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The word "snub" is being thrown around a lot this morning, thanks to the unsurprisingly #OscarsSoWhite nominations. All 20 of the acting noms are for white folks, excluding Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Will Smith (Concussion), Michael B. Jordan (Creed), and the three excellent leads in Straight Outta Compton. Todd Haynes' Carol didn’t score a Best Picture nomination. And for the more populist crowd, Furious 7’s ubiquitous and undeniably moving "See You Again" is somehow considered lesser than Sam Smith’s terrible Spectre theme, "Writing's on the Wall." But, again, #OscarsStillSoDamnWhite.
Consider this: Creed and Straight Outta Compton both star predominantly black casts and were made by black filmmakers, but their nominations—Sylvester Stallone for Creed, the four credited screenwriters for Straight Outta Compton—are for white people. Think about that.
Once you've stopped fuming from that ridiculous B.S., also consider this: The Oscars aren’t worth getting so worked up over because they’ve always overlooked incredibly worthy talents, like the one the film world lost this morning in the midst of the Oscar announcements. Alan Rickman, the great British actor who’s been one of the industry’s most underrated giants since the 1980s, has passed away from cancer. He was 69.
To brings things full circle here, Alan Rickman never received an Academy Award nomination. Yet most, if not all, of his peers would agree that he was one of his generation's best. That being a fact, it's more important today than ever to remember that, while the Oscars can do amazing things for the nominees and winners, a lack of an AMPAS stamp doesn’t mean anything in the context of an entire career. Nobody's questioning Rickman’s excellence this morning by saying, "But…but…he never received a nomination—so was he really that good?"
In recent years, Rickman became known for his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies; romance lovers will always adore him for being a major part of the rom-com classic Love, Actually; and sci-fi buffs will continue to salute him for proving his comedic chops in the wacky and subversive flicks Galaxy Quest and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And while those are all terrific performances, for many, Rickman’s legacy starts and stops with five words: Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Bruce Willis' heroic blue-collar protagonist John McClane has become the action franchise’s lead, but director John McTiernan’s 1988 original is really Rickman’s show.
Arrogant, callous, fashionably suit-clad, and sporting one of cinema's cleanest beards, Gruber is the pinnacle of '80s action movie villains. He's a perfect gentleman with a heart of ice, the British Patrick Bateman long before Bret Easton Ellis wrote American Psycho Die Hard was actually Rickman’s first Hollywood movie, and he initially didn't even want the part. The stage-trained Brit, who was 41 at the time, scoffed at the film's guns-and-explosions genre tropes. “I didn’t know anything about LA," Rickman told The Guardian last year. "I didn't know anything about the film business … I'd never made a film before, but I was extremely cheap." About the script specifically, he first thought, "What the hell is this? I'm not doing an action movie.” But once he sat with the script for a bit more time, he changed his tune. "Every single black character in that film is positive and highly intelligent. Twenty-eight years ago, that’s quite revolutionary, and quietly so."
Imagine what Rickman would think, then, about how anti-revolutionary the Oscars team has once again proven themselves to be with 2016’s edition of #OscarsStillTheAbsoluteWhitest. Chances are, he wouldn’t give the Academy any power; instead, he’d show unfairly ignored actors like Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan the love they deserve and put the attention towards their performances, not their snubbing. Because in real life, Rickman was the polar opposite of the malevolent Hans Gruber.
Rather than waste energy and ink on why the Oscars are so infuriating, spend today watching Rickman's work and honoring someone who made cinema something special. Don’t let the AMPAS' close-mindedness win the news cycle.
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