Monday, March 15, 2021

In Laman's Terms: Academy Award Nomination Thoughts

 In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

As someone who usually complains endlessly about Academy Award nominations this year I...actually was generally pleased with the nods?

Oh sure, there were snubs a-plenty (Da 5 Bloods, gone, but not forgotten!) but I was surprised that the good outweighed the bad this year, with some actually pleasant surprises, like both of Judas and the Black Messiah's lead actors getting in for Best Supporting Actor. Considering the Academy has done a terrible job in the past of recognizing Asian actors through snubbing the casts of Slumdog Millionaire and Parasite, it was also nice to see two Minari cast members score acting nods.

Best of all, the Best Director category gave us our sixth and seventh women to ever be nominated in the Best Director category! Chloe Zhao and Emerald Fennell, take a well-deserved bow for your tremendous feats! Zhao's especially impressive because she's the first woman of color to be nominated in the category! Women of color filmmakers have been a staple of cinema nearly since its inception (hi Madame C.J. Walker), so it's appalling they haven't been recognized until this point. Still, here's to hoping Zhao has broken down the doors and we'll see far more recognition for women of color filmmakers in the future.

Another takeaway I had from these nominations was in the Best Picture category, specifically what studios were responsible for these titles. Due to movie theaters being closed for 2020 many, myself included, though the streaming services would trample traditional theatrical studios in the BP category. Variety even penned an article in November pondering if Netflix would secure the most BP nominations for a single studio in an Academy Awards ceremony! Both Netflix and Amazon had a massive presence at this year's Academy Awards, but neither dominated the BP field. Netflix got two nominations, same as last year, Amazon got their first in four years.

Meanwhile, five of this year's eight Best Picture nods came from traditional studios, including old stalwarts like Sony Pictures Classics and Searchlight Pictures. Even Warner Bros. scored a BP nod with Judas and the Black Messiah. This isn't meant to be a "streaming sux!" declaration, Netflix's presence in nearly every category this year shows an impressive level of versatility on their part. I just find it interesting that, even in a year where theaters were closed, traditional movie studios were still alive and kicking.

Meanwhile, my only severe grievance with this morning’s Oscar nods (beyond the appalling omission of Welcome to Chechnya in Best Visual Effects in favor of Mulan) is the disappointing reminder that the Academy is still really bad at recognizing Black filmmakers. Thank God Judas and the Black Messiah got into Best Picture, but it was the only Best Picture nominee this year directed by a Black filmmaker. Then there's the Best Director category, which has only ever seen six Black nominees, five of which came about since 2008. It would’ve been wonderful to see Judas director Shaka King or other notable qualifying directors like Regina King, Radha Blank, Garrett Bradley, Spike Lee, Channing Godfrey Peoples, Melissa Haizlip, George C. Wolfe, Ekwa Msangi and countless other artists make it into this category. 

The lack of recognition for Black artists extended into categories like Best International Film, where films Night of the Kings were snubbed. To be seriously fair, Black artists weren't entirely erased this year at the Academy Awards, as seen by several of the Best Original Song nominees and a number of acting nods. However,  the biggest categories like Best Picture and Best Director are clearly still struggling to recognize the massive amount of Black talent out there in the world. The presence of two women in the Best Director category in a single year is proof the Academy Awards can evolve and improve. It's high-time, though, such improvements were used to honor artistry from Black filmmakers.

Anyway, though, overall, not a bad crop of Academy Award nominees at all. I especially liked a lot of little pleasant surprises that cropped up in the nominees for the 93rd Academy Awards, like Aardman scoring a place in the Best Animated Feature category as well as Thomas Vinterburg snagging a Best Director nomination for Another Round, always cool to see foreign-language filmmakers in that category! It also looks like I have a couple of movies to catch up on, like The Father, Another Round, and...oh man, I have to catch up on Hillbilly Elegy now, don't I? 

No comments:

Post a Comment