicity.

At issue is who sits on these committees and whether they represent the diversity of the film audience at large. “It is the green-lighting process, ” said Wheeler Winston Dixon, a film studies professor at the University of Nebraska in the United States. “They not only need to look at films about minorities, but they cannot keep up this steady drumbeat of blockbuster tent pole films.”

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