The Oscars may be one of the most coveted awards in Hollywood, but the Academy has faced harsh criticism in recent years for blatantly ignoring black actors and directors. Critically acclaimed films like Straight Outta Compton, Selma and Concussion were all but overlooked at the Academy Awards — despite the fact that all three won Golden Globes, an early predictor of the Oscar winners in years past.
Online buzz has been especially heated in recent weeks. An online hashtag #OscarsSoWhite emerged, criticizing the awards, and actress Jada Pinkett Smith posted a video on Facebook calling for the African-American community to boycott this year’s ceremony.
“At the Oscars…people of color are always welcomed to give out awards…even entertain,” said Smith alluding to the hiring of host Chris Rock. “But we are rarely recognized for our own artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participated all together?”
Whether or not a boycott will really happen remains to be seen. But there’s no denying that this year’s Oscars will be a heated race…in more ways than one. “Everybody is getting their point of view in and we’ll see who’s on the right side of history and who’s on the wrong side of history,” director Spike Lee told E! “History will show that. I’m very confident where I’ll be.”
Some argue that this is part of a larger conversation about the lack of opportunities available to black actors and directors in Hollywood, but as the 5 following examples show, there have been exceptional, acclaimed performances — which were overlooked by the Academy.
The Movie: Selma
The Contender: Ava DuVernay
The Snub: This African-American director’s notable absence from the Best Director category drew outrage last year. Her 1960s civil rights drama earned her the Best Director prize at Sundance as wellthe first-ever nomination for a black, female director at the Golden Globes. “That she was not among the final five announced points to the notion of a smear campaign,” said Forbes magazine. “It’s a sad reflection when a number of good, great and lousy fictionalized true-life biopics about allegedly great or somewhat interesting white men are well-represented while one of the very best-reviewed movies of the year went with hardly a single relevant nomination.”
The Movie: Straight Outta Compton
The Contender: The film itself, any of the actors
The Snub: The film about the rise black hip-hop group N.W.A. earned more than $160 million at the box office and rave reviews, making it seem like a shoo-in for the Best Picture category. But, much to the dismay of fans, the blockbuster was surprisingly absent from the list of nominees announced on January 14. “I’m not pissed,” Ice Cube told Wendy Williams. “I’m not surprised. It’s the Oscars. They do what they do.”
The Movie: Concussion
The Contender: Will Smith
The Snub: Despite the fact that critics predicted Smith would nab a nomination for his portrayal of a doctor in a war against the NFL, the actor didn’t receive a single nod. He now plans to boycott the ceremony to draw attention to the lack of diversity. “When I look at it, the nominations reflect the Academy,” he told ABC’s Robin Roberts. “The Academy reflects the industry, reflects Hollywood and the industry reflects America. There’s a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood I want to leave behind.”
The Movie: Beasts of No Nation
The Contender: Idris Elba
The Snub: Elba took home a SAG Award for his role in the Netflix original film (which also racked up BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations), but the actor and the film were both ignored by the Academy. “I was a bit surprised because I thought Idris would get a nomination,” Ghanaian actress Ama K. Abebrese who co-starred in the movie, told 91.1 FM. “The Oscars has been happening for 88 years and, in that 88 years, they’ve given 14 Oscars to black people.”
The Movie: Creed
The Contender: Michael B. Jordan
The Snub: Michael B. Jordan’s performance as an aspiring boxer who drags Sylvestor Stallone’s character Rocky out of retirement to be his mentor earned early Oscar buzz. Yet the rising star, who was snubbed for his breakout performance in Fruitvale Station in 2013, was once again overlooked by the Academy. “His feisty but wounded turn as the son of Rocky Balboa’s greatest rival was so raw and complex that it became impossible to think of the movie around him as a cynical attempt to bilk an old property for new money,” said Rolling Stone. “Of course, if Jordan really wanted a nomination, maybe he shouldn’t have been born black – that’s just poor Oscar strategizing.”
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