Tell Me More
2011: The Year Of Oscar Snubs
Jimi Izrael is the author of The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can't Find Good Black Men and a regular contributor to Tell Me More.
There's a lot of chatter about the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominees this year, but that's because there wasn't much diversity in the movies this year. Beyond For Colored Girls, there were not a lot of people of color on-screen, and the one who was nominated, Javier Bardem, got a nod for his turn in a foreign film. What does that say about American cinema? It says that Hollywood will not fill the gap of inclusion on its own, left to its own devices. The fact is that the "mainstream" serves itself. Like many things in this country, popular entertainment often segregates itself, and the band plays on. That said, lest we forget, there were a handful of notable performances from people of color onscreen that should have garnered the academy's attention.
Denzel Washington - The Book Of Eli
In a great film co-produced by the star and his son, Washington plays Eli, a post-apocalyptic zealot hiding a truth in the last place villainous Gary Oldman thinks to look. Washington brings his stock in trade to this film in a portrayal worthy of praise, and also worthy of his fifth Oscar nomination. I can't believe he was overlooked. He's Denzel, after all.
Macy Gray — For Colored Girls
As Rose, the neighborhood abortionist, Gray is the most convincing reason to see this film. Somewhere between the Cheshire Cat and Hannibal Lecter, Gray's 10-minutes on-screen, amidst the dramatic lighting and random outbursts of poetry, lets you know she will not be just another singer-turned-actress. Macy Gray can act. Seriously. She held this film together, and the academy should recognize.
Okay, maybe it's not an Oscar-worthy performance, but Love was notable in this film for not being "conspicuously black." He doesn't shuck, jive or jig for the camera. He is just another guy in a group of friends. His role —while totally random and kinda weird— is totally unforced. He's not "The Black Guy." He's just Shane. More, please.
Don Cheadle - Iron Man 2
Not sure who told Cheadle he could pull off action films, but he should cut that person out of his circle of friends. He looked like someone's little brother stuck in their dad's Halloween costume in Iron Man 2 and his diminutive frame gave more Tin Man than War Machine. He was never right for this role, and there were hints of that all along the way. But it seems like he should get something for having the chutzpah to give it a try.
Jackie Chan - The Karate Kid
Chan could have easily replayed the ugly cinema trope of the wise, pliant Asian mystic. Instead, as Mr. Han, he fills out a role as friend and father-figure to Jaden Smith's willful pre-teen. Chan's performance is exceptionally layered and special, unlike any we have seen from him before. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.