What Does the Academy Value in a Black Performance?

Brandon K. Thorp in The New York Times:

BLACKOSCARS3-articleLargeWhen the Oscar nominations were announced last month, revealing that not one black actor was in the running, the resulting furor touched on the performances that critics said should have been considered: What about Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation”? Michael B. Jordan in “Creed”? Will Smith in “Concussion,” or one of the stars of “Straight Outta Compton”? The uproar over #OscarsSoWhite made me curious. What does the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences value in black performance? Black artists have been nominated for best actress or actor on 30 occasions, for work spanning 28 films. Over the last few weeks, I watched all of them. These movies have a lot in common, not least that most were directed by white men. Only three were directed by black men and none by women. Perhaps these numbers aren’t surprising, given the well-known demographics of the film industry. Other numbers are more eye-opening. Consider: In the history of the Oscars, 10 black women have been nominated for best actress, and nine of them played characters who are homeless or might soon become so.

…What they’re not full of is characters who resemble ordinary people. And when such people do make an appearance, the camera tends to linger on the parts of their lives most likely to interest white Americans struggling to reckon with their country’s racist past. We learn all about Miss Daisy — her son, her childhood, her politics. But we hear only a sentence or two about the family of her driver (Morgan Freeman). Similarly, there’s a lot of information about Billy Bob Thornton’s Hank in “Monster’s Ball.” But watching Halle Berry as the bereft Leticia Musgrove, we see only her wretchedness, and her eventual rescue by a white man.

More here. (Note: At least one post will be dedicated to honor Black History Month throughout February)