We now have our newest crop of Oscar contenders this year. And, just like last year, some of the people I know are not thrilled that the actors and actresses nominated are all white. As such, it’s the second year that social media is a blaze with accusations that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is out of touch with the public and the world at large. And perhaps it is.
Idris Elba in “Beats of No Nation”
One of the actors that I hear should have earned a nomination for acting was Idris Elba, who plays a Commandant for a war-torn African nation in Netflix’s “Beasts of No Nation”. There’s a few different theories at play as to why the snub occurred. The most popular, and the one most sites appear to pick up, is that of race. But I’m not convinced that’s the issue.
See, the first Oscar to have been awarded to an African-American for acting was in 1939 to Ms. Hattie McDaniel for “Gone With The Wind”. Since that time, a Black person has been nominated 43 other times with 12 of those resulting in a win, with Denzel Washington being the only two-time winner. However, a Black person has not won or been nominated since 2009. This makes it the third longest gap between nominations (behind 1974-1981 and 1939-1948). It sounds bad, I’ll admit, but I believe there’s a different reason he was snubbed: technology. (http://www.uticapubliclibrary.org/resources/literature-and-film-guides/african-american-oscar-winners-and-nominees-acting/)
Ms. Hattie McDaniel in “Gone With The Wind”
As I mentioned, “Beasts of No Nation” was Netflix’s production, but it’s also their first feature film. In an effort to garner the Academy’s attention, Netflix released the film to theaters at the same time as it released it to it’s streaming service. Because of that, some of the most prominent theater chains like AMC, Cinemark, and Regal, refused to screen the film at all. “Beasts” did end up in some theaters though, but in more of a limited capacity. However, the film is listed as eligible for nominations, as is Idris Elba’s performance. Netflix putting the film into theaters to begin with was a play towards the Academy in the hopes of a nomination.
Could it be that the Academy’s voting body was nervous of awarding Netflix a nomination for it’s first feature film? After all, some of the voting body are no doubt invested in the traditional cinema, and giving any form of legitimacy to what Netflix does with filmmaking could be against their won interests. It’s right there that I feel the film industry can learn a lot from the gaming industry.
The DICE Award
The Oscars weren’t the only nominations recently announced, the DICE Awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences also made their selections. The DICE Awards are, like the Oscars, voted on by industry professionals after they meet certain criteria. The 19th DICE Awards present awards in 19 categories, including overall Game of the Year, Family Game of the Year, and a multitude of technical awards. Over the years, DICE has actively welcomed new and emerging technologies and included them in the presentation of the awards. Even though most gamers will scoff at the notion, for two years there was an award given for the best social networking game. That award was only given in 2011 and 2012. Also, much like the Oscars, DICE is held in the United States (Las Vegas to be exact). But DICE offers more awards on an international level.
As I wrote this, I started to realize that the majority of the movies nominated and that have won have all been created by American companies for a primarily American audience. With the exception of the Best Foreign Language film category, you are hard pressed to find a foreign film break into any general category. With gaming, let’s take a look at the crop of Game of the Year contenders. This year, Bloodborne, Fallout 4, Ori and the Blind Forest, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are all gunning for the award. What’s most striking is that in these five titles there is a wealth of diversity presently unseen at the Oscars. The developers of Bloodborne, FromSoftware, Inc., hail from Tokyo, Japan. CD PROJEKT RED created The Witcher 3 and come from Warsaw, Poland. Bethesda Studios made Fallout 4, and originate from Rockville, Maryland. And Crystal Dynamics makes it’s home in Redwood City, California, where they made Rise of the Tomb Raider. But it’s Moon Studios that is the most interesting. Moon Studios doesn’t have a headquarters, but is instead a “distributed development house”, meaning that each employee of Moon Studios can choose to work anywhere in the world.
Members of CD PROJEKT RED
So what do I think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences can learn from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences? In a word: adaptation. The gaming industry by it’s very nature will always be quick to adapt to new technologies, embrace them, and standardize them in record time. Also, where development for games used to be something that Japan and America did solely is simply no longer true. But the film industry is lagging behind. It needs to realize that while it utilizes actors and talent from many different backgrounds, it is focusing on American films produced in a traditional fashion and refusing to embrace the change coming it’s way. Recognize that films created on an international level can be worthy of the same praise already given to those produced from Hollywood. Games have done exactly that in recent years and the landscape has never been more varied. And they are more in touch with what the public wants then ever before.