Jury Coordination and Notes

There Are More Colors Than Black and White By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17


In the aftermath of two years straight of Academy Awards without black actor nominees, this year’s Oscars has plenty. For the first time in Oscar history, there is a black nominee in every acting category. 89 years later, and it’s finally happening. As a matter fact, there is also a black nominee in the directing category, adapted screenplay and producing. So most of the Big 8 categories (except original screenplay) has a black nominee. That’s a major feat. It certainly makes up, if you will, for the major snubs these last couple of years.

Beyond that, the impact of black cinema even extends into the documentary category. 13th, I Am Not Your Negro and O.J. Made in America are all films that deal, in some way, with the black experience. So even beyond the categories that casual fans really care about, there are black representatives. I mean this year, in general, seems to be destined to erase the unfortunate circumstances of the last two years’ award ceremonies. Just look at the releases – Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures and Loving. The uproar over a “White Oscars” this year would have been enormous. However, though I am proud of the Academy’s nomination diversity (having seen all of these films, I can say most of the nominated actors are deserving), I think it’s time we realized that diversity means more than just black and white.

In the 20th Century, all minorities were under-appreciated and under-represented by the Academy. In the 21st Century, the black cinematic community began getting their just due and, this year, they made history. However, what goes completely ignored is the Hispanic and Asian cinematic communities. Admittedly, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron have won the last three Best Director Oscars. With all due respect, neither of them are Steven Spielberg or Tim Burton. They aren’t major directors in the mainstream yet. Their biggest films were led by DiCaprio, Bullock and Keaton. Whereas, the films led by Javier Bardem and Gael Garcia Bernal didn’t the attention their acclaim would have suggested.

It would be nice to see more Hispanic actors nominated multiple times besides Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Benicio Del Toro. Furthermore, I would love for mainstream audiences to know more Asian actors beyond Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Ken Jeong. Sure, Dev Patel is nominated this year. But let’s be honest, of Hispanics, Blacks and Asians, Asians get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

And the issues go back to what I said in the midst of the “Oscars So White” controversy. The Academy cannot nominate what they do not see. While movie buffs and critics may watch foreign films, it has been proven and confirmed that many Academy members don’t even watch the domestic films nominated for Academy Awards. Nominations for Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, Isabelle Huppert in Elle, and Javier Bardem in Biutiful are referred to as “inspired nominations” – nominations that weren’t expected or predicted, but reflect a passion the Academy has over a little seen performance that deserves attention. That’s what many foreign performances by Hispanics and Asians end up being. There was a time when nomination of a black actor was considered “inspired” (Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel) and now, it’s the norm. No, beyond that. Now it’s EXPECTED. Each year we expect white and black actors to be nominated, yet we don’t expect the same for Asian and Hispanic actors.

It goes back to exposure. The reason black actors started getting nominated more was because more films starring or featuring black people were being produced and entered into the mainstream. Now in 2017, we’re still low on the number of Asian and Hispanic actors that are well known and, even rarer, are good roles for them in mainstream films. Surely, we know about clichés such as Fresh Off the Boat and the Hispanic friend Michael Pena often plays. But where is the Manchester by the Sea for Benicio Del Toro? Where is Adriana Barraza’s Carol? Why can’t Choi Min-sik get the mainstream roles that he deserves? Diversity in Hollywood needs to go beyond black and white, and soon. The “inspired nomination” shouldn’t be primarily minorities. Sure we still have the likes of Laura Linney’s nomination for The Savages, but that type of nomination cannot continually be Asian and Hispanic performances, because those performances should be expected, not unusual.

Producers should realize that these actors have as much talent as the Goslings and Stones of the world. They should capitalize on these talents and understand that marketability can extend to Asians and Hispanics. The Academy simply cannot nominate what they don’t see and aren’t exposed to – plain and simple. Amores Perros and In the Mood for Love were lauded by critics and movie aficionados alike and yet, were still ignored by the Academy. So instead of pigeonholing non-White actors to films in their native tongue, let’s embrace them into our mainstream so that they get proper recognition and we can fulfill what the Academy Awards are for – honoring the best in cinema for the previous year. Last time I checked, cinema expands past the borders of America.

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