Sunday evening’s Oscar ceremony was a real testomony to the unpredictability of award exhibits. While there have been some actually nice moments of the present and a few historic wins, the demise of actor Chadwick Boseman weighed heavy all the evening. Boseman, who was nominated for Best Actor for the film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” died in August 2020 of colon most cancers. The movie would tragically be his final, as he died earlier than it was launched.
From the start, Boseman was poised to win the Best Actor statue. It gave the impression to be the one factor almost everybody agreed on. But then in a shocking twist, actor Anthony Hopkins received. And after such a buildup, Boseman’s loss felt even greater than it usually would. Because his legacy, and what gave the impression to be his assured win, was exploited all through all the present. And that’s what made Hopkins’ win so upsetting.
Let me say this explicitly: it’s not that I imagine Anthony Hopkins is undeserving of his Oscar. He is an amazingly proficient actor and has been doing this for a very long time. Naturally, he has the performing chops to warrant successful such a prestigious award. But he’s in his 80s and has had an unimaginable profession scope, together with a earlier Oscar win. Chadwick Boseman won’t ever get to have the kind of profession Hopkins has, as a result of he’s lifeless. He was simply starting to hit the stride in his profession that may allow him to have had the identical degree of status Anthony Hopkins has. But now he by no means will, as a result of he’s now not right here.
People, myself included, aren’t indignant just because Chadwick Boseman didn’t win the Oscar and Anthony Hopkins did. For an trade that tries to posture itself on doing higher in relation to variety and honoring individuals of shade, Hopkins’ win felt like a return to the established order. On an evening when the primary ladies of shade received for Makeup and Hairstyling, Costumes, and Best Director — plus a Black man successful for Best Supporting Actor, and a Korean girl successful Best Supporting Actress — having each the Best Actress and Best Actor awards go to white individuals seems like a slap within the face. Especially within the Best Actor class, the place there have been two different males of shade nominated. Their performances had been simply as unimaginable, and so they had been taking part in roles that we haven’t seen earlier than, very similar to Boseman. If he was going to lose, why couldn’t he have misplaced to a different particular person of shade?
Levee, Chadwick Boseman’s character in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is a Black man who is aware of intimately the merciless hand of white supremacy. Growing up within the Jim Crow south throughout Reconstruction period, he witnessed first hand how white males used their energy to maintain Black individuals down. Without giving an excessive amount of away, his character’s household is terrorized by white males as a result of they wished to have a greater life. Then he himself is led on by a white man who makes him assume that he has a future, when the plan actually is to take advantage of him for his expertise. In the movie, Levee believes that he’ll have the ability to break free from Ma Rainey’s band and begin his personal band. And along with his personal band, he’ll have the ability to showcase his true artistry.
Of course ultimately, the white music producer takes his music, says “thanks, but no thanks,” and easily presents Levee cash as a substitute of creating good on his phrase. If you realize something about Black music within the early a part of the twentieth century, it was not unusual for white artists to re-record Black music. This was as a result of there wasn’t a marketplace for “race music” exterior of Black communities. But our music was ok that white artists wished to steal it and make a revenue off of it. After his childhood of white males destroying his household’s goals, this second was the ultimate straw. In these moments, Chadwick Boseman actually exhibits you why he was nominated for each performing award. It is heartbreaking and highly effective, and you may’t take your eyes off the display. He is so charming.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is finally in regards to the exploitation of Black artistry by the hands of a white trade. We see that by way of Viola Davis’s transcendent (and award-worthy) efficiency. But it’s embodied and personified by way of Chadwick Boseman and his character Levee. His character is pushed by how he’s been crushed and damaged down and commodified by the white leisure trade. That’s why it was so painful — to not point out ironic — that he misplaced.
In a method, that exploitation of his character’s expertise is what was mirrored in what occurred at this yr’s Oscars.
All award season, Chadwick Boseman received accolades for his efficiency, except the BAFTAS. Because the voting pool for all these award exhibits is small, who wins the opposite awards is normally a very good indicator of how the Oscars are going to go. That’s why the Oscar producers probably rearranged the present to make it so Best Actor was final. Because if he’d received, it will be a particularly emotional second, identical to it has been all award season. It was good for the Academy to pay attention to the gravity of the second, and permit for it to have the ability to breathe in a method it wouldn’t if there was nonetheless extra awards to current afterward. Yes, that’s why industrial breaks exist, however they had been going for a second. To their pondering, if Chadwick received, the present would finish on a tragic however lovely tribute. Instead, with Anthony Hopkins’ win — which he wasn’t even current to simply accept — it ended with a shock upheaval that to Chadwick’s followers felt like an enormous letdown.
The restructuring of the award presentation was solely one of many many issues they did to capitalize on Chadwick Boseman’s demise; the “In Memoriam” part was one other. A celebration of these within the trade who’ve died because the final broadcast, sure beloved members of the neighborhood will normally get an additional second or two of recognition, both by way of a clip or one thing related, however this yr that wasn’t the case. They merely rushed by way of all the opposite individuals to create an additional few seconds to sit down with Boseman’s face on the display. It felt disrespectful that the opposite individuals who died bought rapidly handed over only for Chadwick Boseman. Yes, he was a nominee; nonetheless, it felt bizarre.
But the exploitation of Chadwick Boseman’s legacy by the Oscars even goes past the tv broadcast. In the present luggage the nominees obtained, there was a chunk of Chadwick Boseman swag. Nominees obtained a NFT, or non-fungible token, which authenticates a digital 3D tribute to the actor. I’ll admit, even in any case this discuss of NFTs, I nonetheless haven’t any freaking clue precisely what they’re. According to experiences, the NFT might be auctioned off, with proceeds given to The Colon Cancer Foundation. It’s becoming since Boseman died of colon most cancers, but it surely simply feels unusual. Complex experiences that the present luggage aren’t given by the Academy, which is nice. But nonetheless, giving every Oscar nominee a 3D likeness of their lifeless buddy and colleague is a bizarre flex.
Of course, successful or shedding an Oscar isn’t indication of an actor’s profession. But so usually, individuals who deserve the reward don’t win. For most of these individuals, there might be one other likelihood. Chadwick Boseman doesn’t get one other likelihood. Pair that with the Academy’s exploitation of his legacy, and that is why individuals, particularly the Black neighborhood, are upset. Chadwick Boseman was a rattling good actor, and and even higher human being. His legacy deserves greater than what it bought ultimately.