Director John Singleton defended the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Monday in the wake of the renewed #OscarsSoWhite controversy, which saw the organization’s members nominate exclusively white actors in top acting categories for a second straight year.
While fellow director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith have vowed to boycott the February 28 awards show, the two-time Oscar-nominated Singleton said in a recent interview that Academy nods are subjective honors, and don’t necessarily reflect the quality of a given film.
“There’s only so many slots, though,” Singleton, who became the first African-American to earn a Best Director nomination for 1991’s Boyz ‘N The Hood, told Variety. “There are a couple of movies that may have (warranted attention) but… It’s all subjective. It’s almost like the lottery.”
“It’s like every year people complain,” the director added. “People even complain even when we have a lot of nominations. It is what is is. I’ve been in the game for 25 years. You never know – it’s the luck of the draw for you. To me, I’m not surprised. I’m not disappointed either, as much as other people are disappointed. There’s a whole elevation of work that happens.”
Singleton’s opinion differs greatly from that of Spike Lee; the Do The Right Thing director vowed Monday to boycott the Oscars, writing in an Instagram post that “until minorities are [in film studios’ boardrooms], the Oscar nominees will remain lily white.”
But in his comments to Variety, Singleton suggested that Lee should know better than most that Oscar nominations are not a reflection of a film’s strength.
“Every year there’s at least a few films that don’t get nominated and you have all these films that do get nominated and then the films that aren’t nominated are elevated over time, he explained. Do the Right Thing never got nominated for best picture, but that year, nobody’s talking about Driving Miss Daisy any more. Everybody’s still talking about Do the Right Thing. It happens every year.”
The #OscarsSoWhite controversy was renewed again last week, when critics blasted the Academy for failing to nominate any people of color in each of the top four acting categories. Critics said that films like Straight Outta Compton, Creed, Beasts of No Nation and Concussion deserved recognition for their acting performances.
Compton producer Will Packer called the lack of nominations for people of color a “complete embarrassment,” while the Rev. Al Sharpton blasted Hollywood at large for perpetuating what he called a “fraudulent image of of progressive liberal politics and policies.”
Despite defending the Academy, Singleton told Variety there was one film he hoped would earn a nomination that ultimately did not.
“I do think Straight Outta Compton could have been nominated for Best Picture,” he said. He added that Jason Mitchell, who played Eazy-E in the NWA biopic, should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
Singleton’s work can be seen next in an episode of American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson, premiering February 2 on FX.