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Oscars ‘Daily Bite’: Two vacancies in best-picture category glaring amid diversity controversy

"Straight Outta Compton" didn't make the cut for the 2016 Oscar nominations for best picture. Credit: Universal Pictures / Jaimie Trueblood

Hey, what happened to the other two best picture nominees?

This year’s best picture category contains fewer than 10 titles, a glitch we’ve seen before at the Oscars. After years of complaints that the best picture nominees were mostly little-seen films — the outcry reached a peak when Christopher Nolan’s popular hit “The Dark Knight” (2008) was not nominated — the Academy broadened its list to 10 possible nominees in 2010, up from the traditional five. (Five is still the minimum, according to the rules.)

Best picture nominees are decided in a fairly straightforward way: The movies with the most votes get on the list. But there’s one exception: Movies that get less than 5 percent of the total votes cast will not make the cut.

This would seem to be happening a lot lately. In fact, 2010 and 2011 were the only years the best picture category contained the full 10 titles. All years since have come up one or two titles short. And since the Oscars usually boil down to two or three front-runners anyway, it raises the question of just what function this supposedly broadened list serves.

In the old, five-title days, a missing film needn’t feel too slighted; competition was fierce. This year, however, with the Oscars embroiled in controversy over racial diversity, the empty slots seem particularly glaring. Now we know that none of the year’s films with African-Americans in the leads — including “Straight Outta Compton,” “Concussion,” “Beasts of No Nation” and “Creed” — received even 5 percent of the Academy’s votes.

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