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Last year was supposed to be a banner film for Black filmmakers. Fruitvale Station, The Butler, and 12 Years a Slave were released and their respective acting casts, writers and directors received major critical acclaim. But today’s Oscar nominations prove just one thing – Hollywood hasn’t changed much.

This year’s top acting, writing and directing nominees were almost all White, established Hollywood elite, many of whom have already been nominated or won Oscars. I won’t argue that black Hollywood has some ways to go with writing, directing and budgets. Some of “our” most popular films, which a lot of the times are comedies, are not ever going to be Oscar-friendly. We don’t get the budgets, the top behind-the-scenes talent or the wealth of resources and experience that many white films do. Some of us have used hustle and grit to create viable careers in the film industry, sacrificing craft and artistry to make money because our movies have to win at the box office. Their movies don’t.

We are too often marginalized and limited to crime dramas, comedies and frothy relationship movies to even compete in the much more nuanced high-quality movies Oscar voters look for. That’s why the Oscar nominations this year are such a disappointment. While 12 Years a Slave was expected to, and did get a Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor and Actress nods, The Butler was virtually shut out, as though two movies with Black directors and Black leads cancelled each other out.

Yes, Oscar voters could have determined that 12 Years a Slave was just a better movie. But it’s interesting that while The Butler shows Black history from the perspective of the experiences of Black family, the story in 12 Years a Slave is still one where the Black characters are responding to actions by the white ones. Are white voters just responding to a movie that better fits their worldview? To be fair, 12 Years is true in that respect to its source material. But could that have been the subtle difference that impacted its Oscar showing?

Even more disappointing is the treatment of Fruitvale Station. Fruitvale started off behind because of its release well before awards season begins in the fall. But writer/director Ryan Coogler’s take on the real-life shooting of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by San Francisco transit police in 2009, was the kind of solid indie film that the Oscars adores when the cast and director are White. The movie was subtle and nuanced, something our films don’t always get to be, while humanizing a man who most knew of from a news headline. Actor Michael B. Jordan was stellar in the role, I daresay putting in a better performance than the more mainstream Chiwetel Ejiofor, nominated as Best Actor for 12 Years a Slave. 

Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, once a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years has lost ground to Jennifer Lawrence, Hollywood’s latest It Girl, who won the Best Actress Award last year. Nyong’o’s profile is up, for sure, but apparently a first-time actress nailing what would be a challenging role for veterans doesn’t trump the icon-building of a popular new star.

There is some good news this year. Barkhad Abdi is a triumphant first-time Oscar nominee in the Supporting Actor category for Captain Phillips. To my knowledge, he is the first ever-Somalian born actor to be nominated. He must be having the best year of his life, going from a complete unknown living in Minnesota to hanging out at the Golden Globes. I’m sure for him, just being there is the win, and his nomination is a welcome acknowledgment that Black acting talent does not just come from the United States or England for those who can do a spot-on American accent. As most moviegoers know, both the director and star of 12 Years a Slave are Black Brits.

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16 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: Really, Oscars? 2014 Noms Shady Business As Usual

  1. keebee51 on said:

    Negros need to stop trying to keep up with pink people. How long has Negros known that they don’t give a shit about us, that’s right to damn long. We need to work on our own culture. The awards shows are a JOKE! and that’s why I don’t watch them. LL Cool J is handsome but he not the only handsome Negro man. He would look better hosting a Negro awards show oh that’s right we fight get drunk smoke weed and act a fool just like most of the movies we make. We got to do better if we want better.

  2. The Butler was a fictional piece of stereotypical propaganda and I am pleased that it received no nominations. The Butler made the Panthers look terrible and made it seem as though all black people want is the acceptance of white people. However I must agree with an earlier post the fact that Black people are still begging to be nominated by the white establishment is embarrassing.

  3. know y’all know America’s Hollywood picks their american negroes!!! and 12yrs a slave was PERFECT for their amusement and entertainment. i feel bad for black actresses and actors because the Oscars are the most prestigious award show and directors, producers are all cue in and pick their new talent for future films aka more money, more credibility, job security. it’s sad but true.

  4. The answer is don’t watch the crap. With the exception of BET, NAACP, etc. (African American Awards shows)….the so-called mainstream awards shows are BORRING as H.

  5. For all you approval seeking Negros, I hope 12 Years a Slave wins big, black people acting as American slaves, while white superiority rules. The Butler should had been nominated, another show of white superiority while discrediting The Black Panthers as criminals and killers. Fruitvale Station, didn’t have enough white actors, you know like Kevin Hart’s latest movie, About last night, four main black characters everyone else white. Ain’t that a bitch, it’s hard enough for blacks to find work in Hollywood in front and behind the camera. If you haven’t seen Tyler Perry’s last three movies a very strong white present, he said he had to do it.

    Let me be very clear, The Oscars, Golden Globes, American Music and any other white awards is a celebration of WHITE SUPERIORITY. I find it amazing how many black sell_outs in the media continues to push blacks people on white approval. According to them we haven’t arrived until we are fully accepted by whites. They don’t always come out and say it by they do lead you in that direction, “let’s see if the whites recognizes us (blacks) this year cause they didn’t last year.

    Let me be very clear, there are no black movies being made. If the story line is based on characters who are Americans, it’s an American movie, period. It doesn’t matter if the characters are Black, Asian, Latino … etc., it’s an American movie, period. Stop being fool by these white approval seeking Negro, blacks are just as much as American as whites.

  6. Buffalogurl on said:

    I saw Fruitvale, The Butler and 12 Years…as an African American movie goer I thought all were very good movies but I must admit I would have chosen 12 Years a Slave as the one most worthy of an Oscar nomination. I love the historical story of The Butler, I was even more stoked before seeing it because Fisk Univ was mentioned in the movie. After viewing it I thought it as a good movie but something was missing..can”t tell you what it was but that is how I felt when I left. I felt Fruitvale was a great movie but it felt a little short. I totally got that movie and i am happy that it was made. It is a time capsule for what happened that evening. That’s just my opinion of the 3 movies. But then again I am the same person who saw “Monster Ball” and said coming out of the theater “That was a twisted story but Halle wasn’t very convincing” and you know what happened…she won an Oscar ! Still stand by that statement. I think she is a good actress but not a great one. The Oscar’s are voted on by industry and I seldom agree with their choices.

    • Buffalogurl: The Butler was a great movie. To each his own….but when you figure out what was missing please let us know. I didn’t see anything that was missing. The music, the fashions, the acting, and the story line were all fantastic.

    • ms1978 on said:

      EXACTLY!!! I am not surprised in the least. Haven’t watched since Halle and Denzel won (and then, I only watched those specific sections). I don’t waste my time….

    • And people wonder why we have our own award shows!?
      Which we don’t honor or celebrate. We are quicker to say “he’s a Grammy winner vs he’s a Image winner….etc”. Think about it….

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