By Meghana Krishnamurthy, Second Year, Film and Television
The Oscars are an avidly awaited film awards show, especially following the much-anticipated release of the nominations. They are always a source of joy and agreement - or anger and surprise when the results aren’t as they are expected to be. The nominees this year for the major awards included some amazing films such as The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) for Best Picture, Daniel Kaluuya for Best Actor in Judas and the Black Messiah. (2021) , and Carey Mulligan for Best Actress in Promising Young Woman (2020).
Whilst these films and nominees are celebrated, I usually like to take a look at the candidates in the running who just missed the cut, or the ‘snubs’ as the popular media likes to name them. They prove to be good subjects to study, and not only appreciate for their acting or directing talents, but for the fact that they were for some reason passed over by the Oscars’ nomination committee:
Tahar Rahim has slowly started to become a household name among British audiences ever since he graced our screens with his powerful and psychotic portrayal of the notorious serial killer, Charles Sobhraj, in BBC’s The Serpent (2021). I was completely enamoured by his cool, calm yet terrifying performance that certainly left me unsettled for days after the finale. But what proved the Algerian-French actor’s acting talents to me was the contrast of seeing him in a completely different role as Mohamedou Ould Slahi in The Mauritanian (2021). Shedding the duplicitous skin of Sobhraj, he took up the role of a gentleman, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay without charge for fourteen years. Tahar Rahim brought this warmth and humanity to his role as Mohamedou that was completely lacking in the complex character of Sobhraj.
I was astonished and sent scrambling to Google only to find out that he had been denied an Oscar nomination (even after his painful method acting on the set of The Mauritanian (2021) where he insisted his legs be shackled with real iron shackles instead of the prop rubber ones). He lost out in the BAFTAS too (to Anthony Hopkins), and this led me to wonder if the influence really comes from the nature of the film and not the performance itself.
The Mauritanian tackles a very controversial topic in the United States: the brutal treatment in Guantanamo Prison. The Oscars are often caught up in controversy: for example, when Ordinary People (1980) beat out The Elephant Man (1980), and Raging Bull (1980) for Best Picture. By shutting The Mauritanian out of main award nominations, the Academy has sadly missed out on acknowledging Muslim representation.
Regina King has continued to stun and amaze audiences with her impressive directorial debut One Night in Miami… (2020) which chronicles the famous meeting between Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X, leading black icons of the 1960s. The screenplay has been adapted from Kemp Powers’ play of the same name. In the past, it hasn’t been common to see actors make great directorial debuts, but Regina King has delivered a powerful tribute to four black icons of the Civil Rights Movement. One Night in Miami… has garnered two main award nominations– Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay, but it has failed to be recognised for any production awards.
Regina King started out as an actor, and her talents were proven to the world when she won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk (2018). It should be noted that Regina King has built up an experienced thirty-six years in the industry as an actor, ranging from comedic roles such as in Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005), to Emmy winning roles (three times) in American Crime (2015-2017) and Seven Seconds (2018) (once more). These accolades confirm her qualifications to begin her career as a director, and with One Night in Miami… which premiered at Venice Film Festival in 2020, she became the first black woman to be selected in the festival’s history.
Again, the question lingers. Why then, was King not nominated as a Best Director, to be pitted amongst the likes of Chloe Zhao, Lee Isaac Chung and Thomas Vinterberg? Well, that will surely be seen as one of the biggest snubs this year at the Oscars. Regina King explained her visual style for One Night in Miami… in an interview with Deadline in an extremely impressive and lucid way. Her flair for colours and the vibrance that comes with true black culture sets her up as a director to watch out for in the future.
Zendaya shows a maturity in her acting that is characteristic of an actor well beyond her years. Her skill and incredible aptitude to grasp the exact feelings of her character can be seen in the lockdown film Malcolm & Marie (2021). Written and directed by Sam Levinson, also the creator of Euphoria (2019-2021), it depicts the complexities between a couple when they have an argument lasting the entire night. John David Washington plays Zendaya’s other half Malcolm, a film director, who forgets to thank Marie in his speech at the premiere of his film. Zendaya plays her role so powerfully, that she is the sole standout of the film. Although John David Washington is a fine actor, as seen in BlacKkKlansman (2018), all eyes are on Zendaya as she takes centre stage throughout.
However, the media isn’t one to let winning performances like this slide without a little acknowledgement. Only not in a positive way. Zendaya came under fire when she was deemed ‘too young’ to be acting opposite Washington, who is twelve years her senior. But perhaps this was all aimed at her because she’s grown up on screen – since her youngest role on Shake It Up (2010-2013) at 14, and furthermore, she’s been typecast into high school and teen roles for most of her career, such as Spiderman: Homecoming (2017), and Euphoria (for which she won an Emmy). No one really batted an eyelid, however, when the James Bonds did it every time with the leading ladies. Zendaya was among the favourites to be in the running for Best Actress in the Oscar Noms announcement, but unfortunately, she too was snubbed of her chance too.
Who did you want nominated this year?