Its Oscar time again, and you havent heard a peep from director Diego Luna griping that his film about heroic farm labor leader Cesar Chavez didnt get nominated for Best Picture or any other Academy Award.
And the small-budget film, Cesar Chavez, Oscar buzz or no Oscar buzz, had some strong points in it.
Michael Peñas portrayal of the Latino civil rights leader was every bit as good as David Oyelowos in Selma, the Oscar-nominated film for best picture about Martin Luther Kings voting rights march that has had many African Americans complaining about Academy Awards slights.
As if, real life awards for film-making were supposed to have some kind of Affirmative Action quotas or be like Little League where every participant gets a trophy.
Oscars snub Latinos
By contrast, historically, there hasnt been this same kind of moaning and groaning from most Latinos, griping that Hispanic actors havent been nominated in numbers that would seem representative of the nation’s demographics.
And yet, unless my reading of Census Bureau numbers is wrong, Latinos now outnumber blacks in America by a significant margin. Not to mention that Latinos are also a sizable bigger chunk of the movie-ticket buyers than African Americans.
Where’s the Latino Oscar Buzz?
Why is that?
Why hasnt there been a furor among Hispanics like weve seen from blacks over the fact that Cesar Chavez hasnt been an awards darling at Oscar time, or perceived slights such as the fact that director Robert Rodriguez has never won an Academy Award or even a Golden Globe.
For crying out loud, shouldnt Antonio Banderas be nominated every year, regardless of whether hes made a movie, or no matter how bad its been? Should Salma Hayek pull some kind of stupid Kanye West antic at the Oscars and take to the stage at Best Actress time to make some kind embarrassing self-serving scene?
But, of course, we wont see that kind of ridiculous behavior from Hispanic artists, just as most Latinos while wishing that more Hispanics were in the entertainment business arent going to realistically expect that any Latino-themed movie or their actors be honored as if it were our Citizen Kane.
And, for the record, Citizen Kane didnt win a Best Picture Oscar, losing out to How Green Was My Valley, in 1942 ever heard of that one? Alfred Hitchcock never won an Academy Award either, and Francis Ford Coppola didnt win best director for The Godfather.
The artists from all those films, though, were winners nevertheless and especially so for not being sore losers.
Do third & fourth generation Latinos really care?
As for Latinos today, a different kind of socio-psychological phenomenon may be at play.
Many third and fourth generation Latinos those with roots in America dating back to the time of JFK or whose parents or grandparents fought in Vietnam or World War II have so quietly assimilated into the mainstream that, especially among millennials of those generations, they identify as easily with non-Hispanic white characters as with Latinos.
They dont need to have a brown face on the screen as an incentive to pay the admission price to see a movie. The film doesnt have to belabor the issues and problems of racial or ethnic discrimination, nor fictionalize or distort a historical truth for the sake of civil rights grandstanding.
The film industry was built on entertainment, after all, and good films — like good art and literature — transcends color or creed. And their real measure, as such, lies beyond box office totals and Oscars.