The 6 Worst Oscar Snubs in Black Film History
These performances were woefully overlooked by the Academy
This Sunday, Hollywood rolls out the red carpet for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. The African-American community has a vested interest in this year's awards race with Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer up for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for their roles as domestic workers in the period drama The Help.
As tough as it is for a black actor or actress to make the Oscar short list, it's even harder to walk away with the golden statuette. In the Academy's history, only 11 awards have been given to black actors - not so surprising when you consider that 94% Oscar-voting members are white, and 77% of them male.
Below are a list of 8 stellar performances in black film that went unrewarded or unnoticed.
Angela Bassett & Laurence Fishburne: "What's Love Got to Do With It?"
This 1993 biopic based on the turbulent life of Ike and Tina Turner easily showcased the best performances that year. Angela Bassett brought the iconic singer to life, and even whipped her body into tip-top shape to match Tina's killer physique. Fishburne brought the pain (literally) and didn't hold back in displaying Ike's despicable ways. The two electrified every scene they were in, but the Academy clearly wasn't interested. Best Actress honors would go Holly Hunter playing a mute in The Piano and Tom Hanks swooped in for Best Actor as an AIDS-infected lawyer for Philadelphia.
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Denzel Washington: "Malcolm X" and "The Hurricane"
You would be hard pressed to find anyone on the planet who doesn't think Denzel Washington is one of the best - if not the best - actor of our generation. So it boggles the mind that the talented thespian only has 2 Oscar wins under his belt. In 1992, Washington teamed up with director Spike Lee for the epic biopic Malcolm X. Washington perfectly nailed his portrayal of the charismatic civil rights leader and public opinion was that Washington was a sure pick for Best Actor that year. Jaws literally dropped the night of the Oscar telecast when Al Pacino won for playing a blind war vet in the sappy Scent of A Woman. The Academy would snub Washington again 7 years later when his performance in The Hurricane would be usurped by Kevin Spacey for American Beauty.
Djimon Hounsou: "Blood Diamond"
The model-turned-actor gave a raw and moving performance in 1997 as the leader of a group of escaped slaves in Amistad. In 2006, Hounsou starred opposite Leonardio DiCaprio in the political thriller Blood Diamond. What could have been a big budget PSA on the moral wrongs of the African diamond trade was elevated by Hounsou's gripping performance. He was the heart and soul of the movie, as a man desperate to save his family. While Hounsou got a Best Supporting actor nod, the Oscar would go to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine.
Whoopi Goldberg: "The Color Purple"
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg decided to cast Whoopi Goldberg after seeing her one-woman play, The Spook Show. Goldberg gave a stunning performance as Celie and ended up making the Best Actress short list. Even though The Color Purple was nominated for 11 Academy awards (including one for Best Picture), the entire cast walked away empty-handed, tying the record set by 1977's The Turning Point for the most Oscar nominations without any wins.
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Dorothy Dandridge: "Carmen Jones"
When Dandridge tried to audition for the lead role in Carmen Jones, director Otto Preminger flat out refused to see her. He thought her sweet, pretty girl looks would be better served as good girl Cindy Lou. Never one to back down from a good fight, Dandridge came back, dressed more provocatively and goaded Preminger into giving her a screen test. Dandridge brought heat and sizzle to her role as the doomed femme fatale and became the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. Unfortunately, the win went to Grace Kelly for Country Girl and Dandridge's career never quite recovered. She would start a 4-year affair with the married Preminger which ended disastrously, and a few years later, was found dead in her apartment on September 8, 1965 at the age of 42.
Adepero Oduye and Kim Wayans: Pariah
Two of the best performances in 2011 flew right under the Academy's radar. Pariah, the debut film of director Dee Rees, tells the story of a teenager (Adepero Oduye) exploring her sexual orientation and the emotional fallout that ensues when she comes out to her family. Oduye was eloquent and lyrical in her approach to playing Alike, bringing the audience into her world, which expanded as she grew more confident in her identity as a lesbian. Kim Wayans was pitch perfect as Allke's mother Audrey, an overly uptight woman who may or may not suspect that her daughter's tomboyish ways are more than just a phase. While Pariah has enjoyed immense critical acclaim, neither actress made the Academy's short list.