We try not to stray from the geek-o-sphere too much here at the NOC, but it’s kind of hard to deny that the one pop cultural topic that’s taking up all of the oxygen is the announcement of the 2015 Academy Award nominations, and the near 100% shut out of people of color in all the major categories1. The most egregious of these snubs was the almost complete dismissal of Selma. The Martin Luther King biopic was pretty much a lock for multiple noms for most of awards season but only managed a Best Song and a (token) Best Picture out of the deal. Star David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay were left on the outside looking in.
And if you need a direct connection back to the nerd world, Oyelowo provides the voice for the Star Wars: Rebels baddie Agent Kallus and Topless Robot wants DuVernay to direct a Marvel movie (something the director isn’t opposed to, by the way). So there.
Here’s the thing. Who’s really surprised by these snubs? The Academy has had a long history of ignoring people of color — unless they’re playing slaves, servants, and/or murderous despots — and elevating movies about people of color by honoring only the white folk in them. Whenever the Academy acknowledges movies about racism, it’s usually movies centered around white folk — see Crash or Lincoln or The Help. Perhaps Selma was snubbed because it wasn’t white savior-y enough? Despite that manufactured backlash, Selma perfectly set up the Academy to do something historic. Think about it: on the occasion of what would have been Martin Luther King’s 85th birthday and on the eve of the national holiday created to honor his legacy2, the Academy could have nominated the first ever Black woman for Best Director and an actor who, by all accounts, embodied Dr. King more so than any performer previous.
For an organization created to honor the movies, they sure suck at creating a narrative. But hey, Common is now 50% of the way toward an EGOT. That’s something. Right?
Even when a POC-centered movie actually is an Oscar juggernaut — like The Last Emperor in 1988 or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in 2001, the Academy finds ways to honor everyone but the actors. You know, the people audiences actually see on screen?
The other surprise snub was the absence of The LEGO Movie from the Best Animated Feature category. Though to be honest, I’m less broken up about that. While I really, really liked the movie, I’m rooting for Big Hero 6; though, I won’t be mad if The Tale of the Princess Kaguya walks away with the trophy. For starters, it’s simply a visually stunning film unlike anything else in the category. Also, it’d be nice to see Isao Takahata accept the Oscar, if only to see at least one non-white person win something.
Check out Heidi at The Beat for a rundown of the rest of the nerd-friendly categories (spoiler: they’re all the visual effects ones).
But I won’t lie. I’ll probably end up watching the broadcast. As frustrating as it is, I can’t deny that I’m a bit of an Oscar junkie, and I do have a rooting interest in some of the films that were nominated since Boyhood and Birdman3 were two of my favorite movies this year. And let’s face it, had Oyelowo or DuVernay been nominated, chances are neither would have won their respective categories since it’s pretty much Michael Keaton’s and Richard Linklater’s year. But by not nominating either of them, the Academy is denying both the opportunity to even compete, and that’s the real crime.
- Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu — who’s Mexican — is the lone exception. ↩
- Not to mention 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the marches in Selma and on the heels of Ferguson and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the movie is more relevant than ever. ↩
- And in case you were wondering, you bet I’ve already updated my “Batman & Oscar” list to include Michael Keaton’s nomination! ↩
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