The 88th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday February 28. This year, as in past years, many movies and actors were recognized and many others were snubbed. The hashtag #oscarssowhite was established from the backlash. I have been a movie fan and an Oscar fan since I was a little kid. Movies and going to the movies have changed over the years. Back in the day, it was common to see 2 movies and a cartoon and others remember the “newsreel”. Not only were two movies shown but you could stay and watch all day. These days if a movie is over 90 minutes, it better be good for our present day attention spans.
I watched as Spike Lee blasted the Academy for overlooking worthy African American performances and vowing to boycott the event. I don’t ever remember seeing Spike at the event. Also Jada Pinkett Smith also proclaimed her disgust at the proceedings, perhaps supporting her husband’s Will Smith’s snub for his movie Concussion which many proclaimed was Oscar-worthy. Let’s be clear, the Oscars ARE so white as is Hollywood. I just cringe when a Spike Lee will criticize and, as a knee-jerk reaction, Hollywood will respond but not in a helpful way. Take note, for years, the Oscar broadcast always opened with a big production number. Several dancers and singers and music would grace the stage and in recent years Debbie Allen would often be the choreographer. Well, one year Spike Lee, that purveyor of what is proper and good, complained that he didn’t like the big production opening. Since his complaint, no more big production number. So who was harmed? First of all, Debbie Allen, and all the dancers of all colors who performed.
For myself and others who have followed Oscar nominations, it is not just African Americans who get snubbed. Popular, gifted actors often never get nominated and many actors receive the award not necessarily for their best performance but for some lesser performance because Oscar “didn’t get it right”, e.g. Denzel Washington in Training Day rather than for Malcolm X or The Hurricane. As recently as 2014, African American actors received nominations and 12 years a slave won Best Picture. Now part of me is complaining that Oscar always awards ugly depictions, Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball, Charlize Theron in Monster, and Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave. Going ugly does not always work as Jennifer Anniston can attest. The outrage seems a bit like the tone of many millennials, sounding like entitlement, as if one spot of the five nominations should be reserved for an African American performance, but wait no, that would be a quota.
What really makes me crazy is the self-appointed African American spokespeople want it both ways. This year, complaints were numerous that Idris Elba for example was snubbed. However, I love Mr. Elba but not sure what movie he starred in. Not because I’m not a movie goer but did his studio do any promotion? I don’t remember seeing a trailer, a commercial, Idris on any daytime or nighttime show promoting the movie. You can have the best product or performance but if people aren’t aware then the chances it will be nominated are slim. In years past, the Oscars were a competition between studios in Variety and the Hollywood Explorer. Miramax promoting some of their movies is legend. What’s worse is two years ago, when Chad Bozeman gave an entertaining and spot-on performance as James Brown, many of these same self-appointed African American spokespeople proclaimed that Mr. Bozeman’s “performance was no Ray” and not Oscar worthy.
So here was an opportunity to boost a brother but like the Debbie Allen critique, we shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot and when we don’t get the nod, we complain. We need to cheer and support and if you don’t have anything good to say, shut the F* up. African Americans are not alone in being snubbed, so if we have someone, let’s promote and boost. At the end of the day, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and George Lucas probably feel that they should get a nomination and an Oscar also. If Leo DiCaprio loses again, what can he say?
The Oscars are not fair and while competitive, are not a sport but entirely subjective. So I’ll be watching this year again to see the gowns and Chris Rock, this year’s host. In the future, let’s hope that if an African American is involved, let support as fellow African Americans, it’s hard enough when the white “pretty” people don’t get nominated for us to be sabotaging ourselves. Also can we bring back the big opening production number? And where’s my Oscar?
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