The Oscar nominations are in, and award watchers have pinpointed a troublesome detail: except for Spanish-born Javier Bardem, all of the nominees are white. This would seem to be a step backwards, particularly since last year's Best Actress nominees included Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique for Precious. This was the same year, ColorLines' Jorge Rivas notes, that "Geoffrey Fletcher became the first black winner of a screenplay Oscar. And Lee Daniels was the second black director ever to earn a directing nom. Morgan Freeman also picked up his fifth nomination for playing Nelson Mandela in 'Invictus.'"
The Wall Street Journal's Christopher John Farley calls the year "something of a breakdown when it comes to honoring black actors": what happened?
Farley says some critics say it's a matter of actors of colors not being given roles, but notes that other critics blame it on the fact that Hollywood's making fewer serious, a.k.a. Oscar-worthy films. That alone, he writes, would mean "it's hard for any actors, regardless of their race, to find rich parts." Some evidence to support this thesis: The NAACP struggled to find award-winning films for 2010 and ended up with "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?" among its list of contenders.
The Hollywood Reporter's Film Editor Gregg Kilday, who wrote the article "Whitest Oscar in Ten Years" back in September agrees, telling PopEater "this year there wasn't a real small, serious-themed movie about African American subjects that the Academy could turn to for nominations."
Movieline's S.T. VanAirsdale, however, lays some of the blame directly on the Academy. In an interview with Popeater's Jo Piazza he says the voting members were "a historically lazy group of viewers who aren't going to discover or nominate anything independently," meaning if a movie isn't backed by a money-fueled PR campaign, it won't have a shot at being considered.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.