Portland News

Oscars: Can Will Smith be nominated?

Image Source: NPR

Can Will Smith win his second Oscar despite the controversy over the slap heard worldwide?

That’s the question Apple has to answer now that it has said it will release “Emancipation.” A movie about a slave who escapes and paid Will Smith $35 million to star and make. 

The streamer is betting that the uproar about Smith’s attack on Chris Rock at the Oscars has died, especially since Smith made an awkward video to apologize.

But even if Will Smith wins back-to-back Oscars for best actor, as Tom Hanks did. He won’t be able to pick up his award in person. He won’t even be able to get it through a satellite. 

Smith quit the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences in April because he would almost certainly be kicked out. Almost right after that, the Academy Board of Governors decided to ban him from the Oscars telecast. As well as other events put on by the Academy for ten years.

The Academy can still nominate Smith for and win another Oscar, even though he can’t accept his award on TV.

It needs to be clarified how hard Smith will try to win the award or if Apple will help him in the crowded race for best actor. But Smith won’t be able to press the flesh at any gatherings of Academy members. Instead, he will have to go to events put on by groups like the SA and the Golden Globes.

Can Will Smith beat his blacklisting?

If Smith’s performance was good enough to overcome what the public thought was a “blacklisting.” The Academy’s Actors Branch can put him on their ballot for a nomination from January 12 to 17. They will make the names public on January 24.

In the movie, Smith plays Peter, a character based on the famous “Whipped Peter.” Whipped Peter was an escaped enslaved person whose picture of his beaten back. Became one of the most famous images of the anti-slavery movement during the American Civil War.

But Smith can be put forward for more than just that category.

The Academy comprises 18 branches with about 9,600 members who can vote. Each person also votes in the best picture category. In addition, there are ten spaces on their ballots for them to write their picks of movies for the year.

Smith made history last year when he was nominated for both best actor and best picture for “King Richard.” He was the second Black man to be nominated in both categories, after Denzel Washington for “Fences.” And the first Black man to produce himself in an acting win.

Emancipation makes all the difference

A theater in Washington D.C. showed “Emancipation” this past weekend. As part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Legislative Conference. Groups from the Congressional Black Caucus, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Power Rising, and #WinWithBlackWomen were there. At the event, both Smith and Fuqua spoke in person.

Early reactions from people who were there were positive.

Tonya J. Williams, the director of strategic communications for Emily’s List, called it “a powerful and gut-wrenching look at the horrors of slavery.” Will Smith, who played Peter so well, talked about how he (and we) have a place in this world by talking about Peter’s life.

Angela Rye, CEO of IMPACT Strategies, said it was “not only a powerful story about our history. But also about how strong we are as a people.”

But it’s important to note that Smith is not the only one who owns “Emancipation.” Antoine Fuqua, a respected and admired director for over 25 years, is in charge. The same person who gave Denzel Washington his long-overdue lead actor statuette for “Training Day” (2001).

If the buzz about the film’s quality is true and we’ve reached our “Fuqua moment.” Considering the Academy has only nominated six Black directors in the past 94 years.

Can Apple weather this “Emancipation” storm for all the creatives involved? Are Oscar voters and people ready to forget about the slap? Awards season will show.

Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.