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ONTD Original: Forgotten/Underrated black Oscar nominees

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I have been thinking of this topic for awhile and since it’s Black History Month and this usual the time when the Academy Awards would be upon us (it’s on April 25th this year), I thought it would be great time to showcase Black Oscar nominees that are underrated and have been possibly forgotten. I’ll be showcasing some films I’ve seen and some that I haven’t seen yet but is needed to showcase their performances that my have been overlooked.

(If I find the film free online, a hyperlink will be provided)


Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Secrets & Lies (1996)





Marianne Jean-Baptiste maybe best known to us Americans as Vivian "Viv" Johnson from Without a Trace but my first experience of watching her onscreen was the was the 1996 film Secret & Lies. Jean-Baptiste plays Hortense Cumberbatch, black optometrist in London, who traces her family history after the death of her adoptive mother. As she retraces her history, she shocked to find out that her birth mother is a working-class white woman with a dysfunctional family. Brenda Blethyn, who plays Hortense mother and as the lead gets most of the acclaim (as she should), but Jean-Baptiste performance is just as fantastic. Beside the performance of Jean-Baptiste and Blethyn, the Mike Leigh movie is also great. It was nominated for plethora of awards including five nominations from the Academy Awards.

If you would like to see the film, As I can see it is is only available on HBO Max.




Paul Winfield & Cicely Tyson
Nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress in Sounder (1972)




Adapted from William H. Armstrong’s 1970 novel of the same name, Sounder follows the Morgan family, a family of poor black sharecroppers in 1933 Louisiana, “struggle to find enough to eat despite the help their hunting dog, Sounder”. So, when the father Nathan (Winfield) is arrested after stealing food, his wife, Rebecca (Tyson), is left to care for their three children including son, David (Kevin Hooks). This film was played a lot when I was a kid. My memory is hazy on most of the particular of the film but last 5 minutes is something I could never forget; it really brings tear to your eye.

Here are some quotes from Roger Ebert’s review saying:
“The mother is played by Cicely Tyson, and it is a wonder to see the subtleties in her performance. We have seen her with her family, and we know her strength and intelligence. Then we see her dealing with the white power structure, and her behavior toward it is in a style born of cynicism and necessity. She will say what they want to hear in order to get what she wants to get.”
“The relationship between the man and wife is so completely realized on a mature level that it comes as a shock; we'd forgotten that authentic grown-ups can be portrayed in films. We'd thought, for a moment, that to be a movie adult you had to drive a fast car, be surrounded by sexy dames, and pack an arsenal. "Sounder" proves it isn't so.”

Many platforms carry the film like Hulu and Amazon Prime but it’s for premium subscriptions. But here is a link to the whole movie for free on YouTube.



Adolf Caesar
Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in A Soldier’s Story (1984)




Probably my favorite film on this list (since I own the film), with probably my favorite performance on this list. My mom loved this movie so much she would watch this movie anytime it was on and mostly likely I love it so much. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1981 Off Broadway production A Soldier's Play, the film is about a black military officer (who is also a lawyer) is sent to investigate the murder of Vernon Waters, a black sergeant, on a military base in Louisiana near the end of World War II. There are so many stand performances from Howard Rollins (who possibly could have been nominated too), Larry Riley, David Allen Grier to a young Denzel Washington. But it’s Adolph Caesar performance that is a force to be reckoned and the standout with playing the sergeant who is murdered. Most here may only know him as the father of Mister in The Color Purple and don’t know how great of actor he was. His performance is so layered where your opinion of him might change by the end of the film.

This film is on many platforms that are free includes Crackle, Pluto and Amazon Prime.



Juanita Moore
Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Imitation of Life (1959)




Another film I adore though I love more for the performance of Juanita Moore. I will not necessarily say she and actress Susan Kohner carry the film with their performance, but I will say I was like 95% only invested with their storyline. A remake from the 1934 version, Imitation of Life is about “Lora Meredith (Lana Turner), a white single mother who dreams of being on Broadway, has a chance encounter with Annie Johnson (Moore), a black widow. Annie becomes the caretaker of Lora's daughter, Suzie (Sandra Dee), while Lora pursues her stage career”. While Lora deals with her issues with her daughter Suzie, Annie's light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane (Kohner), struggles with her African American identity. Juanita Moore performance as Annie Johnson is so lovely and so heartbreaking. You feel her pain as she struggles with the relationship with her daughter. By the end of the film, you will be a crying mess and that would be due to how Moore made you feel for Annie. Annie is a beautiful person who deserved much more than the life she had.

I looked on the many film platforms and none had the movie for free. I believe the film cost $3.99 on most of those platforms.



Dexter Gordon
Nominated for Best Actor in Round Midnight (1986)




While doing research for this post, I had no idea nor knew about film. It really is a forgotten performance that most do not remember.
Considered to be one of the best jazz films ever made, Round Midnight is about “In the 1950s, Dale Turner (Dexter Gordon, real life jazz musician), a gifted black saxophonist with a drinking problem, leaves behind New York and his estranged family and relocates to Paris. There he plays for a progressive, jazz-loving audience without being judged by his race, and ages quietly in peace. Not intending to turn away from his vices, Dale nonetheless becomes the project of a French fan (François Cluzet) who tries to help him fight his alcoholism, ultimately inspiring both Dale and his music.”

Since I haven’t seen the movie, I’ll use (again) an excerpt of Roger Ebert’s review of the film to describe Dexter Gordon’s performance saying, “Gordon plays the central role with an eerie magnetism. He is a musician, not an actor, and yet no actor could have given this performance, with its dignity, wisdom and pain”.

I didn’t see the film on any film platform to watch for free or pay to rent it. Though I found the whole film on Vimeo.


[***HONORABLE MENTIONS***]
I didn’t want to have real long post (most likely it is already that way) but here are some other performances that many may forgotten.


Howard Rollins
Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Ragtime (1981)


I found no places or platform for free. On the film platforms, to rent the movie is $7.99


Alfre Woodard
Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Cross Creek (1983)


It's on Amazon Prime until February 28th


Jaye Davidson
Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in The Crying Game (1992)


The movie is on CBS All Access and Pluto





Sources
YouTube:1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8
Others: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10
Tags: award show - academy awards, black celebrities, british celebrities, music / musician (other), nostalgia, old hollywood, ontd original
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