Could it be, after 44 years, that Oscar is finally starting to take its cue from the NAACP Image Awards?
A nearly historic number of pics — “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Django Unchained” — appear on both award-nomination tallies for the year’s best picture, with a third, “Flight,” heavily nommed by both orgs. “Red Tails” and “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds” round out the five NAACP Image Awards best picture noms.
If that kind of crossover doesn’t seem like much, look at the past two years of NAACP nominees. Only “The Help” in 2011 and “The Kids Are All Right” in 2010 were also Oscar blessed.
This year’s NAACP pic nominees have also stepped it up at the box office. “Beasts,” made for under $2 million, is the lowest grosser among the five, doing around $20 million. It’s a cume, however, that would be the envy of such recent NAACP best picture nominees as “Pariah” (2011) and “The First Grader” (2010), each of which grossed under $1 million.
“I’d like to think that it’s true that there are more mainstream, high-profile movies being made that are African-American,” says “Red Tails” producer Charles Floyd Johnson. “It depends on the year. 2012 was a very good year for that.” Johnson, for the most part, credits the stars for making that happen. “Actors like Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington and Will Smith do major studio movies, along with the Tyler Perry movies, and so you have much bigger box office than in the past.”
It’s obvious, too, that the bulk of Oscar nominations and honors going to African-Americans has occurred in recent years. “Since about 2000,” says Johnson. “Hollywood has changed in the sense that you find African Americans get cast not just in black films but are more prominent in major studio movies.”
But the big question: “Where are the minority directors?” Johnsons asks. “They are there, but they’re not getting the larger budget pictures. That is a much more limited club.”
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