Quentin Tarantino’s controversial slavery-themed blockbuster Django Unchained made a decent showing in this morning’s Oscar nominations, but came up short when it came to recognition of its black stars.
The film was nominated for best picture, original screenplay and best supporting actor for Christoph Waltz.
However, the African-American stars of the film — Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson — will all be watching the Academy Awards from the sidelines.
While Foxx and Washington were considered huge long shots in their potential categories (lead actor, supporting), there were high hopes that Jackson would score only his second ever nomination for his unforgettable performance as Stephen, the self-hating house slave.
Oscar fans and prognosticators might see the very public criticism of the film as a factor in the failure of the movie to gain more of a foothold with the older-skewing academy. Even Leonardo DiCaprio, who has been nominated several times but never won, was overlooked for best supporting actor.
The polarizing Tarantino, who has also never won an Oscar for directing, was snubbed as well.
Nevertheless, if the film does pull off an unexpected win for best picture, Reginald Hudlin, the film’s sole black producer, would accept the Academy Award.
But what about the black actors?
In a video interview with theGrio, Jamie Foxx spoke candidly about how Hollywood often is quick to neglect the quality work of black actors.
“A lot of times we’re not nominated when we do honorable work. Because with the slave she [Washington] plays there is dignity in everything she played,” Foxx said. “It wasn’t subservient; she wasn’t giving up to anything. So a lot of times they do overlook that, they may not want to reward that.”
Still, there would likely have been controversy generated by black actors getting nominations for playing slave roles. Actress Kerry Washington told theGrio that kind of flak is unfounded.
“I’ve never had shame in playing somebody who is a slave or a prostitute, or anybody who may be looked down upon in society,” Washington said. “Because I think we all deserve to have our stories told no matter who we are. And if I’m proud of playing a woman who is handling a crises, I’m gonna be proud of playing a woman who is a maid.”
Unfortunately for Washington, she came up short today. Yet with historic nominations for Denzel Washington and the 9-year-old star of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhané Wallis, black movie fans have a lot to celebrate about today.