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[THE OSCARS] | DIVERSITY

A year's broader embrace

February 26, 2007|Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writer

Two out of three isn't bad. And five is even better. From the days of Sidney Poitier breaking new ground in 1964 to the 2007 Oscars in which a record five black actors were nominated for their performances in three categories, many would say progress has certainly been made. Many, but not all.

Although just Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland") and Jennifer Hudson ("Dreamgirls") came away with Oscar gold in their actor and supporting actress categories, other nominees included Will Smith for best actor, Eddie Murphy for supporting actor and Djimon Hounsou, also for supporting actor.

But what that means depends on how one views the term "progress," say academics and other Hollywood observers.

Nowadays, said Judith Moreland, an actress and adjunct assistant professor of theater at UCLA, "audiences see movies and they respond to the story being told and they don't really think, 'He's black, she's Latino, or she's Asian.' "

But the Rev. Jesse Jackson told Daily Variety last week that the Academy Award voting doesn't reflect the dearth of blacks in rank-and-file show business jobs.

"While I feel joy for those outstanding performances, my concern is that people will take these as substitutes for progress," he said, noting that membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needs to be expanded to include more blacks than the current 110 of 5,830 members.

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