It’s unfortunate that there’s a dark cloud hanging over the Oscars because of the absence of any black actors or actresses among the nominees for the second year in a row. What’s worse is the way the controversy is creating a rift in the Hollywood community.
A number of African-American icons like Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee have called for a boycott. In response, some of their colleagues have pushed back just as forcefully against what they say would amount to participation trophies for members of ethnic groups.
Jada is ostensibly upset that her hubby Will’s excellent work as a physician in Concussion was overlooked. If he’s looking for accolades, he’d do better to play a violent outlaw, which is what it generally takes for a black male to catch the Academy’s eye. And African-American females fare far better when they portray someone who’s homeless than someone who’s wholesome, as was the case on 9 of the 10 occasions when a sister was nominated for Best Actress.
Contributing to the brouhaha was Best Actress nominee Charlotte Rampling who dismissed the complaints by blacks as “racist against whites.” The British star of 45 Years even went so far as to suggest that “maybe black actors did not deserve to make the final list.”
Should the glaring omission of minorities be considered just a case of sour grapes or might it be symptomatic of a deep-seated societal problem? Perhaps, what needs to be revisited is the question of what criteria the Academy relies upon in assessing the quality of a performance.
For example, think back to 2001 when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was nominated for 10 Oscars, but none in any acting categories, despite a number of superb performances. You can’t but help wonder whether the outcome might have been different, if whites had played the lead roles.
After all, the industry has historically preferred to have Caucasians play Asian characters, even Charlie Chan and Fu Man Chu. Consequently, we’ve witnessed everyone from Rex Harrison to Mickey Rooney to Peter Sellers donning yellowface and adopting offensive accents to present a perverted image of Asians.
In fact, in less enlightened times, numerous whites appearing in yellow, brown and blackface have been nominated for Oscars, including H.B. Warner as an Asian in Lost Horizon, Marlon Brando as a Latino in Viva Zapata!, Jennifer Jones as an Asian in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Laurence Olivier as a black man in Othello, and Susan Kohner as an African-American in Imitation ofLife, to name a few.
Let’s be honest, things have improved substantially over the years. And yes, there is still far to go. But Oscar voting is very subjective and unlikely to change substantially until Hollywood fully embraces colorblind casting and the ranks of Academy reflects the diversity of the general population.
If, despite all of the above, you are still tempted to tune in to the Oscars, I hope my predictions below help you prevail in an office or online pool. The 88th Academy Awards will air live on ABC this Sunday, Feb. 28, at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT, and will be hosted by Chris Rock.
Will Win: The Revenant
Deserves to Win: Spotlight
Overlooked: Creed, Desert Dancer and Kingsman: The Secret Service
Will Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant)
Deserves to Win: Thomas McCarthy (Spotlight)
Overlooked: Ryan Coogler (Creed), Richard Raymond (Desert Dancer) and Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Deserves to Win: Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
Overlooked: Jake Gyllenhaal (Southpaw), Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Will Smith (Concussion) and Johnny Depp (Black Mass)
Will Win: Brie Larson (Room)
Deserves to Win: Brie Larson (Room)
Overlooked: Freida Pinto (Desert Dancer), Amy Schumer (Trainwreck) and Greta Gerwig (Mistress America)
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
Deserves to Win: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Overlooked: Michael Keaton (Spotlight), Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) and Samuel L. Jackson (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Alicia Vikander (TheDanish Girl)
Deserves to Win: Rooney Mara (Carol)
Overlooked: Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Lola Kirke (Mistress America) and Kiersey Clemons (Dope)
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Spotlight
Deserves to Win: Spotlight
Overlooked: Dope, MistressAmerica and Trainwreck
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: The Big Short
Deserves to Win: Room
Overlooked: Kingsman: The Secret Service, Desert Dancer and Me & Earl & the Dying Girl
Predictions for the Balance of the Categories
Animated Feature: Inside Out
Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul
Documentary Feature: Amy
Cinematography: The Revenant
Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
Film Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Makeup and Hairstyling: Mad Max: Fury Road
Original Score: The Hateful Eight
Best Song: Til It Happens to You (The Hunting Ground)