The 2014 Academy Award nominations were announced today with two prominent Black films, “Fruitvale Station” and “The Butler,” noticeably missing from the ranks. While “12 Years A Slave” dominated nominations, we can’t ignore the Academy’s consistent disregard for Black films (particularly this year) even if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences elected, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, its first Black president in 2013. If ever I thought a Black film was deserving of an Oscar nomination, it is now.
I walked out onto the New York City street and sucked in a generous breath of air. An Olympic-pool size of emotion was weighing down my heart. I had just saw a movie that changed my life. “Fruitvale Station” premiered on January 19, 2013 during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival (under the title “Fruitvale”). The story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old man killed by a gun shot wound to his back while handcuffed by police on the BART system, was more than jolting it was a reminder of the injustices and disconnect between Black men and the criminal justice system. It was released in theaters, during the crux of the Trayvon Martin trial–that too exhibited just how unimportant to our society Black men are. Just like George Zimmerman, Officer Johannes Mehserle, the officer who testified that he was reaching for his taser when he shot Grant, evaded a second degree murder charge for unnecessarily taking a life.
Roger Ebert gave “Fruitvale Station” four stars and called Michael B. Jordan’s performance “brilliant.” It holds a 94% approval rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, but you don’t have to take their word for it, if you’ve watched “Fruitvale Station” a tear is the most minimal of reactions. Within weeks of its release, “Fruitvale Station” was hailed as an Oscar contender and the Black community could nearly detect a delicate scent of recognition. We should have known that faint aroma would turn into a whiff of disappointment.
According to a February 2012 study conducted by the Los Angeles Times (sampling over 5,000 of its 5,765 members), the Academy is 94% white, 77% male, 14% under the age of 50 which could explain why “Fruitvale Station” didn’t garner enough votes to be in the running for “Best Picture” or “Best Actor” though it deserved to be among its peers on the nomination list. The plight of the Black man will never resonate with 50-year-old White men who’ve been fortunate enough to live a life that doesn’t include dying while riding public transportation after a New Year’s Eve celebration…assuming they’ve ever endured the pungent smell of clustered bodies after a long days work on a train that never arrives on time. Still, an optimistic one would hope that the undeniable truth, that Oscar Grant should not have faced the inevitable that night and in such an inhumane way, would luster enough shine even the out-of-touch Academy couldn’t deny it.
But the Oscars aren’t necessarily about who can turn a personal story turned into a movie. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences set out to bestow “awards of merit for distinctive achievement.” Though it was shot in 20 days in Oakland, California simplicity does not equal mediocrity and there was nothing mediocre about “Fruitvale Station.” Michael B. Jordan, who earned his acting stripes on “The Wire,” was beyond impressive. He embodied the complexity of a young man down on his last strike and transitioned in and out of dynamic emotions like anger, frustration and love. The film effectively portrayed Oscar Grant as a man, not a number in the corrections system, but a father, boyfriend, son and friend.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs took office in 2013, becoming the first African-American and third woman to lead the Academy. She is a film marketing executive who has held a position on the AMPAS Board of Governors for a total of 21 years. It’s hard to assume that she or someone else on the board of governors didn’t mention “Fruitvale Station” when recounting all the films of 2013. If we put aside color, for a moment, not resting on the fact that she and the majority of “Fruitvale Station’s” cast share the same skin color and focus whole-heartedly on the film being no short of amazing, we’d allow it to be recognized for that fact, and nothing else.
The films’ director Ryan Coogler, a stout and humble novice with unbelievable talent, was attending the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts when Grant was shot on January 1, 2009. He set out thereafter to tell Grant’s story when Forest Whitaker caught eye of Coogler’s project and wanted in. Whitaker produced “Fruitvale Station” and brought it to the mainstream. “Fruitvale Station” is a film unlike anything we’ve ever seen before on a big screen even though many of us know an Oscar Grant. I do.
Months later, Forest Whittaker starred in the Lee Daniels-directed film “The Butler” that further exposes the treatment of Blacks in history. Some would say “The Butler” was a shoo-in for a Best Picture” nom yet it only received a mere nod for…nothing.
“12 Years A Slave” eclipsed “Fruitvale Station” and “The Butler” and we applaud the historic film but that doesn’t ease the obvious. The Academy has given us plenty evidence that there can only be one exceptional Black movie per year and it seems patternized that Blacks only win in slave, villain, disenfranchised or domestic roles like: “Gone With The Wind,” “Training Day,” “The Help” or “Precious.”
Reading the nominations for the 2014 Academy Awards was heartbreaking in the same vain as listening to the lead juror read Zimmerman’s “Not Guilty” verdict. It is that constant reminder that yes, Blacks have to work twice as hard for the same amount of gain as our White counterparts, but also that even when we are just as great (or better) it still doesn’t guarantee recognition.
