The Whitest Oscars You Know?

For the first time in 10 years the Oscar nominees in the five major individual categories (director, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress) may all be white. In a recent article by Gregg Kilday and Matthew Beloni in The Hollywood Reporter it is observed that the current batch of frontrunners for this year’s top Academy Awards are among the whitest group the Oscars have seen in a long time. The twenty-five likely nominees do not include any performers or directors of color and even the alternates and people who only have a small shot are a very pasty bunch.

This change is quite a difference from last year, which featured one of only two black Best Director nominees in Oscar history as well as one acting winner and three other nominees of color. Lee Daniels received acclaim and a nomination for his direction of the film Precious, which also earned its star Gabourey Sidibe a Best Actress nomination and Mo’Nique a Best Supporting Actor win. In the Best Actor category Morgan Freeman received his fifth nomination for portraying South African leader Nelson Mandella. There was also the beautiful and talented Spanish star Penelope Cruz who found her way into the Best Supporting Actress race.

In 2010 the best hope for some color at the Oscars lies with Cruz’s husband, Javier Bardem, who has received widespread acclaim for his brooding performance in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful. Bardem sits right on the edge of the Best Actor category and will need some precursor support in order to make the final cut. Other remote possibilities for minority nominations include Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass whose performance in Julian Schnabel’s Miral seemed to be the only thing critics can agree on.

Looking at this year’s frontrunners, it’s easy to see how the whiteness overwhelms. Leading the pack is The King’s Speech, about the British Royal Family, The Social Network, about rich white kids at Harvard, 127 Hours, about one white guy, The Kid’s Are All Right, about a white family, Black Swan, about white New York ballerinas, True Grit, a Western which are notoriously white, and Another Year, about white British people.

The one film that is hoping to add some color to the 83rd Academy Awards is Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, based on the 1975 Broadway play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. The film is a more serious turn for Perry whose films up to this point have had a very deliberate target audience and never been on the Academy’s radar. For Colored Girls boasts a brilliant cast featuring Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Macy Gray, and Loretta Devine. Early buzz has said that Newton and Jackson may be possible contenders for a supporting actress nomination, but with Perry at the helm the film is not likely to get the Academy traction it needs.

Check out the trailer for the film below and let me know what you think of race in the Oscar race.

[Source: The Hollywood Reporter, Thompson on Hollywood]

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  • Andrew R.

    For Colored Girls-Thank goodness they shortened the title, but I am leaning towards no as far as awards go. If all eight of the women shown are good (and all eight can act), it’ll cause category confusion. And stop casting Whoopi as a nun, please.

    And as for these Oscars being predominantly or entirely white, well, that’s how the cookie crumbles.

  • The trailer made Jackson look like a major contender; Newton has been getting good word of mouth as well, but many have said that Kimberly Elise is best in show. I think that “For Colored Girls” might be more of a player than most expect.

    On the GoldDerby forums, there is a topic labeled “Oscar Buzzmeter” where people predict the top eight categories week by week. Interestingly enough, character actress Loretta Devine was in for Supporting Actress at #5 despite the buzz for Elise, Jackson, and Newton. It’s safe to say that there will be LOTS of internal competition:

    Loretta Devine: consistent character actor finally getting a baity role, translates into early buzz
    Kimberly Elise: early buzz/said to be best in show, finally living up to promise
    Whoopi Goldberg: previous winner
    Macy Gray: singer-turned-actress
    Janet Jackson: early buzz, trailer showcases a possible best in show, singer-turned-actress
    Thandie Newton: snubbed for “Crash”
    Phylicia Rashad: Tony winner, Emmy nominee
    Anika Noni Rose: snubbed for “Dreamgirls” (debatable)
    Kerry Washington: consistently great but never gets buzz, also has “Night Catches Us” (if it gets released)

    Back to the buzzmeter, though: “For Colored Girls” was in the Picture top ten (#8) and Adapted Screenplay (#5).

    I think it COULD be a Picture nominee regardless of reviews (unless they’re absolutely horrible), but the approval of critics will be NEEDED for it to score in other categories (Director, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay).

    Critics screenings should start within the next few weeks, right?

  • Andrew R.

    @Julian-Compelling argument as far as the acting nominations go, but the other categories…depends how good the ensemble is.

    Also, I did a little research, and the original play has seven main female characters named only by color of outfit (Women in Red, Women in Blue, etc). For the movie, they gave them real names, and added a new character. I think it’s Whoopi, not sure.

    So we’ll see how this translates.

  • Well i hope they don’t get called racists if they don’t nominate any black people in the major categories. They should nominate the best regardless of anything.

  • Perry is only directing and he has some love from the academy carrying over from being an executive producer on Precious last year. It’s his writing that is so awful. Poorly directed movies can still go far, I wouldn’t be too surprised….

  • Andrew R.

    Acting predictions:

    Janet Jackson:
    ROLE: Women in Red, aka Jo. Her character is a bit of a hooker and suffers unrequited love. Oh, and there’s a twist.
    PROS: This is Oscar bait, and they have given singers who act Oscars. She’s supposedly good.
    CONS: Aside from category confusion, which applies to all eight, she looks rather forgettable in the trailer.

    Thandie Newton:
    ROLE: Woman in Orange, aka Tangie. She loves dance and wants love.
    PROS: Crash. Nice, safe part.
    CONS: Outside of Crash, she’s not very good. Mariah Carey, who is hit-or-miss (Precious vs Glitter), was the original choice.

    Whoopi Goldberg:
    ROLE: Uh…Woman in White, aka Alice. Her character isn’t in the play.
    PROS: She has won already. She can kind of do a nun, and can certainly act. (Sister Act was OK.)
    CONS: She has won already. Entirely new character.

    Phylicia Rashad:
    ROLE: Lady in Purple (for some reason her poster is black looking), aka Gilda. Some sort of love goddess, apparently.
    PROS: Tony winner, Emmy nominee. Impressive.
    CONS: Very vague role, plus in the trailer, it looks like SHE’S the one being raped. (Did Tyler Perry change the roles around?)

    Anika Noni Rose:
    ROLE: Women in Yellow, aka Yasmine. She talks about how she lost her virginity.
    PROS: Princess and the Frog, Dreamgirls.
    CONS: Rather strange part. And I don’t think she was snubbed for Dreamgirls.

    Loretta Devine:
    ROLE: Women in Green, aka Juanita. She wants an identity.
    PROS: By far the best in the trailer.
    CONS: It’s the trailer, not the movie.

    Kimberly Elise:
    ROLE: Women in Brown, aka Crystal. She worships a Haitian revolutionary and falls in love with a boy with the same name as a result.
    PROS: Rather interesting role.
    CONS: Her character seems a bit dumb if you want my opinion.

    Kerry Washington:
    ROLE: Woman in Blue, aka Kelly. She was raped, can’t enjoy relationships, and gets an abortion. After Red, she has the biggest part.
    PROS: Jodie Foster in The Accused. Nuff said.
    CONS: Who is she, and can she carry this role?

    OVERALL: I predict Jackson or Washington are the leads, with everyone else supporting. Jackson and Devine seem most likely to get nominations, with Newton, Washington, and Elise as alternates. Whoopi has a small chance, and I don’t see Rose or Rashad getting noticed.

  • Correction: Perry did write it, but its’ source material is not his own, which could be enough to save it.

  • Not Harrison Ford

    Outside of this film Djimon Hounsou may be the only black actor in consideration.

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