Monday, February 25, 2013

The 85th Annual Academy Awards... A Mixed Bag For Latinos

The 85th Academy Awards ceremony (referred to as The Oscars), presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), took place February 24, 2013 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Oscar winner Claudio Miranda
While the Oscars of the previous year had eight nominees who were Latino (including acting nods for Demián Bichir and Bérénice Bejo), this year's batch of nominees had no Latinos in the acting categories (nor in direction nor screenplay in what the Oscars call the "Big Five" categories). The only Latino nominees were Paco Delgado (Costume Design for Anna Karenina), José Antonio García (co-nominee for Sound Mixing for Argo), the Chilean film No (directed by Pablo Larraín and nominated for Best Foreign Film) and Chilean-born Claudio Miranda (Cinematography for The Life of Pi). Of these nominees, only Miranda won an Oscar (and denying now 10-time nominee Roger Deakins from picking up his first Oscar).

And yet, Latinos were present in the ceremony, from presenters Salma Hayek (herself a former Oscar nominee) and Zoë Saldaña to Fátima Ptacek (star of the Oscar-winning live action short film Curfew) to the subjects of the Best Documentary Oscar winners.

Inocente, star of the Oscar-winning
documentary short of the same name
This year's Academy Award winner for Best Documentary - Short Subject was Inocente (directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine), which tells the story of a 15-year-old homeless girl in California who aspires to be an artist. The film was part-financed by the crowdfunding website Kickstarter (an Oscar first). The filmmakers brought up their subject when they accepted the award and spoke about the need to support artists in general. If you would like to see the documentary short, click here.

Rodríguez, star of the Oscar-winning
documentary Searching for Sugar Man
This year's Academy Award winner for Best Documentary - Feature was Searching For Sugar Man (directed by Malik Bendjelloul), which tells the story of two South African fans trying to find the whereabouts of their favorite musican, Rodríguez. The film was originally shot on 8mm film to record the film, but when the director ran out of money for more film to record the final few shots. The remainder of the shots were shot on the director's smartphone using an application called 8mm Vintage Camera to complete the film.

And of course, Argo, based on the life of Antonio "Tony" Mendez, won Best Picture (as well as Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay).

This year was also the second year where Puerto Rico was declared ineligible in the Best Foreign (Language) Film category after being considered and having films submitted since 1986. The Puerto Rican film Lo que le pasó a Santiago (What Happened to Santiago), directed by Jacobo Morales, was an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film in 1989.

Lupe Ontiveros
Another thing to note (and a very important one as well) was that many people were omitted in the annual In Memoriam tribute to the artists who have passed away in the previous year. One of the most glaring omissions was that of the much beloved character actress Lupe Ontiveros. Several people were omitted this year from the telecast, but included in a slideshow on the Oscars website; she was also snubbed there as well. Ms. Ontiveros had an illustrious long career in film, television and theater and her omission is highly disheartening for those who knew her, worked with her or enjoyed her work. [Ms. Ontiveros was among the artists remembered in the In Memoriam section of the 2012 HOLA Awards this past October.]

All in all, this year's Academy Awards were a mixed bag for Latinos. Latinos are in the film industry and always has been. Heck, even the statuette of the Academy Award is modeled on a Latino actor-screenwriter-director. And with the growing number of Latinos in the United States, it is about time that Hollywood actually wakes up and takes more notice.



Bobby Plasencia said...

A big deal has been made about the fact that other major stars were not included in the Oscar's "In Memoriam" segment last night. As if somehow that makes it okay that they didn't include Ms. Ontiveros. For the record, nothing against Larry Hagman, Andy Griffith and Phyllis Diller, but they were TV Stars. I can understand why the Academy might have decided not to include them in the segment last night. But, Lupe Ontiveros? Lupe Ontiveros was a Movie Star! Just saying.

Mauricio Alexander said...

And a big deal is been being made that there were NO latino names under Best Actor/Actress, Director or Writer category this year. So first, is there someone who can name a handful of actors, directors and writers who truly should have been nominated this year for these categories and were "Oscar Snubbed"?

I feel like a point is being missed with the various comments online after the Oscars this year about Latinos not being present enough, as if this year our greatest actors and production people were supposed to sweep all the categories, and be all over the red carpet. Why would we be this year any more represented by the Academy Awards more than African Americans or Asians or Native Americans?

I am VERY proud of the following Latinos and the stories about Latinos present this year the the Oscars (and thank you to HOLA for compiling this info).

But, apparently celebrating this group is not enough cause to be shouting out their names and praising them the morning after?

Unfortunately, the Academy Awards is not a ceremony that focuses on diversity for diversity sake alone, but grants access and nominations, in my opinion, based on box office numbers, political and personal "behind the scenes" relationships, popularity of a project and I assume some unknown factors as well. It is produced every year in one of America's most racially insensitive towns and is connected to, albeit quite liberal politically, one of the more conservative and biased industries in the U.S., the Hollywood movie industry.

If we want Latinos to be nominated in one or more BIG FIVE categories every year, we could all work harder to encourage and demand our own community to go all out and go to the box office in millions every time a project with Latino talent is released, we could all press online and established media outlets to do better coverage of Latinos in the film industry, we could all go out ourselves and act-in, write, direct, acquire rights and/or produce the very best film projects of our decade and those of us with connections to the major Latino artists in Hollywood, could encourage and demand to be attached to their film projects. However, I believe we are selling ourselves short by needing Latinos to be supported and represented at the Academy Awards. I want myself and my work to be represented and supported by Latinos here in New York, and I barely get that!!! Just because I'm a member of one the fastest growing population in the United States and have paid my dues as an artist, does this give me the right to believe that I am going to be awarded for it whether it be a statue or booking a role or being hired to write or direct a major project? No, probably not. I'll be lucky to ever get nominated for a Latino award let alone an Oscar.

But, the question here could be asked instead is: Who among us, in our immediate community wants to be nominated and/or win an Oscar award and who is working towards that achievement today? And I say we make a list. A Latino list of current actors, writers, directors, and producers who are actually dedicated to this VERY specific goal and anyone out there who currently feels that Latinos are not represented at the Academy Awards and that we were barely present this year, make a honest commitment to this list. If you or I are on this list then we have to be actively participating in our own careers in making our number one goal to be Academy Award winners and I will expect and demand that EVERY Latino in our community who believes we aren't being rep'd at the awards, I will expect their dedicated support 24/7 for as long as it takes for one or all of the list is nominated and/or wins an award. I don't think that's crazy or too much to ask.