Why I Will Never Get Over Angela Bassett Losing Best Actress Oscar to Holly Hunter
Award shows are annoying as fuck
Award season is in full swing as the Golden Globe nominations were recently announced and as usual there is public outcry for the names that are missing from the illustrious list.
Director Dee Rees — best known for her critically-acclaimed debut — Pariah (2011) was nowhere to be found in the Best Director category, which is a travesty when you consider her stunning feat in Netflix’s period drama — MudBound. Jordan Peele who wrote and directed the psychological horror flick Get Out was also missing from the same list.
There’s more where that came from, but the gist of award shows seems to be that they are necessary to boost the egos of the Hollywood community. It’s the golden opportunity for the overly-pampered wealthy elite to shamelessly showcase their privilege, while the common folk gawk with starry-eyed envy.
Award shows are also annoying as fuck, which is a lesson I learned awhile back when I got caught up in the entanglement of rooting for someone that I truly believed deserved the highest honor from an industry that is prone to only recognizing the efforts of White talents.
Regardless of how critics receive the Golden Globe nominations in 2017 — there is no doubt that we’ve come along way when you consider the roster of nominees from 1994. That was the year — actress Angela Bassett was nominated for her stellar and memorable performance in the Tina Turner biopic — What’s Love Got To Do With It.
Bassett was notably the only woman of color nominated that year, which back then was standard procedure considering how dismal the forecast was when it came to adequate exposure afforded to Black actresses. Then there was the weirdness of the category Bassett was lumped in — Best Actress — Musical or Comedy, which didn’t make any sense when you consider the serious themes of sexual and domestic abuse that dominated a film that captivatingly depicted the inspirational journey of its alluring subject.
The fact that What’s Love Got To Do With It was deemed comical in any way is a testament to how little Black Lives mattered to the esteemed voters who somehow found a legit way to minimize the traumatic scenes — that Bassett brilliantly conveyed throughout the film.
It’s also hard to believe that What’s Love didn’t score a Best Film nomination in its misplaced grouping when other less-entitled offerings like Dave and Sleepless in Seattle managed to receive their nods. The only explanation has to be the fact that it was clearly not a comedy or a musical, which brings us back to why its leading lady was set up for failure from the jump.
Basset ended up winning her Golden Globe, and that was ultimately her undoing because when it came time for the biggest prize of all — she lost out to Holly Hunter — who got the Best Actress Oscar for her role in The Piano.
Truth be told — almost twenty-five years later — I’m still bitter as fuck over Bassett’s loss for many reasons — but mostly because of how her hard work and dedication was overlooked and tragically devalued. My endearing disappointment is also seeped in the realization of how Black actresses are rarely featured in prominent categories during award season — and so when such a miracle arrives — the hope is that it ends well.
First off, this isn’t the instance when you root for the Black nominee simply based on race. Issa Rae’s hyped tagline “I’m rooting for everybody Black” is cute and all, but I’m a firm believer of supporting those who deserve it based on merit.
And in my humble opinion Ms. Bassett should’ve won the Academy Award for embodying her most challenging role to date — not to mention how amazingly well she accommodated the physical and emotional requirements. Her flawless interpretation of Tina Turner’s signature moves — coupled with the volatile moments she shared with co-star Laurence Fishburne — who played the equally demanding role of Ike Turner — shouldn’t have been dismissed in favor of the more digestible fare that usually contains foreign elements with harmonious accents to boot.
Yes, The Piano had all the ingredients for the win — including award-worthy cinematography and the armor of an all-White cast who don’t have to say much to woo biased voters — but Bassett gave blood, sweat and tears to her assignment and even admitted how hard she worked to give Tina Turner the stunning tribute of her lifetime:
“It was so demanding, emotionally, every day.” “[There was no] easy day or easy week or easy setup. Every day, every scene, emotionally grueling.”
In this case — words aren’t necessary because Bassett’s monumental achievement is on the screen for all to see — and yet back in 1994 — when the winner for Best Actress was announced at the 66th Academy Awards ceremony — I found myself fighting back tears when the wrong name was uttered.
It was a hard defeat to swallow and even all these years later — I can’t contain the bitterness that overwhelms when I calculate that no Black actress since Halle Berry’s win back in 2002 for Monster’s Ball — has been bequeathed the Best Actress Oscar.
And as we approach another Academy Award ceremony scheduled for March 4, 2018 — it’s pretty much a slam dunk that another White actress will walk away with the grand prize since the category is once again devoid of actresses of color.
Award shows are glorified popularity contests that can’t be taken seriously due to their political tendencies and the fact that the real winners are rarely given their due — and even when it happens — the timing is almost always suspect.
Legendary actor Al Pacino suffered through countless nominations before finally winning the Best Actor Oscar for his annoying performance in Scent of a Woman.
Oscar-nominee Angela Bassett may never have another opportunity to reclaim what was stolen from her — but in reality she was the Best of the bunch and if the Academy wants to compensate — by all means do so.
Better late than never.