The Color of the Snub


Okay so the Golden Globes have been held and the Oscar nominations have been announced and many are upset by “Selma’s” apparent ‘snub’ by the Academy. Still, anyone who has watched the Oscars or paid any attention to the nominations will know that the ‘Oscar Snub’ crosses all racial lines. Movies and performers expected to be the big winners, have always come up short.

I’ve been watching the Oscars since I was a teenager. Then, I was of course watching through the rose-colored glasses that we’ve all gazed through when the subject is the glitz and glam of Hollywood. I suppose I noticed my first ‘snub’ the year “Out of Africa” won Best Picture over “The Color Purple”. Now what you have to understand is that I consider myself a movie buff. Anyone who knows me personally or follows me via social media knows how much I adore the dramatic arts. I love movies almost as much as I cherish books and a good movie based on a phenomenal book…I’m in heaven. While I love what African American talent has brought to the film industry, I’m also not tentative about speaking out when I feel that a non-African American talent has done a better job in my opinion. I’m proud to say that I can feel passionate about work that spans various genres and color lines.

Now back to the snubs. I suppose I didn’t really understand the whole nature of that when I was a teen, but I can tell you “Out of Africa” was a wonderful movie, but it did not deserve to win over “Color Purple”. I really didn’t think about snubs though, not then and not for many years after. I guess the concept of the snub didn’t gain ground with me until the year Denzel was overlooked for “Malcolm X”. He had however already won the Supporting Actor Oscar for “Glory” so my guess is the Academy was satisfied with the apparent oversight.

That oversight however brings me to this point. In my very humble, movie-buff opinion the Oscar Snub or Oscar Nomination seem to be as much about talent as it is politics. Back to “Malcolm X”- Denzel should have taken home an Oscar for that role. I wasn’t surprised though that he was overlooked by the Academy given certain perceptions of the man he portrayed. I became upset when Denzel Washington won the Best Actor Oscar for “Training Day”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Denzel (I LOVE DENZEL- DENZEL…) sorry got carried away in my thoughts there for a minute. Anyway, yes I love Denzel but I felt that year the Oscar should have gone to Russell Crowe for “A Beautiful Mind”. Russell’s performance was just that good, but he already won for “Gladiator” not to mention the fact that back in the day I believe Russell was known for being…rather outspoken and I think he may have stepped on a few toes in Hollywood that may have gotten him overlooked on more than once occasion-politics.

Perhaps it all comes down to a performer willing to step outside his comfort zone and put his all into a role. Julia Roberts didn’t take home her Oscar until she played an outspoken, tough as nails single mom in “Erin Brockovich” or Charlize Theron for her portrayal of Aileen Warnos in “Monster” a role completely removed from the ones the actress had played up until that point.

Again, these are just my opinions. I watched with happiness and pride the year Halle Berry took home the first Best Actress Oscar awarded to an African American woman for her role in “Monster’s Ball”- it was also the night Denzel won his Best Actor award for “Training Day”.  It was a beautiful moment but I couldn’t help but think of how perfect it all seemed- almost too perfect with Halle’s win, Denzel’s win and then the spectacular Sidney Poitier was presented with an Honorary Oscar for his immaculate body of work. I couldn’t help but say to the folks around me that I guessed the Oscars decided to make a statement that night.  Again folks, just my humble observations- I’ve just seen several ‘snubs’ that couldn’t seem to be pinpointed on any racial motivations.

Take the year Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg were both ‘snubbed’ after their roles in “Black Swan” and “The Fighter” respectively. Kunis and Wahlberg gave tremendous performances but curiously no nominations arrived. Let’s not forget the numerous times that Director Martin Scorsese has been snubbed. I think we can all agree that he has crafted some pretty incredible work (“Age of Innocence”- my favorite!)

Let me say this, I do believe race plays a role. I believe the Academy picks years that it wants to make statements. I believe The Academy knew “Selma” was too superb a movie to totally overlook it. Still, it was overlooked for more categories because last year “12 Years a Slave” came out the big winner. Sorry, but no way were they gonna let that happen two years in a row- just a humble observation from a movie buff.  Additionally, humbly speaking, I believe more people than those in the African American community are showing their disdain for the Awards especially if the ratings for the last several years are any indication. As for myself, I haven’t watched the show straight through in years. Now, I only flip back and forth between channels to catch the award categories I really care about.  As I stated, I don’t see “Selma” taking home the Best Picture trophy- it would be wonderful if it did. I’d love to see “The Imitation Game” take it home otherwise, but I have a feeling “Theory of Everything” may be the big winner.

Crying foul at the Academy, while warranted, isn’t what will change the status quo in Hollywood. I think what will go a long way on that score is for some of the big names- big money in the African American community to more consistently back big budget projects. I love great television as much as I love great movies and it’s so disheartening to see so many book-based television shows (and movies)  have such successful runs while we (big money African Americans) don’t pull from the phenomenal works prevalent in our own culture.  It would be nice to see the financially lucrative among us utilizing the talents of so many African American writers, directors, actors etc. and others of color instead of pulling from the same pool all for the sake of name recognition.

Talent is the underlying force that drives this all. Focus our energies, our money on that reality and the possibilities could be a work of art.

I’ll step down from my soapbox now, AlTonya Washington.


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