The 83rd annual Academy Awards nominations are in and of course there were a lot of snubs, heartbreak and questionable nods but there was also what some critics believed to be a fundamental “breakdown when it comes to honoring black actors.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Film Editor Gregg Kilday, who wrote the article “Whitest Oscar in Ten Years” back in September agrees, that “this year there wasn’t a real small, serious-themed movie about African American subjects that the Academy could turn to for nominations.”
Movieline’s S.T. VanAirsdale, however, lays some of the blame directly on the Academy. In an interview with Popeater’s Jo Piazza he says the voting members were “a historically lazy group of viewers who aren’t going to discover or nominate anything independently.” Just last year, many black actors and producers represented in films like The Blind Side, Precious and Invictus. The Best Actress nominees included Gabourey Sidibe and winner Mo’Nique. It was also the same year that Geoffrey Fletcher became the first black winner of a Best Screenplay Oscar. The years before that usually had at least one black actor or actress nominated from Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis in 2008, Ruby Dee in 2007, Will Smith and Forest Whitaker in 2006, Terence Howard in 2005, and so on.
So what exactly happened this year?
Some claim it was a lack of “films that take a serious look at African American themes,” while others blame it on the fact that “Hollywood is making fewer serious, a.k.a. Oscar-worthy films,” in general. But why does the film have to necessarily address so called African American themes? Why not just hire the best actor/actress for the role. Then again, this is Hollywood. While many of these things leave me scratching my head. One thing I can say for sure is that in 2011, there still seems to be an underlying problem of casting any minority as a lead actor or actress in a film.
Do we even need to address the whitewashing of “The Last Airbender” or the whole “Prince of Persia” fiasco. Now whether this all stems from a fear of the film becoming stereotyped, a box-office flop or the fear of not being able to attract the cross marketing/multimillion-dollar campaigns necessary to garner Oscar attention is still up for debate. All I can say for sure is that Hollywood needs to get it together asap. Or should I start to address the other issue of why 90% of GLBT actors do not play GLBT roles in TV or film? Or is that asking too much?