Once again, the Oscars are super white this year. As in, every single nominee in the four major categories is white. Remember how excited we all were when Halle Berry won Best Actress for “Monster’s Ball” back in 2002? That was 14 years ago, people. Turns out we really haven’t come that far.
The L.A. Times published a story about why the Oscars are so white this year, noting that it really comes down to money. Whoever has the most money and publicity power to promote their films and actors gets them nominated. So … turns out it doesn’t matter how good the films and performances are. It’s like politics. The person with the most money wins.
Of course, it helps if people of color are actually cast in the movies first. And while we’re at it, where are the female directors on the Oscar nominations list? I guess Kathryn Bigelow’s win for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010 (the first woman to win the award) didn’t result in the big turnaround for female directors we were hoping for.
Well, at least we’ll have a black host for the Oscars telecast on Feb. 28. I’m sure Chris Rock is going to have a LOT of fun with that one.
In the meantime, let’s remind the Academy of some Oscar-worthy performances by people of color this past year:
Will Smith, Best Actor, “Concussion” – I came out of this movie just floored by Smith’s performance as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who fought against efforts by the National Football League to suppress his research on the brain damage suffered by professional football players. I feel like every other Will Smith role has been leading up to this one, and it’s easily his best performance, to date.
Samuel L. Jackson, Best Supporting Actor, “The Hateful Eight” – I’m not a fan of Quentin Tarantino movies (too violent), but there’s no denying that Jackson’s performance as Major Marquis “The Bounty Hunter” Warren, one of the eight strangers who seek refuge from a blizzard in a stagecoach stopover after the Civil War, is Oscar-worthy. I’m calling this one for Best Supporting Actor because it really is an ensemble film.
Michael B. Jordan, Best Actor, “Creed” – Sylvester Stallone nabbed a Best Supporting Actor nomination for playing Rocky (and grabbed that same trophy at the Golden Globes), but Michael B. Jordan easily slides into the role of Adonis Johnson, the young upstart who realizes he has boxing in his genes. That’s because he’s the son of Rocky’s former rival Apollo Creed. Plus, Jordan already has some acceptance speech experience from “Fruitvale Station.”
Idris Elba, Best Actor, “Beasts of No Nation” – From “The Wire” to “Luther” to “Beasts of No Nation,” Elba can do it all with grace, style and poignancy. Here, he plays a fierce warlord who trains a young orphan (Abraham Attah) to join his group of guerrilla soldiers as civil war rages in Africa.
Abraham Attah, Best Actor, “Beasts of No Nation” – The Ghanaian actor made his feature film debut in “Beasts of No Nation” as child soldier Agu, which earned him the Marcello Mastroianni’s Best Young Actor Award at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. Where’s the love, Oscar? We can’t wait to see where Attah goes from here.
Teyonah Parris, Best Actress, “Chi-Raq” – Fans of “Mad Men” know her as Dawn in the AMC drama, but Teyonah Parris lights up the screen as Lysistrata in Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq.”
Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott, Best Screenplay, “Chi-Raq” – I love that these two Hollywood veterans put a modern spin on an ancient Greek play (“Lysistrata” by Aristophanes) and set it against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. Sadly, the story is just as timely now as when Jerome Robbins did it with “West Side Story” back in 1961.
“Straight Outta Compton,” Best Picture (producers Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, Scott Bernstein, Dr. Dre) – Any one of the producers, actors or director F. Gary Gray is Oscar nomination-worthy, but let’s just put the whole shebang up for a Best Picture trophy. I love that this film about the evolution of Hip Hop culture on the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles appeals to all races. Yeah, that’s right, movie studios, people like this white female writer in northern Michigan (that would be me) LOVE movies about black culture. Who knew?! Take notes.
“See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa, Best Song – I’ve been gunning for this song since I first heard it at the end of “Furious 7” in theaters. Plus, it made me weep uncontrollably when Paul Walker diverged from Vin Diesel and drove off into the sunset. Sigh.
I’m sure there are LOTS of others I’m missing. Leave your own Oscar nominations for people of color in the comments below.