Janae Pierre: It's The takeaway. I'm Janae Pierre filling in for Melissa Harris-Perry.
Speaker 2: The Oscar goes to Halle Berry in Monster's Ball.
Janae Pierre: In the entire history of the Oscars, the only Black woman that has ever won lead actress has been Halle Berry in 2002, 21 years ago.
Halle Berry: This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox, and it's for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.
Janae Pierre: On Tuesday morning, when the Oscar nominations were announced, it felt like whiplash back to the 2016 Oscars.
Chris Rock: Well, I'm here at the Academy Awards otherwise known as the white People's Choice Awards. You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job.
Chris Rock: Ya'll be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now.
Janae Pierre: According to Robert Daniels, film critic who just wrote, "It's not just the Oscars that failed Black women, it's the entire awards ecosystem," for the LA Times. The disappointment might just keep coming. Robert Daniels is here with us now. Hey, Robert.
Robert Daniels: Hey. How's it going?
Janae Pierre: Doing all right. This isn't the first time the Oscars have been criticized for their lack of gender and racial diversity. Tell me, was this year in #OscarsSoWhite part two, three or 33?
Robert Daniels: [laughs] Well, what I would say is that Oscars so white, of course, when it was used by April Reign back in 2015, wasn't just encompassing Black performers, Black folks. Take Michelle Yeoh this year, who became the first Asian actress to be nominated for best actress ever in the academy's history. There were gains, I think. Asian actors did well and Latinx actors and directors have done well recently. Of course we've still seen a lagging support for Black folks. It usually comes in the below the line categories. It usually comes in supporting actor or actress. It rarely comes in lead actor or lead actress.
Of course, there was Will Smith last year, in the infamous slap. I think who was missing was-- I think Will Smith was only the fifth Black actor that's ever won best actor in the history of the academy. Of course, as the clip stated, only one Black actress has ever won best actress, and no Black director has ever won best director, no Black woman's ever been nominated for best director, and only one film directed by a Black woman has been nominated for best picture. That was Selma by Ava DuVernay.
Janae Pierre: Robert, who is the Academy of Arts and Sciences. How do they pick the Oscar winners?
Robert Daniels: The Academy is about 10,000 members or so, almost 10,000 members. Basically it's made up of former winners, former nominees. They can be from varying disciplines, whether the directors, actors, cinematographers, editors. They can also be people who are part of the industry such as agents or some of them are publicists. It runs the gamut. It's basically anyone who has some type of expertise in the film industry/entertainment industry.
Part of that is also because back in 2015, the Oscars were looking to expand how many people could be in the academy, particularly people of color. They decided to up some of the invites from different disciplines in order to expand those numbers. So each branch votes on their nominees and then the entire academy votes on all the nominees, which should be coming up soon.
Janae Pierre: I want to talk about a commentary you wrote for the LA Times titled It's not just the Oscars that fail Black women, it's the entire awards ecosystem. What's that ecosystem you're referring to there?
Robert Daniels: Well, the ecosystem is essentially how nominations happen. I think it's a lot deeper than people think. Mostly it's the pay for play. Quite honestly, there are certain things that you have to do in order to do an academy event. In order to invite Academy members, you have to spend such and such. You have to do such and such dinner. Usually you want to have a celebrity who's sponsoring it. They bring their friends and from there they watch the movie or talk about the movie. It's a lot of campaigning. It's a lot more campaigning than I think people are aware of. You do as much campaigning for an Oscar as any politician does for political office.
Then there are different levels to the ecosystem. You have the critics groups who aren't Oscar voters, however, can play somewhat of a role, somewhat enact some influence upon the proceedings. Then you have the televised award shows. You have SAG, you have Golden Globe, BAFTAs, you also have Critics' Choice Awards and even AFCA, they all act as what we call the precursors. Those can tell you or help you read the tea leaves for who's going to get nominated ultimately.
Janae Pierre: Okay. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back with more on the Oscars right after this. All right. We're back with film critic Robert Daniels, and we're talking about the Academy Award Nominations and who might be missing. Angela Bassett did get nominated for supporting actress for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, but many Black actors didn't make the final nominations list. Talk to me about those films and those actors.
Robert Daniels: Yes, Angela Bassett of course made it for Wakanda Forever, which was a supporting role. It's her second nomination. She was last nominated for What's Love Got To DoWith It. Mostly the actors that didn't make it, Black actors that didn't make it were in the lead category. You had Viola Davis in The Woman King directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. Then you also had Danielle Deadwyler in Till, which was a biopic about the murder of Emmett Till and really actually how that murder inspired not just the movement, but also inspired his mother to become a civil rights activist. Both those performances were lauded by critics, but neither of those movies showed up on many critics' top 10 list unfortunately.
Those actresses did show up in a lot of precursors, so many awards pundits thought that they were basically locked to get in. It was a very big shock when they did not get in, when neither of them got in. Sometimes one might miss, but for both to miss in critically lauded movies was shocking.
Janae Pierre: Yes. Robert Daniels, film critic, thanks so much for talking with us today.
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