Chadwick Boseman should have won the Oscar for Best Actor last night during the 93rd Academy Awards. But he didn’t. The award went to Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins, one of the greatest actors in our lifetime. No disrespect to Sir Hopkins, but Boseman should have won.
The 93rd Oscars were basically a successful statement about diversity in the arts. This is an issue that the Academy has been dealing with in recent years in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite protests of 2015 and 2016, when its acting nominees were all white.
This year, nine of the 20 acting nominations went to people of color. Daniel Kaluuya won for Judas and the Black Messiah and Yuh-Jung Youn for Minari.
Boseman did not. But he should have. Not because he is Black and deserves a gift. No, it’s because he gave the most magnetic performance of the five nominees which included Hopkins, Riz Ahmed for Sound of Metal, Gary Oldman for Mank and Steven Yeun for Minari.
Boseman’s portrayal of Levee Green in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom dug deep. Deeper than his portrayal of James Brown in Get On Up. Deeper than his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in 42. And more profound than his portrayal of the titular character Black Panther.
However, it wasn’t as deep as his role of Stormin in Da 5 Bloods. But it was decided to push him for Best Actor and it was a wise one.
Boseman showed growth and maturity as he brought the intimidating and eventually, terrifying Levee to life.
In Ma Rainey, Boseman effortlessly captures the ambition of the trumpet player who’s thirsty for change and clashes with Viola Davis’ Ma and his band mates. In one of the film’s key moments, Boseman delivers a mesmerizing monologue about his family being attacked by racists:
“I was eight years old when I watched a gang of white mens come into my daddy’s house and have to do with my mama any way they wanted. We was living in Jefferson County, about eighty miles outside of Natchez. My daddy’s name was Memphis…Memphis Lee Green…had him near fifty acres of good farming land. I’m talking about good land! Grow anything you want! He done gone off of shares and bought this land from Mr. Hallie’s widow woman after he done passed on. Folks called him and uppity nigger ’cause he done saved and borrowed to where he could buy this land and be independent.
It was coming on planting time and my daddy went into Natchez to get him some seed and fertilizer. Called me, say, “Levee, you the man of the house now. Take care of your mama while I’m gone.” I wasn’t but a little boy, eight years old.
My mama was frying up some chicken when them mens come in that house. Must have been eight or nine of them. She standing there frying that chicken and them mens come and took hold of her just like you take hold of a mule and make him do what you want
When you look into Boseman’s eyes during his delivery it was like something spiritual happened to him. You can feel him drift to somewhere else. Another plane. Its a performance you can’t look away from.
When you realize the actor did such a magical job while constantly in the throws of pain from his Stage 4 Colon Cancer, one can’t believe that Chadwick was capable of transitioning into someone else. But he did. And we are blessed to have that performance. His last.
Couple that with Boseman continuing to act while suffering in Da 5 Bloods and Avengers: Endgame, which were both draining productions, you realize he truly was a superhero.
This is not meant to diminish Sir Hopkins’ performance. It’s wonderful and sobering portrayal of an aging man suffering from Dementia . He even praised Boseman in his acceptance speech early this morning.
We can only hope that we are still able to enjoy even more memorable performances from Hopkins, truly a brilliant actor.
But Chadwick, who won almost every acting award except for the BAFTA, will never have a chance again. The Academy last night had a real chance to make a statement about race by allowing Chadwick to become the third actor (and the first actor of color) to receive a Post-humous award.
In a year where the first Korean actor (Steven Yeun) and first Muslim actor (Riz Ahmed) were nominated, the Academy, which has been actively becoming more diverse since 2016, had a chance to make a real statement as opposed to just speeches which ultimately do nothing.
If Chadwick did not win, the Academy’s members could have voted for Yeun or Ahmed. But they didn’t. Instead, they chose to honor a white British actor. Again.
Viola Davis who lost to Frances McDormand is the only actress to win SAG awards and then lose the Oscar Best Actress according to Variety. The Oscars love to honor the same actors. It’s more comfortable. It’s more expected.
It’s also boring.
Congratulations to Chloé Zhao, Daniel Kaluuya and Yuh-jung Youn. Chadwick Boseman should have been a part of your group. It would have been the right thing to do.
In a statement, Boseman’s family did not call the Oscar decision a snub. But we will.