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Oscar Nominations Again Colored by Lack of Diversity

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Actor/producer John Cho and actor/writer/producer Issa Rae announced the Oscar nominees. Among 20 nominated actors, there was only one African American and no Asian Americans. No woman was nominated for best director. (AMPAS)

The announcement of 92nd Academy Award nominees on Jan. 13 has left many advocates for diversity in the movie industry disappointed.

Actors John Cho and Issa Rae read off the nominees in Oscar’s 24 categories during a live broadcast from the under-construction Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The Academy Awards ceremony will be held on Feb. 9.

Critics pointed out that no women were nominated for best director, though Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”) became the first South Korean nominated in this category. Also nominated were Sam Mendes (“1917”), Todd Phillips (“Joker”), Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”).

Women directors who were overlooked include Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”) and Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”). Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel did receive nominations for best adapted screenplay and best picture.

“Parasite” was also nominated for best picture, best international film, best original screenplay (Bong and Han Jin Won), best film editing (Yang Jinmo), and best production design (Lee Ha Jun and Cho Won Woo). No cast members were nominated.

At the Golden Globes, “Parasite” was named best foreign-language film and was nominated for best director. At the Critics’ Choice Awards, there was a tie between Bong and Mendes for best director.

Out of 20 nominations for best leading and supporting actor and actress, only one went to a person of color — Cnthia Erivo, who played Harriet Tubman in “Harriet.” Also nominated in her category were Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”), Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”), Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”) and Renee Zellweger (“Judy”).

Awkwafina, who won a Golden Globe for her starring role in “The Farewell,” was snubbed, as was Zhao Shuzhen, who played her grandmother, in the supporting actress category. Both actresses were nominated for Critics’ Choice Awards, and Zhao was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award.

Other snubs in acting categories included Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers,” Lupita Nyong’o for “Us,” Alfre Woodard for “Clemency,” Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite Is My Name,” and Jamie Foxx for “Just Mercy.” Each was nominated for Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, Independent Spirit, and/or SAG Awards.

The #OscarsSoWhite controversy four years ago forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to diversify its membership, but the lack of diversity among nominees persists.

Nominees for best makeup and hairstyling included Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker for “Bombshell,” in which the cast played real-life figures, including Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and John Lithgow as Roger Ailes.

Kazu Hiro, also known as Kazuhiro Tsuji, won an Oscar and a BAFTA Award for his work on “Darkest Hour,” in which Gary Oldman played Winston Churchill, received Oscar nominations for “Norbit” and “Click,” and received BAFTA nominations for “Planet of the Apes” (2001 remake) and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Nominees for best animated short film include Siqi Song’s “Sister,” in which a man remembers his childhood and growing up with an annoying little sister in 1990s China. Also nominated: “Daughter,” “Hair Love,” “Kitbull,” and “Memorable.”

Nominees in the best documentary feature category include Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert and Jeff Reichert’s “American Factory,” in which a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned GM plant in post-industrial Ohio and hires 2,000 blue-collar Americans. Also nominated: “The Cave,” “The Edge of Democracy,” “For Sama,” and “Honeyland.”

Three of the documentary short subject nominees have Asian connections.

Yi Seung-Jun and Gary Byung-Seok Kam’s “In the Absence” is about the sinking of a ferry off the coast of South Korea in 2014, which killed over 300 people, most of them schoolchildren. Years later, the victims’ families and survivors are still demanding justice from national authorities.

Laura Nix and Colette Sandstedt’s “Walk Run Cha-Cha” is about Chipaul and Millie Cao, who reunited in 1980s Los Angeles after being separated by the Vietnam War. Forty years later, they become ballroom dancers to reconnect again and make up for lost time.

“St. Louis Superman” by Malaysian filmmakers Teng Poh Si and Cheyenne Tan is about Bruce Franks Jr., a leading Ferguson activist and battle rapper who was elected to the overwhelmingly white and Republican Missouri House of Representatives and had to overcome both personal trauma and political obstacles to pass a bill critical to his community.

Also nominated: “Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (If You’re a Girl)” and “Life Overtakes Me.”

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