It’s been seven years since the famous #OscarsSoWhite hashtag first went around after the Academy released a nomination list where all 20 acting nominations were given to white actors, which would be repeated in 2016. So where are we now? There is some POC talent being recognized in the performance category ahead of this year’s Oscar telecast, but the 2022 Academy Award nominations, only twenty percent are non-white nominees. This is especially disappointing considering how many incredible performances were left out of the race.
The only non-white actors in the running for a performance Oscar this year are King Richard’s Will Smith and The Tragedy of Macbeth’s Denzel Washington in the Best Actor category (both of which have been recognized by the Academy before) alongside first-time nominees Ariana DeBose and Aunjanue Ellis in the Best Supporting Actress category. Now let’s take a look at great performances the Oscars overlooked.
Colman Domingo (Candyman/Zola)
Let’s start with a Best Supporting Actor that was not among those picked by the Academy, but absolutely deserves to be recognized for his performances. Colman Domingo. The more “award season” pick is Zola, but the more I think about it, Domingo also pulled off an incredible performance in Candyman as well that I'd also pick over a couple of this year’s other nominees. In Zola, Domingo gives an affecting performance as a man on a stripper road trip (based off a real Twitter thread) as his character of Abegunde "X" Olawale takes us on a rollercoaster ride of emotion and intensity as the secrets of the plotline are uncovered.
Additionally, Domingo is an absolute highlight in Candyman as William "Billy" Burke, a Cabrini-Green resident who forwards the Candyman legend through Yayha Abdul-Mateen II’s character. All around, Domingo is proving again and again he’s one of the best actors working today and deserves more recognition for his work. Hopefully when TV nominations come around he’ll get some love for his role on Euphoria as well.
Hidetoshi Nishijima (Drive My Car)
The Oscars have clearly been making an attempt to recognize more foriegn films in recent years, especially with the historical 2020 Academy Award moment when Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite won Best Picture. Ahead of this year’s telecast, there’s a key international feature being recognized, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car. But how do you recognize that film without its guiding lead performance, Hidetoshi Nishijima?
The Japanese actor carries a huge weight in the drama about an actor/director as he mourns a profound loss throughout the three-hour film. The performance is very internal and stoic, which is especially difficult for an actor to communicate to audiences. As crowded as this year’s Best Actor category is, Nishijima’s role in Drive My Car is something special. You can check out the movie now with an HBO Max subscription.
Dev Patel (The Green Knight)
Throughout Oscar history, only a few actors of Indian descent have nabbed an acting nomination. Merle Oberon in 1935, Ben Kingsley four times between 1983 and 2004 (including his win for Gandhi) and Dev Patel in 2017 for Lion. The actor should have earned his second nomination this year (this time in the Best Actor category) for his role in The Green Knight.
David Lowery’s perilous journey through the legend of Sir Gawain asks a lot of the actor as 90 percent of the film puts the focus on his character. Dev Patel plays a reluctant protagonist who must face the elements as he travels to meet the Green Knight along with driving an emotional narrative that subverts long held tropes about what it means to be a hero.
Taylour Paige (Zola)
The Best Actress category this year is jam-packed with talent including Jessica Chastain, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman and Kristen Stewart’s memorable performances, but it’s clearly skewed toward not only the experiences of white women, but privileged white women (with the exception of Cruz). It’s too bad the Academy overlooked Taylour Paige’s performance as a part-time stripper in Zola.
Along with the wild based-on-a-true-story road trip movie being entertaining, it also highlights the very real threats that Zola got mixed into. In Zola, the stripper becomes wrapped into the world of sex work and other dangerous activities she did not want to be part of, and it's made more real through Paige's performance.
Ruth Negga (Passing)
Rebecca Hall’s Passing adapts a classic ‘20s novel about the topic of “racial passing” in 1920s Harlem through the narrative of two old friends Clare and Irene, played by Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson. Both actresses deserved more recognition for their work on this film, not only at the Oscars but during award season in general. Ruth Negga plays Clare Bellew, a Black woman who lives as a white passing woman during the era, with a white husband and all.
Things change for Clare when she spots her childhood friend Irene passing for white at a club and they strike up a conversation. Negga’s performance is very unique in that there’s a restraint about the character, who seems to be very much putting on a mask through her demeanor to fit into being white passing. The audience watches as she lets loose a bit with Irene’s social circles. Overall, Negga represents a huge part of history and continued uncomfortableness to be in one’s skin, especially as a light-skinned Black woman.
Tessa Thompson (Passing)
The second performance in Passing that the Oscars overlooked was with Tessa Thompson. Whereas Ruth Negga plays a woman in passing, Thompson’s role as Irene is more reserved and quieter, but just as powerful. Irene sometimes lives in passing, but typically lives out a life as a Black woman. She’s a more passive character than Clare, but both women’s arcs and dynamics drive the powerful story that is Passing.
Jennifer Hudson (Respect)
The final pick here is the most surprising snub because everything about it seems to scream Oscar nomination. Jennifer Hudson has long been attached to playing Aretha Franklin in a biopic. Before the Queen of Soul died in 2018, she picked Hudson to play her and all these years later it came together with Respect. The actress and singer beautifully transforms into Aretha in this film that takes her from being a shy preacher’s daughter to a powerhouse.
Experts fully predicted Hudson to be nominated for her second Oscar with Respect, and yet she was snubbed this year from the Best Actress category. It’s especially shocking because most performance nominees award actors portraying well-known people.
Despite these performances not getting a voice in this year’s Academy Awards, you can tune into the Oscars when they air on ABC on Sunday, March 27.
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Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.