Monday, May 16, 2022

‘Selma’ Snubs Do Not Prove Oscar Bias

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The L.A. arm of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network will protest this Sunday’s Academy Awards because of the lack of diversity among the major nominees.

Although “Selma” is in the running for best picture, and “Birdman” filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu is up for best director and screenplay, critics are outraged that most of the current Oscar hopefuls – including all of the acting nominees – are white.

The fact that “Selma” star David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay were omitted from the Oscar nods is seen by many as evidence of racial bias in the Academy Awards.  But recent history proves that this is not the case.

It is the nature of the Academy Awards that artistic excellence sometimes goes unrecognized.  The fires of controversy flare up every spring as deserving films, filmmakers and performers are denied nominations for the movie industry’s most prestigious awards. The stars of “Selma” weren’t the only performers ignored by Oscar.

After Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Chastain landed Golden Globe nominations for their work in “Cake” and “A Most Violent Year,” a lot of people figured they were a lock for Oscar nods.  But the Academy bypassed both actresses.

Some of the movie world’s most honored artists have gotten the cold shoulder from Oscar despite multiple nominations. Although he was nominated five times Alfred Hitchcock, one of the most innovative and acclaimed filmmakers of the twentieth century, was never granted a best director Oscar. (His 1940 thriller, “Rebecca,” was named best picture but that award goes to the producer, not the director.)  The celebrated and versatile actor Peter O’Toole was nominated eight times as best actor (making him the most-nominated performer in Academy Awards history) and he lost all eight times.  His last shot at Oscar gold came in 2006 when O’Toole (then 74 years-old and in challenged health) lost to Forest Whitaker who channeled Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.”

So, the same Academy which is being accused of anti-black bias actually bypassed one of Hollywood’s most revered white actors (O’Toole) in order to honor a brother (Whitaker).

It’s worth nothing that 2006 was also the year that Will Smith received his second Academy Award nomination, for “The Pursuit of Happyness.”  His first was for “Ali” in 2001.

Much has been made of the absence of racial diversity in the ranks of the Motion Picture Academy.  According to The Los Angeles Times, Academy membership is 94% white and 77% male.  Many critics charge that this skewed demographic puts people of color at a disadvantage.  Despite its overwhelmingly white membership, the Academy has done a pretty thorough job of recognizing black excellence in Hollywood.  A glance at the list of African-American Oscar nominees over the decades reveals that when African-Americans have done top level work in the movies they’ve often gotten the nod from Oscar.  This includes black actors and actresses who appeared in movies that were not mainstream studio hits and that did not get a lot of love from black folks at the box office.

Be honest family, how many of us actually went to the multiplex to see Dexter Gordon in “’Round Midnight” (1986), Marianne Jean-Baptiste in “Secrets and Lies” (1996) or Quvenzhane Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (2012)?

In recent years, African-American Oscar nominees have actually become commonplace. Ten of the fourteen years between 2000 and 2014 had at least one African-American nominated in the acting or directing categories.  There were multiple black nominees in seven of those ten years.  Four years saw three or four African-Americans receive major Oscar nods.  Looking at the number and consistency of black Academy Award nominees over the past decade-and-a-half, one can see that the “Selma” omissions are actually an anomaly, an exception rather than the rule.

Of course, the movie industry as a whole still has a diversity problem.  African-Americans star in and create a wide variety of studio films but still face challenges.  Meanwhile, Latinos and Asians are still fighting the same, old uphill battle to land major roles and to tell their stories onscreen. The extraordinary success of “The Joy Luck Club” (1993) did not lead to a flood of films about Asian families.  And, unless the movie is a martial arts actioner (a genre that has largely dried up), Asian performers are still largely relegated to secondary roles which are few and far between.  Latinos remain similarly limited, with their lack of opportunities compounded by Hollywood’s casual and longstanding habit of casting whites as Latinos lead characters (i.e.: Ben Affleck in “Argo”), thereby denying Latinos the chance to move onto Tinsel Town’s A-list.

This systemic unfairness is a major problem that must be continually attacked.  However, it is a separate issue from allegations of racial bias within the Academy Awards.  Such bias, the record shows, is not truly at work in the Oscars.

Thanks for listening.  I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.

cameron turner (2013)
Cameron Turner

Subscribe to Cameron’s YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/TurnersTwoCents.  Drop Cameron an email at [email protected]

 

‘Selma’ Snubs Do Not Prove Oscar Bias

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Al Sharpton is a pos….the Media revels in using this ignoramous as a leader….he is an ambulance chaser who extorts money from corporations under the guise of keeping the Black folks at bay! ANYWAY ….Selma was a great picture….there were a lot of off the chain films this year. Selma was not the best and hopefully it will win something. There are a lot of things wrong everywhere in every area as it relates to Black folks in America but this ain’t one of them.

  2. I tell yuh…..NOTHing is more satisfying, gratifying, entertaining, or exPOSing!!!, than a propaganda asshole BS artist racist poster & the maliciously irrelevance of their blatantly agenda driven ….BS posts. “Encore” please!!!! Fkn idiot.

  3. It’s not that people of color were snubbed. It’s that the industry as a whole isn’t as colorblind or realistic as they would like to believe.

    Outside of Viola Davis’ performance in Doubt there haven’t been many films “important” films where black actors/actresses involved that WERE NOT
    1. Period pieces of “The Struggle”,
    2. ANYTHING that has to do with race relations, or,
    3. A biography during a time of racial turmoil.

    Taking nothing away from these films (all good movies) it seems as if we’re in a freakin’ rut. Take out Training Day and Monsters Ball here’s what we have:

    Glory
    Driving Miss Daisy
    Malcolm X
    Ali
    Ray
    The Help
    Invictus
    The Butler
    12 Years A Slave
    Fruitvale Station
    Get On Up
    Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
    Cesar Chavez
    Selma

    I sense a trend and it’s really getting old. We either get this kind of played out subject matter or a bunch of movies that cast every black actor in Hollywood. It’s like Hollywood is saying: “To make up for the fact that we’re not very colorblind this year we’ll do a couple movies where EVERYBODY is black.”

    We really need to stop being so short sighted. The problem is not getting snubbed when we seem to have a systematic movie that falls into the only “acceptable” genre for people of color. The problem is Hollywood seems to have an aversion to casting “outside of the box”. Sony had a brouhaha over casting Denzel Washington in The Equalizer. DENZEL FREAKIN’ WASHINGTON.

    For crying out loud, mix in some people of color in meaty roles that have NOTHING TO DO WITH COLOR! A HUGE number of movies over the past year had strong characters where race was not a central driving factor in the plot or story. Interstellar, Edge Of Tomorrow (best film of the year in my opinion), Chef, Gone Girl, St. Vincent, The Judge, Nightcrawler, Silver Lining’s Playbook, Jupiter Ascending, Snowpiercer, Gravity, Lucy, All Is Lost, Divergent, Draft Day. Heck, throw in “Grudge Match” or even “Gran Torino”. ALL would have worked well with a person of color as a lead.

    That’s where the problem is. Casting is not as colorblind as it should be, nor is it as smart as it needs to be. And it’s not just ethnicity. Not every woman in every role needs to be some buxom, blonde hottie. Not every police detective is a perfect size 2 and makes men drool. Mix in a little reality. I mean, seriously, when Denise Richards gets cast as a nuclear physicist the entire industry has problems. If you believe the tripe that comes out of Hollywood you would think that accomplished, complex successful women of substance cease to exist after 50 and people of color only work well in ensembles of the same color.

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