The 2014 Academy Awards aired (March 2) last night and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o took home their first Oscar nominations in her short career. But, it is also was a big first for Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American and third woman to hold the President position in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It was her first show under the title and she celebrated by taking to the stage to announce the museum of motion pictures that will help “preserve the past, honor the present, shape the future of this medium.”
Boone, who has been on the AMPAS Board of Governors for a total of 21 years (as of 2013), was inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall Of Fame at the 2014 NAACP Image Awards last week. Boone is no stranger to the ins and outs of Hollywood having worked on marketing campaigns for Oscar contenders like “Forrest Gump” and “Braveheart.” She served as the President of theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema and currently heads CBI Enterprises, Inc. that consulted on films “The Kings Speech” and “The Artist.”
This year’s nominees for “Best Picture” presented Boone with a controversy surrounding the films that did not make the running, including widely praised Black movies: “The Butler” and “Fruitvale Station.” Fans of the films claimed “snub.” And looked to the Academy’s leading Black lady for answers. After all, Cheryl is the Black representation, Blacks longed for in the predominantly White Academy.
But, as we’ve seen with President Obama, one Black person simply can’t do it all. Boone had a bit to say about the term “snub” being thrown around and just how movies like “Fruitvale Station” and “The Butler” could have been overlooked for noms.
“I wouldn’t say they were snubbed,” she told us backstage of the 2014 NAACP Image Awards. “I think that’s an odd word. I do think, however, that this year has been a tremendous year for film and in particular for African-American stories,” she said balancing her NAACP Image Award in her hand.
“This year has brought forth quite a few new names, both in front of and behind the camera; men and women who have worked for many years to get to this point. I think one of the benefits of the award season is that these new and diverse storytellers are seen now and are appreciated for the work that they have been doing. I do believe that the attention will help their career and opportunities to grow. I certainly think it has been a terrific year.”
As for why “Fruitvale Station” and “The Butler weren’t nominated: “There is not a reason,” she clarified. “The Academy is made up of 17 different branches and each branch votes for the nominations and them the academy on whole votes for the actual Oscar and this was a very, very good year.”
There’s much to be said about the composition of the Academy. According to a February 2012 study conducted by the Los Angeles Times (sampling over 5,000 of its 5,765 members), the Academy is 94% white, 77% male, 14% under the age of 50 which could explain why independent film “Fruitvale Station” didn’t garner enough votes to be in the running for “Best Picture” or “Best Actor.” But that doesn’t quite explain why “The Butler,” a major production and historical piece, was glanced over.
“I would say, that morning when I announced the nominations,” Boone continued. “It could have gone so many different ways. The talent was really deep this year. This year was particularly rich.”
“12 Years A Slave” took home the biggest award of the night “Best Picture,” and proved that we’re heading in the right direction of diversity.
Scroll through this gallery of our favorite red carpet moments from the night: