Oscars

#OscarsNotSoWhite: Diverse nominees help Academy recover from #OscarsSoWhite controversy

This image released by A24 Films shows Mahershala Ali, left, and Alex Hibbert in a scene from, "Moonlight." Ali was nominated for an Oscar for best  supporting actor on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, for his work in the film. The 89th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 26. (David Bornfriend/A24 via AP)

This image released by A24 Films shows Mahershala Ali, left, and Alex Hibbert in a scene from, "Moonlight." Ali was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, for his work in the film. The 89th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 26. (David Bornfriend/A24 via AP)

In 2015 and 2016, there were no minority actors or actresses nominated in the Best Actor and Best Actress Academy Award categories. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite took off and the Academy pledged to remedy the situation. In 2017, it looks like they did.

This year, seven of the 20 actors and actresses named in the Best Actor and Best Supporting category are minorities.

Matt Achity, editor-in-chief of Rotten Tomatoes, told Fox News, the diverse nominations reflect the diverse movies that have come out this year.

“I think it may be a permanent change,” he said. “I think part of it has to do with the films that came out this year. We do have a lot of strong films like 'Fences,' like 'Hidden Figures,' like 'Moonlight' that do feature diverse casting. So part of it has to do with the amount of movies that get made that feature those actors and those filmmakers and I think that’s the trend to watch for.” 

The Academy also made strides this year with its representation of the LGBT community. GLAAD issued a statement this morning thanking The Academy for recognizing "Moonlight," a coming of age film that deals with LGBT issues. 

“Congratulations to ‘Moonlight’ on a well-deserved nomination,” GLAAD stated. “This should be a signal to filmmakers to tell more diverse stories. U.S. films reach audiences around the world. The global impact of inclusive and diverse stories is massive and changes hearts and minds. The Oscar noms are uplifting in these darker political times.”

Joi McMillon, who edited "Moonlight" alongside Nat Sanders, became the first African-American woman nominated for best editing.

Following the past two years of controversy, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs put in place new membership rules and added 683 new members to diversify the mainly white, male group bringing the total number of Academy voters to 6,687.

Achity said this change has made a "big difference."

“I think that’s been reflected in the nominations as well as the campaigning and the awareness has really kept the voters aware of who they’re nominating.”

Scott Mendelson, a Forbes contributor, said the attention from the #OscarsSoWhite campaign helped shape the nominees this year. 

“The controversy, represented by April Reign's #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, did help in that it made sure that films like ‘Moonlight’, ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘Fences’ were included in the awards season conversation and seen as just as ‘presumptive’ as the likes of ‘La La Land’ and ‘Manchester By The Sea.’ Yet with a line-up like the one we had this year, including ‘Lion’ and would-be contenders like ‘Birth of A Nation’ that didn't pan out, it's tough to argue that this year's nominees wouldn't have been somewhat more inclusive by sheer force of critical will.”

Achity said diversity starts with the film studios. 

“... I think it really does go back to the studios and the people that are greenlighting the films need to be making the decisions to make more movies for a diverse audience,” he said. “Look, black people go to the movies too. As Kevin Hart will attest, he’s one of the biggest box office stars in the world right now.”

Mendelson said this is just the first step for the industry.

“It's a solid first step, but at the end of the day #OscarsSoWhite was a symptom of an industry where most multiplex releases, including year-end ‘prestige offerings,’ [tend] to be white male-focused.”

The Oscars will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and air February 26 on ABC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

You can follow Blanche Johnson on Twitter @blancheFOXLA.

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