Dear Oscars: Here Is Why Idris Elba and Will Smith Deserved Nominations

Dear Oscars: Here Is Why Idris Elba and Will Smith Deserved Nominations

Two great performances were unfairly snubbed.

Published January 20th

This year's Oscar nominations have invoked the backlash of Black Twitter and Black Hollywood alike for their lack of diversity. For the second year in a row, all twenty acting nominations went to white actors.

So what happened to presumptive favorites Will Smith and Idris Elba, who have been campaigning hard for awards and were considered shoo-ins? We can't understand why the Academy turned a blind eye to Smith and Elba's stellar performances, but — since the Academy failed to do it — we've taken it upon ourselves to outline why these two great performances and groundbreaking films deserved better.

Let's start with Idris. The British actor is among the most interesting and versatile talents working in Hollywood today. He can give credibility to a studio-churned blockbuster franchise, lend star power to independent films that may never see the light of day and would make a damn fine James Bond if the powers-that-be would let him. This year, Elba did his best work to date as the commander of an army of child soldiers in Beasts of No Nation. His performance was recognized with SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations. An Oscar nomination seemed not only well-deserved, but inevitable. That he failed to earn a nod could only be because not enough voting members of the Academy cared to sit through a tough film about war-torn Africa featuring exactly zero white saviors (at least 12 Years a Slave called in Brad Pitt to save the day). 

And what about Will Smith, who churned out his best performance in a decade as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian surgeon who took on the NFL, in Concussion? Every year, there is talk of "career" nominations, or slots reserved for actors who made an exceptional film but really deserve to be recognized for their entire body of work. Sandra Bullock, Martin Scorcese and, this year, Leonardo DiCaprio have benefitted from the Academy's long memory. But why not Smith? Few have taken us on as many cinematic journeys as Will Smith. He's such a once-in-a-lifetime combination of box office appeal and genuine chops that Hollywood is still searching for "the next Will Smith." But why not reward the one that's standing right in front of you, still pushing himself to do interesting work? Well, at least he got his Golden Globes nod, right?

Honorary mentions go out to Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Benicio del Toro, Tessa Thompson and the dozens of other talented filmmakers of color whose exemplary work was not recognized this year. Hopefully, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs will make good on her promise to initiate "drastic change" among the voting body that decides who gets recognized for Hollywood's top prize. If not, we'll be dusting off #OscarsSoWhite for many years to come.

Watch a recap of the controversy with BET Breaks below:

(Photos from left: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images, Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Written by Evelyn Diaz

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