The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences appears to have defused the #OscarSoWhite controversy—for now. There are still no actors or actresses of color nominated in this weekend’s ceremony, but changes to the nomination and voting procedures have blunted the movement to boycott the ceremony or lodge some kind of protest.

What about viewers? Should they skip the ceremony to express solidarity with the performers they feel have been slighted? Actors I spoke with—professionals, teachers, and students—expressed dissatisfaction with this slate of nominations but also deep ambivalence about a potential protest. A boycott potentially hurts the individual performers the ceremony is designed to honor more than it helps undervalued artists gain the recognition they are striving for.

A better way to effect change might start with examining the craft of acting so that arguments about awards are informed by something more than name recognition and studio ad campaigns.

Many critics and viewers agreed that actors such as Will Smith (Concussion) and Michael B. Jordan (Creed) deserved to be nominated, especially in the relatively weak field of nominees for Best Actor. But in the wake of their anger and disappointment, an important question was left largely unasked.

That question is this: what does it even mean to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance?

Acting—unlike directing or cinematography—seems like the one part of film production we all think we are qualified to evaluate, whether or not we’re actors. But there’s got to be more to it than sleeping in a bear hide. If we’re going to honor actors and actresses for their work and artistry, and if young actors and actresses want to learn ...

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