[ skip to content ]

More Information about this image

You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Filmmaker Gives Oscars a Nod for Diversity and Predicts Winners

By: Noell Saunders

A diverse list of nominations for the 89th Academy Awards ceremony may signal a cultural change taking place in Hollywood, according to veteran African American filmmaker and Old Dominion University professor Monty Ross.

This year, seven of the 20 actors nominated for Academy Awards are minorities, compared to the past two years which was marred by controversy due to a complete lack of representation. The ceremony will be televised Sunday, Feb. 26.

"It's an outcry for more inclusion," said Ross, who is an adjunct instructor in Old Dominion University's Department of Communication and Theatre Arts.

"People are saying enough is enough," he continued. "The Academy members are starting to recognize that they have to have a broader perspective when looking at quality projects."

Ross, who has more than 30 years of film industry experience, is best known for co-producing films with Spike Lee, including "Do the Right Thing," "Malcolm X," "School Daze" and "She's Gotta Have It."

Ross and Lee became friends while attending Morehouse College. In addition to filmmaking, Ross is also involved with Atlanta Street Theatre, where he spent some of his early career days as an actor.

The culture of Hollywood must change, Ross believes.

"If the Academy doesn't start looking beyond narrow confines then new generations of talented and qualified professionals will not care about the Academy Awards," he said. "Then, we ask where is the line of demarcation?"

Actors Denzel Washington, Ruth Negga, Mahershala Ali, Dev Patel, Viola Davis, Naomie Harris and Octavia Spencer are among the Oscar nominees. This marks the first time in the Academy's history that actors of color have been nominated in every major acting category at the same time.

The Best Picture category is also showing diversity. "Hidden Figures," a drama about black women mathematicians at NASA; "Moonlight," a coming of age story set in Miami; and "Fences," a film set in the 1950s about a black American family starring Washington and Davis are all nominated.

Controversy over a perceived lack of Academy Award diversity is not new but more actors of color are being recognized and that is viewed as a sign of hope. Since 1991, eleven black actors have won an Oscar, compared with just four in all previous years of the competition.

Ross said "timing is everything" for films selected for nominations. When a movie is released and when the Academy starts thinking about what's being offered is important.

"It's the reason why "Fences" is doing well and no one is even talking about the other movies that Denzel did," Ross said. "That's largely due to August Wilson's writing of the screenplay so, again, it's timing."

Ross' Academy Award winner predictions include:

  • "Hidden Figures," for Best Picture;
  • Denzel Washington, for Actor in a Leading Role in "Fences;"
  • Meryl Streep, for Actress in Leading Role in "Florence Foster Jenkins;"
  • Octavia Spencer, for Actress in Supporting Role in "Fences;" and
  • Dev Patel, for Actor in Supporting Role in "Lion."

Ross said "Hidden Figures resonates more with the American people because it's about NASA.

"Denzel had a strong performance like he did when he won for "Training Day," and now it's the first time he's being recognized for playing a character of integrity," he said, adding: "Meryl Streep is widely known throughout Hollywood and it's just an easy decision for the Academy. The nature of the movie "Lion" displays struggle and triumph and Dev Patel's role was strong. Octavia Spencer was an integral part of "Hidden Figures" and her character of Dorothy Vaughn was not only powerful but showed she earned her way at NASA and rose to be a supervisor."

Site Navigation

Experience Guaranteed

Enhance your college career by gaining relevant experience with the skills and knowledge needed for your future career. Discover our experiential learning opportunities.

Academic Days

Picture yourself in the classroom, speak with professors in your major, and meet current students.

Upcoming Events

From sports games to concerts and lectures, join the ODU community at a variety of campus events.