Oscars So Not White 

With The Golden Globes behind us, the Oscar nomination announcements are only a few weeks away. Recent years have seen an increased focus on the diversity of the awards season, in large part due to the way that great movies with diverse casts by non-white filmmakers were left out of the conversation. For example, I’m still not over the way that Selma got snubbed in the 2015 Oscars, with an obligatory best picture nod but not even a nomination for actor David Oyelowo or director Ava DuVernay.

Yet even that was only a tease for the shocker of the 2016 Oscar nominations, where there was literally not a person of color nominated for any acting award. Great performances by the likes of Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight), Idris Elba (Beasts Of No Nation) and Benicio Del Toro (Sicario) were left out in the cold. This led to the #oscarssowhite hashtag, which in reality will probably come back this year.

So we all know that the Oscars are extraordinarily subjective, and in the grand scheme of the universe they’re probably not worth getting too hung up on. It’s an awards ceremony sponsored by a massive industry, intended to celebrate itself. On the other hand, these are the famous, the beautiful, the influential, the artists- and what gets nominated or not nominated does send a message about what stories seem to matter. Therefore assuming that 1)the nominations are subjective, and yet 2) the more diverse stories we see onscreen the better, what would it be like if the oscars only nominated people of color this year?

Now doing so of course would leave out plenty of great performances- and of course it’s not going to happen anyway. But just bear with me and imagine this for a second.

Best Actor

  • Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight)
  • Dev Patel (Lion)
  • Shahab Hosseini (The Salesman)
  • Parker Sawyers (Southside With You)
  • Denzel Washington (Fences)

Best Actress

  • Royalty Hightower (The Fits)
  • Ruth Negga (Loving)
  • Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
  • Kim Min Hee (The Handmaiden)
  • Tika Sumpter (Southside With You)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Mahersha Ali (Moonlight)
  • Andre Holland (Moonlight)
  • Yosuke Kubozuka (Silence)
  • Craig Robinson (Morris From America)
  • Gael Garcia Bernal (Neruda)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Janelle Monae (Moonlight)
  • Kim Tae Ri (The Handmaiden)
  • Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
  • Viola Davis (Fences)
  • Taraneh Alidoosti (The Salesman)

(Disclosure: I have not yet seen Fences, Lion, or Hidden Figures, yet the buzz about said performances has made its way around the web)

Doesn’t that look awesome? Could you imagine hearing the phrase “Academy Award Nominee Craig Robinson?” Or how about “Academy Award Nominee Royalty Hightower?” The good news is that some of these actually seem very likely. Most reports I’ve read suggest that Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Ruth Negga are all front runners for nominations. The rest of these are either long shots or never gonna happens, yet all are great performances; as deserving of a nomination as many other performances by white actors that will likely be nominated instead.

All of this is to say that it’s not about, as the excuse often goes, there just not being outstanding good performances by people of color. While the fact that more roles should be there is true, you can’t just say “we chose the best actors, regardless of color.” Doing so would leave everyone listed above out, and that would just be wrong. Even in an industry lacking in good roles for people of color, they offered the world a treasure trove of rich performances in 2016. If the Academy recognized performances by people of color more often with nominations, it would only make the future of movies better, and only bring more people into the fold.

PS- How about these for Best Director?

Best Director

  • Chan Wook Park (The Handmaiden)
  • Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
  • Pablo Larrain (Jackie)
  • Denzel Washington (Fences)
  • Ezra Edelman (OJ: Made In America)

Author: Andy Elijah

I am a musician and music therapist who loves movies too. Raised in Maryland, I have been proud to call Philadelphia home for five years. Sounds can be heard at Baker Man and Drew. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd

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