For the second year in a row, no minority actors were nominated for Oscars in the acting categories, leading for a strong wave of SJWs crying out #oscarssowhite.
With the flood of Oscars backlash this year since the reveal of the nominations many people have claimed to be boycotting the Oscars broadcast. Surely all of the controversy surrounding the alleged snubs can only help the Oscars telecast’s perpetually dwindling ratings, and this time they don’t even have to hire Billy Crystal for it.
The problem with much of the criticism is that it’s been done collectively with most of the arguments agreeing on all the same potential nominees. There has been very little critical reviewing that tackles these alleged snubs or even defending the performances that were nominated, most likely from fear of social backlash and being deemed racist, much like the staged outbursts of Black Lives Matter.
Back in January, Tanzina Vega, CNN Money digital correspondent, referred to Creed as being a film that touched on “the black experience” in the country. Did she even watch Creed?
The thing Creed did least was portray “the black experience,” which is what made it a great movie to begin with. It was a story that focused on character, family ties, masculinity, and legacy.
Certainly, any movie focused on black characters will inherently portray “the black experience” in some form just by the nature of the characters. But that does not mean that casting black actors inherently makes a movie representative of “the black experience,” just look at Michael B. Jordan in That Awkward Moment.
Huffington Post along with many other publications list Will Smith as a snub, when it’s well recorded that Concussion, isn’t that good, despite its worthy subject matter. Some of its good reviews call it a decent but uneven film and say it murmurs when it should shout.
The same Huff Post piece also says that Shameik Moore of Dope should have been nominated for best supporting actor, which is highly insulting considering the fact that he was the lead actor in that film, making this as egregious a nomination as The Martian for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes. Not only that, but his performance was more believable and nuanced than Jordan’s in Creed, which has also been hailed widely as a best actor nod snub.
Jordan’s portrayals in Fruitvale Station and Creed are too similar and he needs to take more acting chances, including losing himself in a character. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve only seen him playing characters, as opposed to becoming them.
Idris Elba, who co-starred in Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation, was another heavy favorite from people who don’t know what makes good films. Thankfully, Netflix’s inexperience at running Oscar campaigns for feature films left the scattered and stereotypical portrayal of child soldiers in nameless African countries without any nominations.
Another lauded favorite snub was Straight Outta Compton, which played as loose on historical fact as The Revenant, but didn’t have anywhere near the caliber of cinematography, direction, or acting as Alejandro González Iñárritu’s tortured masterpiece, or any of the other nominated films for that matter. The Revenant may not have had much dialogue or plot, but it was truly a work of art on film. At best, Straight Outta Compton was surprisingly good for something that had the potential to be truly awful, it was a great cable movie.
It became so easy to call #oscarssowhite snubs at the height of the backlash that some places seriously considered Zoe Kravitz snubbed for her role in Mad Max: Fury Road. Surely you couldn’t have missed Kravitz’s role as Immortan Joe’s third most important concubine next to the pregnant one and the redhead.
While different publications were busy looking at black actors who they considered being snubbed for portraying weaker characters, very few looked at alternative options. Yes the praise for Tangerine, a tale of two trans sex workers looking for revenge and closure, has grown, but the best performance in the film, by Mya Taylor, has not been praised nearly enough. She brought real human sincerity to a role that may otherwise have been stereotyped.
Oscar Isaac handed in a great performance in Ex Machina as a tech genius who straddles the line between good and evil in his machinations as he plays god, creating artificial intelligence. The dance scene that unravels the extent of his research alone isn’t just Oscar-worthy, but worthy of study and emulation by film and acting students for years to come and shows he could soon be in the same league as a young Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro.
Oh wait, did you not realize Isaac was Guatemalan? Neither did I until I Wikipedia’d him after feeling he was snubbed for his skilled portrayal. I thought he was middle eastern.
Another overlooked actor this awards season is Domhnall Gleeson. Only Gleeson could play a major supporting or lead character in several of the year’s most critically acclaimed movies (Revenant, Brooklyn, Force Awakens, and Ex Machina) and not be recognized one bit for it. He’s a goddamn, chameleon.
Want to talk about more snubs? Samuel L. Jackson was snubbed for what was arguably his best role since Jules in Pulp Fiction.
In Quentin Tarantino’s highly snubbed film Hateful Eight, Jackson plays a bounty hunter who finds himself in the middle of a plot to free a convicted murderess played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who was nominated for supporting actress for her role in this dynamic ensemble cast. Jackson steals the show from the minute he enters the film until the last blood soaked frame.
Any of these last three actors could have easily been nominated over, say, Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight for playing, a reporter, with few emotional scenes (shouting doesn’t count) or Christian Bale in The Big Short, who really just played an awkward Aspergers diagnosed metalhead. Even Jacob Tremblay from Room deserved consideration as supporting actor above them for his truly heart-wrenching breakthrough performance, though it can be argued he should be considered a lead actor, which would put him in a much tighter pack of nominees.
We could go on all day about how many more films were snubbed, like Love & Mercy, or the numerous directors snubbed like Ridley Scott for possibly the last good movie he’ll ever make. The point is a lot of worthy contenders always get snubbed.
The Academy is notorious for getting things wrong at this point, from wins for Shakespeare in Love and Crash to lack of nominations for Reservoir Dogs and The Shining, arguably two of the most iconic films of all time.
The good thing to come out of the #oscarssowhite hooplah is the changes being made to the Academy membership. I feared that the over simplistic hashtag rage would lead to some sort of mandatory diversity nominee, which would be counter to progression in awarding truly great films and actors. Even the notoriously cantankerous and confrontational Spike Lee approves of the changes.
The goal of the changes so far seems aimed at including a larger (comparatively) younger (and presumably open-minded) voting base to counter the overpowering old white person vote. Though many of those voters should have a strong say considering many of them created or worked on great films through cinematic history, there is almost no doubt that their vote is what makes things like Meryl Streep’s consistent nominations and likely wins happen despite universal panning of films. She’s a great actress, but hasn’t been in a great film in some time.
Sure the changes may seem mild to some, and hostile to many academy members who spent decades working to get into the academy, but they are a much welcome step forward. Hopefully some of the snubbed actors I mentioned get their dues for their work. I welcome the day Elba gets a role worthy of his gravitas and range and Jordan transforms his potential into more emotionally complex characters, but for now, I do not consider their omissions from the nominee list as snubs.