Oct 1, 2010

John Singleton takes Executive Order: Six

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Will white be the only color on the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards?

Although Oscar contenders are just lining up at the starting gate for the annual run for the gold, there's a real possibility that for the first time since the 73rd Oscars 10 years ago, there will be no black nominees in any of the acting categories at the February ceremony. In fact, there are virtually no minorities in any of the major categories among the early lists of awards hopefuls.

"It's more difficult than ever to get a picture made with any serious subject matter -- let alone an ethnic-themed one," John Singleton, an Academy member and two-time Oscar nominee for 1991's "Boyz N the Hood," said of the current filmmaking environment, which has in turn narrowed Oscar's choices.

At the 82nd Oscars in March, it was a dramatically different story, thanks to "Precious." The gritty drama earned six noms, Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique were nominated as best actress and best supporting actress, respectively, and Mo'Nique took home the prize. Geoffrey Fletcher became the first black winner of a screenplay Oscar. And Lee Daniels was just the second black director ever to earn a directing nom. In addition, Morgan Freeman, a past Oscar winner for "Million Dollar Baby," picked up his fifth nomination for playing Nelson Mandela in "Invictus."

As Singleton points out, "Precious" defied the conventional wisdom that sees the industry steering away from serious black films. "It took home Oscars and, grossing $63 million worldwide, made a huge profit domestic and overseas. This from a picture that was obviously deemed not commercial on arrival."

This year, the early lineup, in a review of contenders by The Hollywood Reporter, is striking for its near-total absence of actors of color.

"The King's Speech" focuses on the very proper British royal family; "Black Swan" is set among pale-skinned New York ballerinas; "127 Hours" details the survival saga of one (white) dude; "The Social Network," "The Kids Are All Right," "Hereafter" and "The Town" all feature fairly homogeneously Caucasian casts and key creative talent.

Belgian actress Cecile de France, an early contender for "Hereafter," and Spaniard Javier Bardem, Cannes' best actor winner for "Biutiful," are in the mix, at least lending a couple of foreign accents. And it's still possible, of course, that a yet un-hyped movie could surface that will change the complexion of the race.

But several awards consultants said they can't figure out exactly where it would come from.

Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls," an adaptation of Ntozake Shange's 1975 play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf," is one of the few remaining question marks, since Lionsgate has not yet begun screening the movie, which opens November 5. The cast includes one past Oscar winner in Whoopi Goldberg along with Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Loretta Devine, Phylicia Rashad and Janet Jackson.

But while it marks a serious turn for Perry, who's known for his commercial comedies, it's unclear whether any of the individual performances could emerge from the ensemble to claim a nomination. (Jackson's best shot at a nomination may be in the song category, since she's also co-writer of the tune "Nothing," which is on the soundtrack of Perry's "Why Did I Get Married Too?")

"Perry is currently the only African-American with an ongoing concern at a studio, and he continues to, as black people say, 'Hold it down' with pictures that draw a core black audience as well as others," Singleton observed. "But, sadly, this is a sector that most of the rest of the industry has neglected as of late with middling comedies."

If the Oscar nominations, which will be revealed January 25, do go to an all-white cast of actors, that's sure to put the Academy in an uncomfortable position since it's been making real efforts to ensure its own membership is more diverse.



Post a Comment