Oscar Nominations Aren’t Necessarily a Case of Black and White by Kevin M. Thomas

Oprah Windfrey in "Selma"

Oprah Windfrey in “Selma”

The Academy Award nominations were announced recently and everyone nominated in the acting categories is white. No color at all.

While this does draw attention, it isn’t the first time that a movie or actor has been snubbed – whether they are of any color, race or sexual orientation.

This year’s acting nominees the only really glaring omission for an actor of color is David Oyelowo, who was definitely deserving of a Best Actor nomination for “Selma,” as was its female director Ava DuVernay. Well, at least it’s up for Best Picture.

 Quite frankly, it was more shocking last year when the exceptional “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” ‘got no nominations. None! The make-up could have at least made the cut or the beautiful song written by Lenny Kravitz. Even  Oprah Winfrey wasn’t up for Supporting Actress and she was considered a shoo-in.

 Snubs have occurred with Oscar nominations all the way back to the early years. Charlie Chaplin didn’t win awards for his acclaimed silent movies but the really first big noteworthy snub was Bette Davis for 1934’s’ “Of Human Bondage.”  Her being omitted from the final list drew protests and complaints that lead to a “write-in” campaign for Davis, causing the Academy the next year to add a rule “no write in votes.”

 Do you know what “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Vertigo,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Psycho” and “Do the Right Thing”  have in common? They are considered to be among the best films ever made (by either the American Film Institute or Sight & Sound survey of near 1000 film professionals) but weren’t nominated for Best Picture.

Legendary and acclaimed actors Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and Charles Chaplin never won an Oscar while John Barrymore, Donald Sutherland, Steve Martin and Errol Flynn weren’t ever nominated. Chaplin also never won as Best Director nor did Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini or Robert Altman.

Even “popular” actors sometimes get shutout. Tom Hanks, with two Best Actor wins, was snubbed for “Saving Private Ryan” and “Captain Phillips” even though both movies received several nominations including Best Picture. Barbra Streisand too may have two Oscars but the Academy hasn’t acknowledged her work as Actress, Writer or Director since 1976, even though every movie she’s directed got nominations for her actors.

The snubs aren’t limited to Best Picture or in the acting categories. Sometimes it seems the Academy throws a movie a bone, but at the expense of a more worthy nominee. Best Song winner of 1967 was “Talk to the Animals” from “Doctor Doolittle” yet the still beautiful and classic “The Look of Love” from “Casino Royale” didn’t win and the haunting “Valley of the Dolls” title song wasn’t nominated.

Best Song also had an embarrassing list of nominees in 1977 when the winner was “You Light Up My Life.” Sure it’s pleasant and you can see how old members of the Academy might pick it. But songs that were NOT nominated that year included “New York, New York,” “How Deep is Your Love,” “The Greatest Love of All” and “With You I’m Born Again.” Those songs were passed over for “Candle on the Water,” “The Slipper and the Rose Waltz (He Danced With Me, She Danced With Me,” “Someone’s Waiting for You” and one that is worthy “Nobody Does it Better.”

Before people can scream that this list seems to not take in account other glaring omissions like the beloved films “Tokyo Story”  and “8 ½,” I narrowed my observations down to movies that were more of the pop culture, while foreign and independent movies have a hard enough time finding a big audience let alone recognition from the Academy Awards.

The GLBT community might have screamed fowl this year with three GLBT related titles submitted as Best Foreign Language Film, but none of them made the final cut: “The Way He Looks,” “The Circle” and “Mommy.”