The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominations for its 77th Oscars on Tuesday. This year has turned out to be a record breaking year for African Americans with Jamie Foxx, Don Cheadle and Morgan Freeman all among the contenders.
These nominations make it the first time black actors have nabbed four of the 20 actor nominations, only the third time in history that three black actors have been nominated simultaneously, the first time two black actors have competed for the best actor and best supporting actor categories and the first time a black actor has been nominated for two top categories at the same time.
Cheadle is competing for best actor in "Hotel Rwanda," while Freeman is nominated for best supporting actor for "Million Dollar Baby." Foxx leads the pack with two nominations, one for best actor in "Ray" and the other for best supporting actor in "Collateral."
Comedian Chris Rock, the host of the Academy Awards this year, had previously spoke of Foxx in an interview with Lola Ogunnaike for the New York Times.
"I am rooting for Jamie," Rock told Ogunnaike, "And if he doesn’t win, I’m going to talk about it on the show." He added, "I’ll take an Oscar from one of the sound or light people that win and give it to him, Jamie Foxx is not going to walk out of that place without an Oscar."
According to CNN.com, Oscar analyist Tom O’Neil said that the rise in African American nominations could be attributed to black actors being given more opportunities to act in serious dramas.
"Morgan Freeman was amazing. Don Cheadle was amazing. Jamie Foxx had a breakout year with these two performances," O’Neil said. "It’s not based on people saying, ‘Oh, we’re overdue to acknowledge African-American artists.’ These are really powerful, performance-driven surges we’re seeing."
Stephanie Holland, a Howard University senior advertising student says that like O’Neil, she is concerned about the reasoning for the nominations.
"I always want to see a black actor win, but always for the right reasons," said Holland. I don’t want them to give anyone an award because…there’s a feeling going around that is telling them that they should,” says Holland.
“It seems like they are constantly attempting to right past injustices they’ve committed against this or that actor. Like, they say we haven’t given anything to Denzel Washington yet and it’s becoming blatantly apparent that he should’ve won by now, so here you go Denzel! Even if it is for the wrong movie."
The Academy has been widely criticized for giving the most recent awards to Denzel Washington and HalleBerry for playing negative roles in movies where they have debatably played better roles.
According to Ebony magazine, Sandra Evers-Manly, former president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP and current president of the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center, says that a major problem is that the Academy voters are almost entirely white because the only way to become a voter is to be nominated.
"Clearly, the problem is the lack of diversity in the voting members," Evers-Manly said. "We’re cast out. Blacks, especially black women, are not being given roles like their white counterparts. There’s a mind-set that says movies with blacks in leading roles won’t sell."
The Academy has long been criticized for snubbing black performers. In the past, black actors and actresses have received only 13 nominations in comparison to over 300 awards given, with Denzel Washington leading with 4 nominations. Only two black actors have actually won the best actor award. Cheadle, Freeman and Foxx all show that the Academy is perhaps becoming more ethnically diverse, opening the door for African American actors in the future.
The list of Black actors acknowledged in the 2005 Oscar ceremony includes Don Cheadle, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman and Sophie Okonedo.
Jamie Foxx leads the pack with two nominations including best actor in a leading role and best actor in a supporting role while going head to head with two of Hollywood’s top Black actors, Don Cheadle and Morgan Freeman.
Foxx and Cheadle will be competing for the title of best actor in a leading role, with Foxx’s portrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray” and Cheadle’s leading role in “Hotel Rwanda,” a true story based on the Rwandan massacre.
Foxx and Freeman, however, are nominees for best actor in a supporting role with Freeman in his fourth Academy Award nomination for his role in “Million Dollar Baby,” and Foxx for his role as a resourceful cab driver opposite Tom Cruise in “Collateral.”
Sophie Okonedo, the only African American female to be nominated in this year’s Academy Awards, rounds out the list for best actress in a supporting role as Tatiana Rusesabagina in “Hotel Rwanda.”
The Academy Awards presentation of the Oscars will air Sunday, Feb. 27 on ABC.