New York — Hollywood's awards season is taking shape, but if early indications are anything to go on, the Academy Awards won't be fielding a much more diverse batch of nominees a year after the academy was ridiculed for an Oscars featuring only white actors.
It's still early and the season is very much in flux, with some of the top contenders including the journalism drama Spotlight, the sci-fi adventure The Martian and the lesbian romance Carol.
On Wednesday, the Screen Actors Guild Awards an important Oscars predictor will present their nominees, with the Golden Globe nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press on Thursday.
But the whiteness of the season has already drawn attention.
Surveying the 11 white nominees for best actor and best actress at the Gotham Independent Awards last week, co-host and Broad City star Ilana Glazer commented: "You guys could open up a Williams Sonoma."
Oscar prognosticators are by no means a sure bet, but they offer a realistic gauge of what films and what performers are likely in the Oscar mix. Though several awards contenders have not yet opened in theatres, every film but Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been screened for press; for those following closely, much of the field is already established, long before Oscar nominations are announced 14 January.
The latest predictions
The latest predictions gathered from Oscar watchers in a regular poll by the movie blog Movie City News the Gurus o' Gold forecast only one non-white nominee in all four acting categories: Idris Elba in Beasts of Nation.
Outside chances include Will Smith (Concussion), Benicio del Toro (Sicario) and Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight).
When the Hollywood Reporter convened likely actress nominees like Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) and Brie Larson (Room) for its magazine cover round table — a regular glossy feature of awards season — it acknowledged a lack of diversity in its choices. Round table host Stephen Galloway faced the issue in a column, writing: "The awful truth is that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year."
The only best picture candidate with a non-white protagonist comes in 10th from the Gurus, on the cusp of making it into the category: Creed, the acclaimed Rocky sequel starring Michael B. Jordan. Best director, too, seems likely to include only males, with most expecting nods for some combination of Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Ridley Scott (The Martian), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant), Todd Haynes (Carol), Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies) and George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road).
In a way, an Oscars that looks a lot like the previous Academy Awards wouldn't be surprising. Hollywood's deep equality issues, in front and behind the camera, don't get magically solved when Oscar ballots get mailed. The academy can only nominate the films that get made, and criticism might be best directed toward executives with the power to greenlight.
Then, when changes do come, they could take years to move through Hollywood's production pipeline to the big screen.
But the Academy Awards are the biggest night of the year for the industry and last year's ceremony (when "OscarsSoWhite" trended on Twitter) was a dramatic setback in the efforts by Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the academy's first black president. Boone Isaacs has been working to diversify the membership of the academy; in November, she launched a new five-year diversity initiative called A2020 that includes pushing the film industry to examine its hiring practices.
Spike Lee, whose gun violence farce Chi-Raq has been one of his best reviewed films but has thus far remained outside the awards conversation, joined Boone Isaacs at the time to say she was "trying to do something that needs to be done."
Others have tried to shift the awards chatter. On Monday, the African-American Film Critics Association, a group founded in 2003, announced their picks for the best of the year, naming Universal's N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton the best film of the year, with runner-up going to Ryan Coogler's Creed, the seventh film in the Rocky franchise.
"I would like to think that we have some influence in maybe getting people to consider a project they wouldn't have otherwise," says Gil Robertson, AAFCA president. "At the end of the day, people respond to those films that most directly reflect their reality and their lifestyle and their sensibility. So these films are going to have to fight a little bit harder, particularly if you're looking to get an Oscar nod. and you're trying to appeal to someone who is probably a little older and has a different background."
Some groups have sought to celebrate more offbeat films usually left out of awards season. The same Gotham Awards that Glazer compared to a Williams Sonoma gave two awards to Tangerine, the iPhone-shot prostitute tale starring two transgender actresses, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor.
The path of awards season could very well change in the coming weeks. But if it doesn't, a reckoning may be waiting at the end of the road. Hosting this year's Oscars will be Chris Rock.