Black Cinema…No longer the Road Less Traveled to the Academy Awards

A highlight of the 2010 Academy Awards most accomplished African-American’s in acting, film, and music
By: Treasure White

In celebrating the 82nd annual star-studded Academy Awards, African-Americans have warranted another year as nominees for the night’s most coveted awards. Here are highlights for African-Americans appearing at last night’s ceremony.

In her depiction of Mary Lee Johnston from the film “Precious,” Mo’Nique, has taken audiences on a highly anticipated ride this year by greatly surpassing her expectations as a black female comedian. Winner of the award for “Best Actress in a Supporting Role,” she boldly won the respects of her fellow peers in the acting community. Here is an excerpt of her speech, courtesy of the Academy Awards:

“First, I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics. I want to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she had to so that I would not have to. Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey because you touched it, the whole world saw it. Ricky Anderson, our attorney of Anderson & Smith, thank you for your hard work. My entire BET family, my Precious family, thank you so much. To my amazing husband Sidney, thank you for showing me that sometimes you have to forego doing what’s popular in order to do what’s right. And baby, you were so right. God bless us all.”

Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, was nominated, “Best Actress in a Leading Role,” for the film “Precious,” a narrative based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire. This 26-year old Brooklyn native has overcome the young Hollywood stereotype typically limiting starlets to a size 2. Though Sidibe did not capture award and fell short to winner Saundra Bullock for “The Blind Side,” she’s still captured the hearts of audiences with her exceptional talent, confidence, and modesty.

Morgan Freeman is no stranger to the Academy Awards. Through the course of his entire acting career he’s earned two best supporting actor nominations (including one win) and a staggering three nominations including one this year for “Best Actor in a Leading Role.” Freeman did not earn a win last night for his role in “Invictus,” where he portrayed anti-apartheid activist and former South African president Nelson Mandela. With a career spanning nearly 50 years in acting, for Freeman, a leading role for Best Actor is long overdue.

2010 was another year of first for African-Americans in filmmaking. Lee Daniels has crossed barriers by becoming the first black director to earn a best picture nomination for the critically acclaimed film, “Precious.” Neither Daniels nor fellow nominee Broderick Johnson (producer “The Blind Side”) won their respected categories. If selected, either filmmaker would have been the first African- American to earn this sought-after award, surpassing Quincy Jones with “The Color Purple”. Daniels and Johnson both being nominated in the same category for best picture made another first for two blacks in producing.

Geoffrey Fletcher, screenwriter and Harvard alum, won “Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) for “Precious.” Fletcher’s screenwriting for “Precious” has earned him an immense number of nominations and wins at influential film festival and ceremonies, i.e. NAACP Awards, Sundance, and the Independent Spirit Awards.

Roger Ross Williams, an underrated documentary filmmaker, won “Documentary Short Subject” for the 32-minute film “Music by Prudence.” The film documents the life of Prudence, a 21-year-old leader of a marimba band in Zimbabwe. Mabhena’s suffers from crippled limbs caused by the congenital disorder arthrogryposis. One of the lows for Williams acceptance speech was the interruption and from a fellow filmmaker. It was a tasteless move by the filmmaker, but I hope the stunt didn’t take too much away from his shining moment.

Not nominated for best actress in “Avatar,” Zoe Saldana graced the stage to present the award for “The Best Animated Short.” Oprah Winfrey and preceding Oscar winner Forest Whitaker introduced nominees Gabourey Sidibe and Sandra Bullock for “Precious” and “The Blind Side”. Other stars making appearances were Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah, and fresh face to the Oscars Tyler Perry.

Award winning conductor/composer/orchestrator Harold Wheeler led the Academy Award orchestra as Music Conductor, a mark of distinction given to the most prestige in music directing and composition. As the first African-American to be bestowed this honor, 2010 makes this Wheeler’s third time, since 2003, in earning the title of Music Conductor for the Oscars.

Last Curtain Call
The past 10 years have witnessed a profound number of black Oscar winners in categories ranging in screenwriting, directing, producing, music and acting. Last night culminated with a new found admiration for African-Americans in film. 2010 commemorates 70 years since the first black Oscar recognition of actress Hattie McDaniel for “Gone with the Wind. African-Americans have surpassed the portrayal of remedial, mundane, subservient field hands and housekeepers to glamour girls, dedicated mothers, and survivors. A shared movement with black performers and filmmakers is the state of awareness. And after tonight the participants of last night’s program made it very aware that African-American cinema is a force to be reckoned with.

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