It is award season again. And I, for one, am delighted to see Leonardo Di Caprio has finally been recognised for his work at the OSCARs, amongst others. Whilst the Revenant is a film that is clearly an hour longer than it should be, the acting in it is outstanding and none are better that Leo. He is an actor who has been well overdue for this level of recognition and yet seems to have been overlooked in favour of other more notable character actors. Maybe it is because his early career, with films like The Beach, Titanic and Romeo & Juliet, got him a reputation for being a bit of a pretty boy and this makes it easy to forget Gangs of New York, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Aviator and Blood Diamond. You certainly wouldn’t class him as a budding Daniel Day-Lewis in terms of being a character actor, but you cannot deny his portrayals of Howard Hughes and Jordan Belfort (to pick two) are right up there as acting performances.
So it is a pity that in a year where the standard of acting in the nominations was so high that the occasion has been marred by the politics of apparent prejudice. Obviously there is no place in the world for prejudice in any way shape or form and it would be unacceptable to exclude nominations for the OSCARs based on skin colour. But what would also be unacceptable would be to take an approach where you are expected to have some sort of ‘quota’ in each category, rather than simply going on the merit of a performance irrelevant of colour or creed.
I will admin that I have not seen all the films for the nominees (and now winners) of this years awards, but knowing what I do about those people and their performances I don’t believe anyone is questioning their right to have been nominated. It is important to ask the question ‘is the reason for there being few black people nominated a sign of prejudice?’. But it is equally important to ask the question ‘are the best performances nominated?’.
There has been a lot of noise about the lack of African-American representation in the shortlists for this year’s OSCARs. But when I cast my mind back over the last year I struggled to think of many stand out performances that should be nominated. Arguably one that was missing was Will Smith in Concussion, although whether that was as good as the other leading actor nominees is obviously a matter of debate. And we shouldn’t forget that Straight Outta Compton was shortlisted and is a film that historically probably would have been overlooked. Bearing in mind the host of the show was Chris Rock, it seems to me that maybe this year’s OSCARs are not an example of prejudice but are victims of some over critical attacks.
And this really gets to the nub of the issue for me. Because the world should not be about prejudice in any sector. Whether that be women getting paid less than men, people getting more opportunities because they have a particular skin colour, or being marginalised because of their belief or their sexual orientation. For me life has always been about proving your worth through your actions and recognising those who therefore deserve to be recognised. There shouldn’t be any question of colour, race, creed, belief, etc. It should be that you are judged on your successes. And in this year’s OSCARs what I see is a collection of very talented actors and actresses who are being recognised for some outstanding work. I think it is a shame that this has to be given the negative spin that it is prejudice, when in all likeliness it was just that this years performances that deserve this level of credit were undertaken by this group of people. Let’s recognise excellence and celebrate it, rather than trying to justify criticism of it based on factors that are entirely irrelevant and also very unfair.