our fantasy oscar winners (no straight white men included)
As this year’s Oscars ignores the strong racial, sexual and gender diversity at the cinema, we decided to pick our own winners.
Chi-Raq, amazon studios
This year's Oscars will see a bunch of straight white males pick up most of the statues. In a year that saw strong diversity — across racial, sexual, and gender lines — in movies, Hollywood's highest-profile awards show spectacularly ignored all of it. Thus, we have seen the #Oscarssowhite hashtag everywhere. In an effort to fight against that lack of diversity, i-D presents a fantasy wish list of winners that better represent the state of movies in 2016.
Best picture: Chi-Raq
In 2014, Spike Lee spoke of the difficulty in getting his films financed in an interview with The New Yorker: "Perception is a lot. So if I'm perceived as the angry black man who's, quote unquote, a racist, that's going to color their whole thing: 'He's unapproachable, he's not a collaborator.' " His latest movie, Chi-Raq — named so because gun deaths in Chicago outnumber American fatalities in foreign war zones like Iraq — is the work of an angry black man. It is also a bold, inventive, and chaotic state-of-the-nation address and his best work in years. Chi-Raq debuted on Amazon in December, making it eligible for Oscar nominations. It received none. Instead, the best-picture category — while a wide-open race — reads like a closed shop for straight, white guys.
Best actress: Teyonnah Parris, Chi-Raq
A black actress in a film by a black director has never won the Oscar, so it's a real shame that the Academy missed out on getting on the Teyonah Parris party early. In Chi-Raq, she's an actress coming into her impressive own style. Until now, Parris was best known for playing Don Draper's meek secretary Dawn on Mad Men. She breaks out in seriously sexy style in Chi-Raq: bold, brash, and brainy as Lysistrata, a young black woman who decides that withholding sex from her boo might help to end gun violence. Chi-Raq is by no means a perfect picture — nor is it easy to digest but Parris anchors Lee's musical comedy in a commanding performance.
Best actor: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Where do you start? Straight Outta Compton was more of an ensemble piece. Will Smith did himself no favors with his off-the-mark Nigerian accent in Concussion. There's no such excuse for leaving Idris Elba out of the running, though. His turn as an African warlord in Beasts of No Nation was fiercely compelling, equal to any of the nominated actors. Heck, even Steven Spielberg's got Elba's back. 'I was surprised at [the exclusion of] Idris [Elba],' the veteran director told The Hollywood Reporter. 'I think that was one of the best performances in the actor category.' "
Best director: Todd Haynes, Carol
Hollywood has traditionally celebrated the LGBT experience on screen when it culminates in death (Philadelphia), death (Milk), and death (Boys Don't Cry). Carol doesn't just upend this tired narrative; it also refuses to make a scene about it. There's no real battle over sexuality in Todd Haynes's exquisitely wrought depiction of two women in love in 1950s, in their interior lives or otherwise. That feels fresh, and in Haynes's hands, is a real beauty that should have taken him with a nomination, at least.
Best original screenplay: Straight Outta Compton
When Straight Outta Compton received just this single Oscar nomination, producer Ice Cube was, tellingly, unsurprised: "I'm not pissed. I'm not surprised. It's the Oscars, they do what they do," he said on The Wendy Williams Show. He was right not to be surprised. Last year, all hope for racial diversity rested on Selma, which picked up just one award (for best song). This year is no different, with all-white acting and directing nominations across the board, despite strong, new black faces in front of and behind the camera in the cases of Straight Outta Compton and Creed. Still, even if the Academy doesn't get it, the audiences and critics do. "The people loved the movie, the people supported the movie," added Ice Cube. "It was number one at the box office, made over $200 million worldwide. I can't be mad, you know."
Best adapted screenplay: Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Phyllis Nagy began writing the adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt in 2000. Why did it take so long to develop into a film? "My feeling, having tried to put it together with so many people over the years, is not so much it being gay women, it's about it being women," Nagy told the Guardian last year. Nagy explained, "In film-financing terms, that's very tricky." In an Oscar year where women will rarely be onstage outside of best-actress categories, Nagy's superb script — which never lets dialog outdo gestural code — deserves to see at least one more woman on the podium.
Best supporting actress: Mya Taylor, Tangerine
Sean Baker's wild ride about two trans women of color was never going to be an Oscars shoo-in, what with it being an unapologetically cray-cray Christmas Eve story about transgender sex workers in L.A. But Mya Taylor lends the film a real emotional depth that otherwise might be lost in the madness. Taylor, a trans woman in her first acting job, knows all about barriers to entry. The lack of any nominations make this is a missed opportunity for the Academy to signal the film industry's willingness to embrace trans talent.
Best supporting actor: Samuel L. Jackson, Chi-Raq
Much has been made of Creed's sole nomination — a film principally about the young black male experience — going to the old white guy in it. Stallone is likely to win, but Samuel L. Jackson is at least Sly's icon equal in Chi-Raq.
Best original song: Anthony Hegarty, "Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction
For only the second time in Oscar history, an out transgender person has been nominated in any category. The late Angela Morley, a transgender composer, received two nominations in the 1970s. Now Anthony Hegarty, of Anthony & the Johnsons, has a window of opportunity to make Oscar history as writer of the song "Manta Ray" from the documentary Racing Extinction. If the song wins, it will mark a small, inadvertent milestone in Oscar diversity.
The Oscars are on this Sunday, February 28, starting at 7 p.m. EST.
Text Colin Crummy