Oscar Buzz Deferred
by Kam Williams
Academy Snubs Leading Contenders from the Year of the Black Film
2013 was widely lauded as the “Year of the Black Film,” but you would never know it, judging by the recently-announced list of Oscar nominations. It looks like the Academy settled on 12 Years a Slave as a sort of token black representative, with Steve McQueen (Director), John Ridley (Adapted Screenplay), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Lead Actor) and Lupita Nyong’o (Supporting Actress) landing nominations. Otherwise, the only other black nominee in a major category was Barkhad “I’m the Captain now!” Abdi, the Somalia-born cab driver who made his acting debut as the pirate who took Tom Hanks hostage in Captain Phillips.
Perhaps the most noteworthy snub was that of Fruitvale Station which had won coveted awards at both the Sundance and Cannes Festivals. Or maybe it was that of The Butler, which was my favorite film of the year. Upon that picture’s release back in August, colleague Roger Friedman was not alone in unabashedly declaring Oprah Winfrey already a lock to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
But, in the end, Oprah wasn’t even nominated, nor was her co-star Forest Whitaker, despite his having delivered a nonpareil performance. The list of overlooked thespians arguably extends to a couple other critically-acclaimed productions featuring black principal cast members, namely, the brilliant biopics 42 and Mandela.
What happens to Oscar buzz deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or does it dream of an NAACP Image Award?