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Oscars

Latinos at the

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By Guillermo Reyes

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22

Latino Perspectives Magazine

¡ February 2013!

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“Latinos sweep the Oscars!” Now there’s a headline that allows film fans to inhabit an alternate universe. The Academy Awards has featured a few of these rare sightings – Latinos – exotic beings who occasionally manage to get nominated or even win now and then. But, we all know that most of the time this headline could be followed by a cruel joke about maintenance practices at the Academy. A series of articles in the L.A. Times in 2012 revealed that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is no more diverse than, say, the United States Senate, which is largely represented by white, male legislators over the age of 60. Only one woman has ever won for Best Director, and no U.S. Latino has ever been nominated in that category. The Academy is an institution of privilege. In order to join, artists need to be invited on the basis of significant achievements in the industry. But there’s the catch – since Hollywood rarely finances the making of films with important roles for Latino actors or rarely hires a Latino director to begin with, the chances of developing a prestigious career are minimal. For all this, the list of Latinos who have featured prominently at the Academy Awards isn’t long but it’s a form of counter-narrative: people who have swam upstream and somehow survived to belong to an exclusive list. I have taught a class on the Oscars for two years at Arizona State University and I start with a caveat: the Oscars represent a public relations hustle of the film industry and, ultimately, the main story boils down to an elite within an elite of accomplished Hollywood insiders that vote themselves the awards. I’m too jaded to think there’s anything particularly wrong with this. The alternative is to have only critics vote for

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awards, and they’re an even more exclusive club of carping, sniveling cognoscenti, and People’s Choice Awards? Puh-lease! The average filmgoer, for instance, can’t handle subtitles; for those of us with Latino backgrounds, we know what type of ethnocentricity that represents among the American public. The Academy is what Winston Churchill said about democracy – it’s the worst system, except for all the others. Nonetheless, for those of us who can withstand a bit of glamour and take it straight, there’s great satisfaction in discussing the best films of the year, rating them, and second guessing the winners and the nominees. Here’s a list of Latinos at the Oscars, culminating in a little surprise for those of who didn’t know to what extent the Oscar statuette itself is Latino. Along the way, I also bring up the issue of how difficult it is at times to define “Latino.” Are the Spaniards included? That’ll be my first question, not to be easily resolved within this article because Latino identity itself appears to be a work in progress in this country. Many of you will have your own choices and issues. Let the second guessing begin!

Latino Perspectives Magazine February 2013  

Magazine focused on the Arizona Latino Market

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