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Opinion

Readers React: Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith are right about diversity, but wrong about the Oscars

Oscar statues

Oscar statues stand in Hollywood before the 2015 Academy Awards. 

(Michael Nelson / EPA)

To the editor: I understand and appreciate Jada Pinkett Smith’s and Spike Lee’s concern that Hollywood needs to do more to embrace diversity. However, I think they are going after the wrong end of the stick by boycotting the Academy Awards on Feb. 28. (“Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith to boycott Oscars; academy responds,” Jan. 18)

The Academy Awards should be about recognizing the best of what Hollywood produces each year. Race, creed, sexual orientation or color should have nothing to do with it. Film is an art form, and there are always going to be subjective, well-informed criteria being applied to any Academy Awards selection process. The vast majority of submissions are left off the list of nominees.

What really must be addressed is the need for getting more diversity into the filmmaking business. We need stronger efforts to develop people for jobs in front of and behind the camera, including in the studio offices. Talent must be found from all segments of the color and gender spectrum.

This is the real path toward a more diverse set of Academy Awards nominations. I speak from an informed perspective, as I am an African American filmmaker. If any of the films I’m involved with are nominated for any award, I hope it is based on merit alone and not because of political correctness.

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Ivan Williams, Lake Forest

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To the editor: Only a minority of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ nearly 6,000 members belong to the actor branch. There are 16 other branches, and I belong to one of those — visual effects.

The actors are the only ones who can nominate other actors for an Oscar. On the final ballot, I’ll only be able to select from those nominated.

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So it concerns me when I hear the entire Academy blamed for the lack of diversity in actor nominations. I saw many fine performances from people of color but won’t get to vote for them.

One solution might be to increase the number of acting nominees in each category from five to eight.

Thomas Smith, Glendale

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To the editor: Where does this sense of entitlement come from? Just because you star in or make a movie doesn’t ensure you an Oscar nomination. A lot of talented people were passed over and didn’t receive a nomination.

Hollywood has been very good to Pinkett Smith and Lee. Will Smith, Pinkett Smith’s husband, has been nominated for Best Actor, and Lee has been nominated several times and was awarded an honorary Oscar.

So, where do Pinkett Smith and Lee get off with their undignified, racist statements about the Academy?

Cathy Dunn, Huntington Beach

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To the editor: The piece by Meg Waite Clayton about the sad dearth of women receiving awards and opportunities in Hollywood is not limited to the TV and film businesses. (“Hollywood’s female deficit isn’t going away,” Opinion, Jan. 15)

When I was young and in art school in the early 1970s, I thought the sky was the limit for anyone willing to work hard enough to scale the fine art mountain. Forty (yes, 40) years later, the art world largely mirrors the entertainment business in its undervaluing of female artists.

The typical fine art gallery has 20% female and 80% male artists on its roster. This imbalance is reflected in pricing, sales, museum content and in other areas.

If I’d been told as a 25-year-old painter living and working in downtown Los Angeles that 2016 would largely mirror 1970, I wouldn’t have believed it. I don’t have any idea what can be done to change this — it’s very hard to pry open narrow minds.

Karla Klarin, Santa Monica

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