For the second year in a row, all of the acting nominees for Academy Awards are white, marking the return of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, as well as threats of boycotts from several prominent black entertainers.
They do have a case. Several African American actors like Michael B. Jordan and Samuel L. Jackson and the cast of Straight Outta Compton have put out performances that critics and audiences have considered Oscar worthy.
African American directors F. Gary Gray and Ryan Coogler were also snubbed even though their films, Straight Outta Compton and Creed, had excellent box office, reviews, and Oscar buzz.
So, why all the snubbing?
Do the Academy members meet around a big table and declare a moratorium on African Americans getting nominations?
Are the individual Academy members so riddled with hate for non-white people they can't bring themselves to nominate African-Americans?
The answer to both questions is: No.
The cause isn't hatred.
The cause is vision.
The Academy members are predominantly older (average age 63+), predominantly white, and predominantly politically liberal. They are the generation that came of age in the 1950s and 1960s and they see literally EVERYTHING through that lens.
Which brings us to the reasons why Creed and Straight Outta Compton were mostly snubbed:
They didn't look like "black films" to the Academy voters.
For someone in the rarified demographic of an Academy voter, Straight Outta Compton and Creed look radically different from the way everyone else saw them.
To an Academy voter, Straight Outta Compton was just a showbiz biopic about a kind of music they don't like, but don't dare admit to not liking, for fear someone will call them racist or unhip. As far as they're concerned it could have been The Vanilla Ice Story, and got the same reaction.
They could only see Creed as just a comeback vehicle for Stallone, a previous nominee who has been below their precious radar since the first time he played his signature character of Rocky Balboa.
No one in Compton or Creed are brutalized slaves in the pre-Civil War South, led Civil Rights marches in the 1960s, or ended up on death row because of a racist justice system manned by white men with heavy southern accents.
If they were, then they'd all be up for Oscars, because to Academy voters those are Oscar worthy African-American movies. Instead, the movies featured African-Americans working hard to succeed in America, and, to various degrees, doing just that.
No martyrs, no Oscar nominations -- because the Academy just cannot see the worth of an African American film where African-Americans aren't victims. It's a form of tunnel vision.
There is a way this tunnel vision could be used to get Oscars.
Bryan Cranston was nominated for playing blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo, a film whose sole purpose was to get Cranston an Oscar nomination and to do that, it followed a carefully structured formula.
1. It was a story about Hollywood, and Academy voters love navel gazing.
2. It has a martyr, Dalton Trumbo, albeit a Hollywood kind of martyr, who was blacklisted for his politics. For those who don't know, blacklisting meant that he was forced to write screenplays for less money under pseudonyms.
3. It has a politically acceptable villain, chiefly right-wing American politicians who didn't care for Trumbo's love of the Stalin regime.
It's a perfect white man's Oscar bait film, and it could be performed entirely in gibberish with falsetto voices by a cast wearing clown make-up, it would still get at least one nomination.
Now you're probably sitting in front of your computer or tablet, furrowing your brow and thinking "What about Will Smith being snubbed for his role in Concussion?"
If the Academy thinks like me, they probably looked at the trailer for Concussion and thought: "Denzel Washington or Idris Elba would have knocked that role out of the park." Smith made his name and image on playing cocky rebels, who succeed by being cooler than everyone else. What he lacks is the sort of gravitas that comes naturally to more classically inclined, less image conscious actors like Denzel or Idris.
Those are my theories, what are yours?
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