Vanessa Obioha

It is a good thing that the Oscars will be holding a night after the presidential and National Assembly elections. It will be a welcoming distraction from all the happenings that have been going on in the political landscape in the past few days.

The Oscars too has had its own share of hiccups in preparation for its 91st edition holding this Sunday, February 24. Last year when the Academy Awards announced it will introduce a new ‘Popular Film’ category, it received heavy vitriols from the public who questioned the criteria that will be used to qualify a film for the award. Its president John Bailey and his team were forced to discard the category.

Another controversy hit the awards when it announced comedian and actor Kevin Hart as its host. Critics demanded for Hart’s removal citing homophobic remarks he made in the past. Despite interventions from popular American TV host Ellen Degeneres to get Hart back into the Academy roster, the comedian chose to walk away from the whole drama.

The latest rhubarb the Academy Awards got into was its choice of presenting some of the awards during commercial breaks in order to shorten the show’s duration. The affected categories were Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling.

Again, famous Hollywood celebrities including the Academy members kicked against it, stating that the Academy was in a way denigrating the value of recipients of those awards. Again, the Academy had to retrace their steps.
With no host and a diverse lineup for musical performances, the focus has shifted again to how diverse the Oscars has become.

Since the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in 2015 created by activist April Reign, the Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has been steadfast in its diversity and inclusion mission. Last year saw the Academy issuing 928 invitations to more women, people of color and international filmmakers including Nigerian documentary filmmaker Femi Odugbemi and actress Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde.

Much of that diversity was seen in this year’s nominations where Spike Lee earned his first Oscars Best Picture and Best Director nods for his movie ‘BlacKkKlansman’.

Perhaps, the most celebrated move by the Academy so far was the nomination of the critically-acclaimed superhero movie ‘Black Panther’ in the Best Picture category. It is the first time a superhero movie will be nominated in that category.

While the nomination is welcoming, there is a slim chance that ‘Black Panther’ will emerge winner in that category that boasts of movies such as ‘The Favourite’ and ‘Roma’ which are the most nominated films in this year’s awards.
Moreover, these films have had a good run in this year’s award season.’Roma’ took home the Best Picture award at the British version of the Academy Awards, the BAFTA, while ‘The Favourite’ won the award for Outstanding British Film at same award.

Another nominee in that category, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ already carted away the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture, Drama, while ‘BlacKkKlansman’ took home the award for the Satellite Award for Best Picture (Independent). ‘Green Book’, another contender scored some major wins this award season, including a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical. Similarly, the Bradley Cooper’s ‘A Star is Born’ earned an accolade for Satellite Award for Best Picture, Comedy or Musical.

Out of the eight nominees in the Academy Awards Best Picture category, only ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Vice’ is yet to score a Best Picture win.

With ‘Roma’ obviously this awards season sweetheart, ‘Black Panther’ may as well be content with a win in any of the other five categories it is nominated in, including Best Costume Design and Best Original Music Score. Its snub at other top categories reveal a possible loss.

No doubt, the Wakanda movie was celebrated as the movie of the year for its celebration of black race that resonated with many. Its portrayal of an Africa that is void of poverty or decadence was well lauded.

However, a Best Picture win for the Oscars at this Sunday’s event will no doubt truly show the Academy’s commitment in projecting a diverse film award,not necessarily doing the black race a favour as perceived in some quarters.

Since it has started by making its membership open to people of colour, sealing it peradventure with a win for ‘Black Panther’ would be a tremendous celebration, particularly for Reign who will be attending the Oscars for the first time this Sunday.