Why Does Hollywood...?

Why Did the Oscars snub Angela Bassett?

Last month, the Oscars held their annual ceremony celebrating the year’s best movies. As I’ve stated before, I was rooting for Everything, Everywhere, All at Once to sweep it. I got my wish, and my favorite film of 2022 won Best Picture, something that hasn’t happened since 2007. Among the awards the film won was Best Supporting Actress, which went to Jaime Lee Curtis. This was Curtis’ first nomination and her win was a triumph for those who’ve been supporting her genre-film performances since the late 70’s.

Everyone was elated for her, though Angela Bassett, her fellow nominee, couldn’t mask her disappointment. Various news outlets have since blown the incident out of proportion, misconstruing Bassett’s understandable reaction as entitlement. (i.e., She felt she was owed and, therefore, miffed at Curtis’s usurpation.)

Here’s the thing–If we use the same logic of those who voted for Curtis, Bassett IS owed.


Many Academy Awards winners are chosen because of a body of work rather than a single performance. Martin Scorsese won a Best Directing Oscar for The Departed, a good movie yet far from his best work. Rather, many voters saw The Departed as a chance to right the egregious fact that Scorsese hadn’t won an Academy Award despite holding three slots on AFI’s top 100 movies of all time.

A more recent example is Leonardo DiCaprio’s win in 2016 for The Revenant. The man has questionable dating choices yet unquestionable talent. His performances in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Titanic, The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Django Unchained each gained nominations, but none net him the win. Consequently, DiCaprio was awarded for the bear-mauling movie, making The Onion headline “Leonardo DiCaprio Hopes He Screamed And Cried Good Enough In ‘The Revenant’ To Win Oscar” painfully true.


The problem with this practice, however, is that it becomes a self-perpetuating loop. By honoring one actor because they’re “owed,” the Academy potentially makes four more slights to correct in the future. DiCaprio’s win may have honored past work, but it helped to shut out nominees of color, specifically Michael B. Jordan’s work in Creed (especially galling when Sylvester Stallone got a nomination for the same film).

This issue once again hit the forefront with the Jaime Lee Curtis/Angela Bassett showdown this year. Yes, Ms. Bassett has only been nominated twice, but racial exclusion in the past has hindered her visibility. She wasn’t even considered for her work in Akeelah and the Bee, Sunshine Stateor Boyz ‘n the Hood (I don’t know how anyone today could claim there wasn’t room for her that year while Price of Tides was nominated). Additionally, like Curtis, Bassett has cult-favorite genre films like Strange Days, Contact, and Gunpowder Milkshake.



Most egregious, however, is Bassett’s lack of recognition for Malcolm Xa film that also deserved recognition for Spike Lee’s direction and a win for Denzel Washington. Instead, Scent of a Woman, a film with a metacritc score of 59/100, scored nominations in those three fields and a Best Actor win for Al Pacino. This happened because, despite starring in both Godfather films, Scarface, and a litany of other college-dorm-room movie posters, Pacino had never won. Did he, however, deserve to win in 1993? Watch Malcolm XUnforgiven, or Chaplin, and I think the answer will be obvious.

The practice of “career Oscars” being awarded to (usually) white actors while other efforts go unrecognized makes me think of Chris Rock’s hosting monologue during the #Oscarssowhite debacle:

Is Hollywood racist? …not burning-cross racist…it’s a different kind of racist. Their prejudice is ‘sorority racist,’ like, ‘We like you, Ronda, but you’re not a Kappa.’

I understand that there’s only one winner, that awards aren’t that big of a deal, that they can’t cover everyone–but I wonder how many times a person has to hear “Sorry, maybe next year,” before it starts to sound disingenuous.


Honestly, that’s why honorary Oscars exist to begin with–to honor a career. Neither Alfred Hitchcock nor Akira Kurosawa ever won an Oscar, but the Academy gave them each one anyway.

If I had my way, I would have given both Curtis and Bassett career awards and given the competitive Oscar to Stephanie Hsu, who towered above both of them with her nihilistic, off-kilter portrayal of the omniscient antagonist in Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.

Since Hsu consistently turns in solid work, though, I guess we’ll have to let her grab someone else’s Oscar in 30 years time “because she’s due.”


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