Overlooked by the 45th NAACP Image Awards

The point of my blog and my writing about film and television has always been to point out and shine a light on entertainment and works by minorities or for minorities, which is in line with the NAACP Image Awards' mission.

This past year had an embarrassment of riches in terms of media by and for minorities that were relatively successful. The five films nominated for Outstanding Motion Picture are indicative of that. These nominees are 12 Years a Slave, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Fruitvale Station and The Best Man Holiday.

The previous awards show was dominated with Tyler Perry titles. Perry is still churning out the same amount of content. He even had A Madea Christmas, which I enjoyed, but having him be shut out for the most part is proof that 2013 was a good year for black cinema. So much so, in addition to the Perry films, there were a handful of other films of interest to the NAACP Image Awards that were overlooked.

The NAACP Image Awards recognize major movies as well as smaller ones. For the smaller ones, the category is Outstanding Independent Motion Picture. The nominees are Dallas Buyers Club, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, Blue Caprice and Fruitvale Station. Now, if you'll notice, Fruitvale Station is listed under this category as well as under the major one.

It seems rather ridiculous to have Fruitvale Station in both places. I would keep it in the smaller category because it was a movie that wasn't produced by a major studio. It got a somewhat wide release, but it still was very much an "Independent Motion Picture."

To replace it in the major movies category. I have two choices that were mostly overlooked. The first is Snitch, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson about a father trying to free his son from jail. The second is The Sapphires, which is about a black girl group in Australia during the 1960s.

Going back to the smaller movie category, Dallas Buyers Club is an interesting film, but it doesn't star a minority, no black people at all. The writer-director is Jean-Marc Vallée, and as far as I know, he's Canadian-French, but not the typical minority that the NAACP Image Awards would honor.

Non-minorities have been recognized and awarded by the NAACP in the past, but in a crowded year for black cinema, it seems like a waste. There were a ton of independent black films or films featuring men and women of color that could have taken the place of Dallas Buyers Club.

One that I would put at the top is An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. Another that I vastly enjoyed was My Brother the Devil, which is actually a British film but it centers on people of Middle Eastern descent. Two, really, low-budget movies that I would also toss in are Four and Welcome to Pine Hill.

The Image Awards has another category called Outstanding International Motion Picture. The nominees are War Witch, Call Me Kuchu, La Playa DC, High Tech, Low Life and Lion Ark. This category leaves much to be desired. While War Witch is my absolute best movie of 2013. The others, however, were ones I didn't see or knew anything about.

When it comes to international fare, there is again an embarrassment of riches from which the NAACP could have chosen. I appreciate the instinct for the NAACP to spotlight obscure titles and help raise awareness, but it should also try to keep an eye to quality.

La Playa DC was the official submission to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Yet, of all those official submissions, which there were 76 total, one wonders why the NAACP chose that one from Colombia. Ever since October when the official submissions became known, there have been a slew of more acclaimed films the NAACP could have included.

Not only would I have not chosen La Playa DC but I also would have knocked out Lion Ark as well as High Tech, Low Life. The latter two weren't even official submissions to the Academy Awards. I would replace all three with either The Past, the Iranian-French film by Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi, Wadjda, the first Saudi Arabian film directed by a woman, The Grandmaster, the controversially-edited epic from Hong Kong, or Omar, the Palestinian film to make the Oscar shortlist.

In the category of Outstanding Documentary, the nominees are Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, 20 Feet From Stardom, The New Black, Girl Rising and Call Me Kuchu. The last film is another repeat. Again, given the great number of titles that were overlooked, the NAACP repeating titles is silly. Call Me Kuchu could have stayed in the Outstanding International Motion Picture category. It could have been replaced with The Act of Killing, which will most likely earn on Oscar nomination.

There were so many great actors who were overlooked this year by the NAACP. All of the actors who were nominated are absolutely deserving. With the exception of two, I wouldn't make any changes to the list. I would want to nominate several different people and in order to do that. I would have to knock a few names off, so for that purpose I will but that's not to say the actors I'd replace aren't good, if not great actors.

Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis"
In the category of Outstanding Actor, the nominees include Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, Forest Whitaker, Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman. All are good guys, but I would substitute Boseman for James Floyd who is of mixed race and was fantastic in My Brother the Devil, or possibly even Oscar Isaac who's Latino for Inside Llewyn Davis.

In the category of Outstanding Actress, the nominees are Nicole Beharie, Jennifer Hudson, Halle Berry, Angela Bassett and Kerry Washington. I might just replace Hudson with Danai Gurira from Mother of George.

In the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor, the nominees include Terrence Howard who is doubly recognized here, Cuba Gooding, Jr., David Oyelowo and Morris Chestnut. I would certainly take out one of Howard's nominations as well as Gooding. In their places, I suggest Keith Stanfield from Short Term 12 and E.J. Bonilla in Four, or maybe Riz Ahmed in The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

In the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress, the nominees include Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong'o, Octavia Spencer, Naomie Harris and Alfre Woodard. This category is pretty much fine as is. I would only switch Harris with Deborah Mailman from The Sapphires.

Lastly, there are two other movie categories that I wanted to examine. Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Directing. It would make sense if these categories lined up with the top category of Outstanding Motion Picture, but they don't. How they differ is the writing category recognized Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón for Gravity as well as Brian Helgeland for 42. The directing category recognized a complete unknown, Jono Oliver for Home.

In my opinion, the NAACP should have done the opposite. The directing category should have nominated Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity or the NAACP could have been bold and nominated Taiwanese director Justin Lin for Fast & Furious 6. The writing category, meantime, should have nominated the complete unknown but not Jono Oliver. Instead, it should have been Terence Nance for An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, or I would have loved to see Rodney Evans get nominated for directing The Happy Sad.

The 45th NAACP Image Awards air February 22nd on TV One.


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