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1. The Hotness
People magazine released their "Sexiest Man Alive" list with "The Voice" judge Adam Levine taking the #1 spot for 2013 (really!?). Even though some of our favorites like Idris Elba and Pharrell were sprinkled throughout the list, we can't help but think of all the other sexy Black men in Hollywood. From Columbus Short to Michael B. Jordan and of course Denzel, click on to see the hotness and get ready to swoon!
2. Michael B. Jordan
Number one was a no brainer. I mean, have you SEEN "The Wire" and "Fruitvile Station"? Sheesh! Although Mike snagged number one, number two is close behind..
3. Columbus Short
*Sigh* Columbus Short a.k.a Harrison. Our favorite Gladiator, aside from Olivia, of course. Now the question is, Shonda, when is Harrison going to have a love interest on "Scandal" and how do I audition for the part? Just saying..
4. Jay Ellis
Jay Ellis is a newbie to the Hollywood scene but he's definitely making a staple as one of the hottest black men in Hollywood! That smile? Good Lord.
5. Michael Ealy
Get lost in Michael Ealy's eyes ladies. It's something about those blue eyes! Not to mention, I love a man with a scruffy beard! Not debatable.
6. Trey Songz
7. Idris Elba
Idris Elba!! A man with a British accent? Automatically qualifies as a hottie. No debates here.
8. Isaiah Mustafa
Say heeelloooo to the Old Spice guy (from the Old Spice commercials)! I don't even use the men's product but I'll buy whatever he's selling!
9. Derrick Rose
Not exactly Hollywood, but Derrick Rose deserves a mention on this list. Wouldn't you agree?
Skateboard P gives us sexy sounds, style and seriously, does this man age!? Sheesh!
Tip, you sir, are fine.
12. Charles Michael Davis
The sexy stare that this "Greys Anatomy" star launches into? Man, listen...
13. Colin Kapernick
Those arms! Who can really focus on the game?
Oh, hey Nelly. Who knew you had all those abs in those jeans?!
Nas still looks as great as he did when he was in his 20s!
16. Terrence J
Nothing like a man that's gorgeous AND super successful! Television host, actor and now author? What CAN'T Terrence J do?
17. Lenny Kravitz
Love the whole rocker thing Lenny Kravtiz has going on!
18. Will Smith
The "Fresh Prince" is aging quite nicely if you ask me!
19. Kendrick Lamar
Just because he's killing everybody in the rap game right now. My opinion. No debates lol.
20. Lance Gross
Tall, dark and handsome. Hey Lance Gross!
21. Reggie Bush
Kim Kardashian let a fine one get away! Reggie's muscles are chiseled from the gods!
22. Damon Wayans Jr.
Damon. Wayans. Junior. Who. Knew.
23. Mechad Brooks
Seriously, have you seen this man's Calvin Klein ads?
Miguel is absolutely adorable!
You may or may not like Future's style, but let's just stand back and admire his chiseled face and high cheek bones!
26. A$AP Rocky
Say what you want about A$AP, but he's beautiful! Especially when he decides to cut his braids!
27. Boris Kodjoe
One of the few that can actually pull off the bald look and we've never heard German sound so smooth as it does when this native speaks it!
28. Shemar Moore
Shemar's been looking good for decades!
29. Tyson Beckford
The body? Those lips? Tyson Beckford's hot-factor needs little explanation.
30. President Barack Obama
Yes, that's our President! Not exactly a man in Hollywood but he deserves a mention anyway just for being him - great father, husband and the hottest President EVER!
Usher, you're fine.
32. Jesse Williams
Lawd... I could stare into those blues eyes all day.
33. Laz Alonso
Well, hello there!
34. Pooch Hall
Everyone fell in love with Pooch Hall as Derwin on "The Game" and for good reason too!
You must admit that Drizzy cleans up nicely in a suit and tie!
36. Denzel Washington
Had to throw Denzel in the list for everybody's mom and auntie! LOL
37. Luke James
With songs like "Make Love To Me" this crooner who opened up for Beyonce has some sultry tunes, and he just so happens to be easy on the eyes too!
38. Lamman Rucker
39. Blair Underwood
Wish we saw more of Blair on the big screen!
40. Taye Diggs
Taye made a few women want to get their grove back with that perfect smile!
41. John Legend
Love a man that can sing!
Gotta love an intellectual man!
Whether he's rocking a full 'Fro or a shorter crop Maxewell always brings the sexy.
44. Morris Chestnut
Thanks to this hottie, I can not WAIT to see "The Best Man Holiday!"
Ludacris has stepped it all the way up since he's started his acting career! Well, hello!
46. Mack Wilds (Tristian Wilds)
Might be a little young for some, but quite a cutie nonetheless!
47. J. Cole
Yup, crooked smile and all!
Unfortunately, we haven't heard much from Jeremih lately but we could never forget how gorgeous he is!
49. Brian White
Brian White, yes! NFL player turned actor.. we see you!
50. Terrence Howard
Terrence Howard definitely deserves a mention!
51. Derek Luke
52. Andre 3000
Last, but certainly not least, Mr. Andre 3 Stacks! Just because he's so darn fly!