It’s awards season and as usual the debates are going on about who should win the awards. Leonardo Dicaprio is being heavily tipped to finally win the big one (Best Actor for clarification) after high profile disappointments in recent years, and a stellar list of performances from pretty much everyone in category, but that in itself has caused an issue in that a lot of people have noted a lack of diversity in the nominations….well…..I say a lot of people…..
Basically, a lot of people of non-white origin, mainly Spike Lee and Jada-Pinkett Smith, have stated that it is ridiculous that no-one in any of the four main acting categories is of a non-white origin, with many threatening to not attend the ceremony due to alleged racism. Now, before I start this, I’m going to state that I am white. I have never (knowingly) been in a film so I am coming at this from a purely outsiders point of view.
Now, I wasn’t going to comment on this really until I heard a radio interview on the way home from work in which someone basically said that “Straight Out of Compton” deserved a nomination for Best Film simply because it earned over $100m worldwide. Even that logic shows that some people who are making comments that the Academy are racist is beyond ridiculous.
Whilst $100m isn’t anything to be scoffed at, it didn’t even enter the top 10 highest grossing films of 2015, with five films earning over $1b, so if we’re going pure on box office returns, that would mean that The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Furious 7, Avengers : Age of Ultron and Minions would be the five Best Film candidates.
Now, I can’t comment on the quality of Straight Out Of Compton as I didn’t watch it. I have precisely zero interest in watching a film about a bunch of music artists that I don’t care about from a genre of music that I don’t like, so instead I’m going to look at what seems to have started the whole debate, Jada Pinkett-Smith bemoaning that her husband, Will Smith, didn’t get a Best Actor nod for his role in Concussion, and causing a race-row in the process (good job, Jada).
Now, I haven’t seen Concussion as it hasn’t been released in the UK yet, but I will be. Will Smith is arguably the biggest A-lister in the world, but JPS (who definitely isn’t an A-lister), and I genuinely enjoy his movies. Not once have I looked at him and thought “Will Smith is an excellent black-actor”, I look at him and think that he is a fantastic actor. He wouldn’t be in hit after hit if he wasn’t and I can’t think of a single film that I have seen him in that I haven’t enjoyed, with the exception of After Earth (I hate to break it to you Jada, but your son, Jaden Smith wasn’t nominated for the Best Actor in the year either).
Jada Pinkett-Smith has basically turned into that girl who stays at the side of a Sunday League pitch and can’t understand why all of the other players aren’t giving the ball to her husband. I have nothing against Will Smith at all, afterall, he was in my second favourite film of 2015, but when I looked at the five nominees for Best Actor, it wasn’t the colour of their skin that jumped to mind, it was the fantastic performances from all of those concerned. She has effectively turned around and put a very bitter taste on what is normally a pleasant evening.
But away from that, we should look to see if there is any foundation in the claim that it’s unfair that certain actors of a non-white origin didn’t get nominated. So let’s start with analysing the Best Actor. Nominated are;
Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Leonardo Dicaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
I’ve seen four of those five movies (Trumbo gets released next month) and the performances from the four actors in question were fantastic, with Damon and Dicaprio especially excelling. One of the examples given by those threatening to boycott the Oscars is Samuel L Jackson in The Hateful Eight, a film that I loved and Jackson is excellent in it, but is his performance better than any of the five above (based on the four that I have seen)? No. No is the answer.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t particularly like Steve Jobs or The Danish Girl as films (and before someone says I only didn’t like The Danish Girl because it’s subject matter, I am transgender myself so subject matter has nothing to do with it), but the performances from Fassbender and Redmayne were fantastic and were Oscar-nomination worthy. As mentioned above, there is also a debate asking why Will Smith hasn’t been nominated again for Concussion. Now, again I will state that I haven’t seen Concussion yet, so for this argument I’m going to use Will Smith’s performance in Focus. I loved Focus and pretty much everything about it, hence why it was my number 2 film of 2015, and in this case I would say that I did enjoy Smith’s performance more than Fassbender or Redmayne’s respective portrayals.
However, movies are all about opinion, there could be someone out there who thought Smith’s performance in Focus as calamitous, but that’s what makes movies fantastic, it’s all about opinions.
For me, looking at the list, I’d be surprised if Dicaprio doesn’t get it.
So moving on, let’s look at the Best Supporting Actor category, the nominees are;
Christian Bale (The Big Short)
Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
Now this one is considerably different for me as I have only seen The Big Short and The Revenant at the time of writing. I have no interest in seeing Creed at all (it’s basically just another Rocky movie and I am not a fan of the franchise) but even then I find Stallone being nominated for any kind of positive acting award is laughable.
From that list, again based on what I have personally seen, for me the only option is Tom Hardy. His showing in The Revenant was fantastic and you could argue that he was infact the lead actor as he is in the film and has a considerably more varied role than Leo, but such is the nature of the beast.
I looked through the list of films that I watched in 2015 and on not one single film was the main supporting actor played by someone of a non-white origin and out performed Hardy’s showing in Revenant.
You know what, I could sit here and go through each category, but ultimately it won’t change the route cause of the problem that is that you can’t nominate someone simply because they are not white. The awards celebrate acting, and in the case of the acting awards specifically, the best five performances that year. You could have red skin for all I care, if your performance was one of the five best of the year, you deserve to be there, regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, etc.
If the Academy and those that decide the nominees are racist, explain how Jamie Foxx was even nominated for his winning role in Ray in 2005…….or Forest Whitaker two years later for The Last King of Scotland. You can’t can you? You know the reason why you can’t explain them…..because it’s nonsense! If the Academy was racist, neither of them would have been nominated, and nor would the many actors of non-white origin over the years.
Let me put this into perspective, I am a fan of football (as in the sport where the use their foot to kick the ball, actual football) and regularly in England there is a debate when a manager of black origin gets sacked, with a lot of people in the media quoting a lot of stats about managers of a non-white origin. The problem with this argument is that whilst some are controversial sackings (as are a lot of sackings of managers that aren’t of a black-origin) when you look at their management records, they have a very low winning percentage and regularly haven’t done a good job. The simple fact about any sport is that if you lose considerably more games than you win, you’re going to get sacked eventually (unless you quit of course), but a lot of people don’t seem to see that.
Basically, it ultimately comes down the best performances of the year getting nominated and those that weren’t nominated finding any excuse than can to make up for their shortfall. To accuse that Academy of not including various people because of their skin colour is a racist statement in itself.
If the actor is in the right role and puts in the right performance, they would get nominated. It’s as simple as that.