There were multiple possible contenders this year, such as smash hit "Straight Outta Compton," the hip-hop biopic that crushed the box office; critical favorite "Beasts of No Nation" with Idris Elba; and the much-hailed "Creed," starring Michael B. Jordan and written and directed by Ryan Coogler. Will Smith (a recent Golden Globe nominee) was also shut out for controversial football movie "Concussion." Films like "Tangerine" and "Chi-Raq," also lauded by critics, weren't mentioned at all.
Film historian Mark Harris pointed out that both "Creed" and "Straight Outta Compton" weren't completely snubbed — it's just that both their nominations went to white actors and writers. Sylvester Stallone, gaining momentum after a Golden Globe win on Sunday, landed a best supporting actor nod for reprising his Rocky Balboa role in "Creed," while Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff received a best original screenplay nomination for "Straight Outta Compton."
According to Harris, this is also the first time since 1998 that the Oscars have gone back-to-back years without nominating a single black actor.
How does this happen? It makes sense to look at who actually decides the nominations. On Thursday afternoon, the NAACP released a statement criticizing the "severely overlooked" people of color on the Oscar ballots and singled out the academy voters specifically for a lack of diversity — referring to them as "a private, invitational club of artists that lacks diversity by race and gender." A Los Angeles Times survey in 2014 found the academy is 93 percent white and 74 percent male.
Last year, the academy made a concerted effort to diversify its voters in all demographics, extending invitations to 322 new members, from David Oyelowo and Gugu Mbatha-Raw to Justin Lin and Francois Ozon. But it didn't spur much change.
"While a sprinkling of filmmakers from varied populations have been invited to join the academy ranks, this organization neither reflects the global diversity of the world, or the many moviegoers who support the industry," the statement read, noting that people of color make up 51 percent of the movie-going audience. "These numbers alone reflect the unbalanced relationship people of color have with Hollywood. Our brothers, sisters and friends love and support film and art, yet the Academy Awards seldom recognize the numerous and notable contributions by people of color making and appearing in entertainment today."
As The Post's Drew Harwell recently reported, diverse movies make a ton of money, even if they are regularly ignored by prestige awards — or dubbed "surprise" hits when they rake in cash at the box office. About 73 percent of characters in the top 100 films last year were white. Harwell noted that this starts from the top, as the majority of film executives are white as well.
"When I go to [film studio] offices, I see no black folks except for . . . the security guard," director Spike Lee said. "It's easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio."
"Straight Outta Compton," about the rise of hip-hop group N.W.A., appears to be the biggest shock for lack of a best picture nomination, especially as it collects accolades from across the industry. According to Vulture, 2011's "Bridesmaids" was the last movie to be nominated by the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Producers Guild of America Awards and the Writers Guild of America Awards (as "Straight Outta Compton" was) yet not land a best picture nod.
Interestingly, the most diverse categories were ones for animated movies: best animated short and best animated feature honored films from all over the world, ranging from Chile and Russia to Japan and the U.K.
There were hints that there would be a major lack of diversity at this year's Academy Awards early on, when the Hollywood Reporter failed to put a woman of color on its annual Oscar roundtable cover. Sensing backlash before it was even published, the executive managing editor preemptively wrote an open letter titled "Why Every Actress on the Hollywood Reporter Roundtable Cover Is White": "The awful truth is that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year," he wrote.
It's worth reminding everyone that your Oscar host for this year is none other than Chris Rock, who is known for his pointed commentary on race. So when the Academy Awards air on Feb. 28, get ready for some really uncomfortable truths in the monologue.