All the media surrounding tonight's Academy Awards just reminds me how not-over-it I am about Fruitvale Station getting an across the board snub, despite being one of the most well made, acted, and critically reviewed movies of the year. And I blame 12 years a Slave.
Now don't get me wrong. I loved 12 Years a Slave. I thought it was one of the best movies I have seen in my life and the most moving depiction of slave times since Roots. But I feel like if Fruitvale Station and 12 Years a Slave hadn't come out the same year they would have both been nominated. And this theory didn't really occur to me until I saw this chart.
Now if you are unfamiliar with Fruitvale Station,
you and I are no longer friends let me fill you in. It is a retelling of the last day of Oscar Grant, a young man who was killed by a BART (Bay Area Transit System) police officer in the wee hours of January 1, 2009 in Oakland, California. He was unarmed and pinned to the ground at the time, and the entire thing was caught on camera by many witnesses. The murder and subsequent trial, where the officers involved went largely unpunished, caused riots throughout the area. It was probably the biggest police brutality case in our country since Rodney King.
And here is where that chart comes in, because I don't really blame 12 Years a Slave. I blame racism. Specifically racism on the part of the Academy. I think the Oscars didn't want two movies about race the same year. I think they thought "Well we couldn't possible have 2 movies centered on black stories!" After all, that would mean Michael B. Jordan would have likely been a front runner for Best Actor next to Chiwetel Ejiofor, Octavia Spencer could have been nominated along with Lupita. We could have actually had two black men nominated for Best Director, a category that has been historically dominated by white men. And frankly, I think the Oscars didn't want their fancy white people party sullied with the story of a young black man who was murdered before his time. Already confronted with the horror of slavery I think they had enough of movies that "make white people look bad" for one year.
Frankly if it weren't for Lupita and my pipe dream of Barkhad Abdi getting best supporting actor I would just declare this year a wash and not watch it. I know in the greater scheme of things the Oscars aren't that important, but I am tired of people of color being ignored by American cultural institutions. I am tired of them being treated like their stories don't matter. Oscar Grant's story mattered. His life mattered. This movie matters. It deserved recognition, and it got none.
[Update - 2/27/14 11:54AM] In the original draft I mistakenly placed the BART system in Los Angeles rather than it's correct location in the Bay Area. It has been rectified and thank you for bringing it to my attention.