Why Are “Selma’s” Two Oscar Nominations (Or Lack Thereof) So Controversial?

Selma was supposed to be an awards season favorite, especially given its widespread acclaim in the mainstream press, so it was a surprise when it was nominated for only two awards: Best Picture and Best Song. Many had believed that the lead actor, David Oyelowo, and the director, Ava DuVernay, were strong contenders for Best Actor and Best Director, and that the film was a likely nominee for other categories such as Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Some commented that it seemed especially odd that the film would be honored with so few nominations when it was nominated for the top prize of Best Picture. A debate over the recognition of minority and female filmmakers had already been growing in Hollywood when Selma was released, and the film’s seeming lack of recognition at the Academy Awards has led to rampant speculation and criticism in the media. Some have called this a reflection of an ongoing prejudice in the film industry while others have faulted the Academy’s critical judgment and taste. Still others claimed it was the result of a late Oscar campaign that missed several important guild awards, which may have slowed some of the film’s potential momentum.