So who needs Oscar?


The evening of Jan. 24 (Manila time) saw the announcements of the nominations for the 95th Academy Awards; set to happen on March 12 in Los Angeles. Without a doubt, the local film community were all holding their breath, waiting to see if our Dolly de Leon would capture a Best Supporting Actress nod for her role as Abigail in Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness – and emerge as the first Filipino to earn that distinction. While she made it to the Golden Globes list of nominees for Best Supporting Actress (Angela Bassett won for Wakanda Forever), and is still in the running for the BAFTA’s (British Academy Film Awards, to be held Feb. 19 at London’s Royal Festival Hall), and the Satellite Awards (Feb. 11), the Oscars is arguably, the most coveted nomination of them all.

Dolly took home the Best Supporting Actress award at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association held earlier this month, sharing the stage with Ke Huy Quan, for his supporting role in Everything Everywhere All At Once. But she didn’t get any love from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG); and I personally saw that as a form of “the writing on the wall.” And sure enough, she missed out on an Oscar nomination.

Last Sunday, when posting my column, I mentioned how I wasn’t subscribing to the sentiment shared by so many after the Golden Globes, that the Dolly nomination was a win in itself. Not because I wasn’t happy about the nomination, but because that kind of sentiment reeked of a loser’s attitude. What galled me was how it was left unanswered as to whether we had truly expended all efforts to ensure a win for Dolly – and following that train of thought, whether we’re now mounting a campaign to get her noticed for the Satellite Awards and BAFTA’s – to create “Dolly momentum.”

We’re so proud of you, Dolly de Leon.

My argument is simple enough – Do you think a South Korean film or actor/actress gets a nomination, and then South Korea merely sends prayers to heaven, hoping for the best outcome? As I’ve mentioned in the past, from the time Parasite won at Cannes in 2019, an all-out campaign of PR releases and strategically distributed screeners was set in motion, to leave no stone unturned leading to the Oscars – and we all know how Parasite made South Korean Entertainment history at the 2020 Academy Awards.

Minari was a small indie film that, under regular circumstances, most of the Academy guild members would never have watched. And yet, against a field of Best Supporting Actress nominees that included Glenn Close and Olivia Colman, who emerged the winner at the 2021 Academy Awards? Youn Yuh-Jung! I very much doubt that win was a result purely fueled by bombarding heaven with Korean prayers and votives.
Look at this year’s nominations, and I’ll wager that Netflix and Germany went all out for All Quiet on the Western Front. Picking up a nomination for Best International Feature isn’t surprising, but my eyes got big seeing it’s also in the running for Best Picture.

Yes, Dolly needs our love, but she also needs more than that, if we’re to surmount the odds, and make lighting strike twice or thrice at the Satellite Awards and the BAFTA’s. For her sake, I can only hope that campaign already exists, and we aren’t discouraged by the Oscar snub. Both the Satellite and the BAFTA’s are still tremendous accomplishments for the actress, and we shouldn’t disregard how she’s still in the running for those two awards.

The other thing I mentioned last week, and some people reacted to, was when I called the roles of Dolly and Chai (in Nocebo) a form of unwanted Hollywood racial profiling – Filipinos occupying the lower rungs of the social-economic strata, and typecast as domestic workers and menial staff – and that I inwardly cringed thinking that for foreign audiences this would be their only notion of Filipino representation.
The argument was made to me that audiences today are more sophisticated, and wouldn’t generalize in such a manner. But I beg to disagree. While the younger generation may admonish the older generations about being politically incorrect; deep rooted discrimination still exists, and it’s far too easy to submerge the playing card of “them, not us” with sentiments of superiority.

When I was studying in England, there would still be some who thought we lived in trees and flimsy shacks; and I wouldn’t even try to correct them, as such blatant ignorance is just too tiring to contend with. That may be decades ago, but for the less educated in the West (and believe me, there are still many of them, whether in the United States or in Europe), kneejerk impressions and that wanting to be superior and more advanced, lead them to hasty generalizations.

Dolly should hold her head high! Even without the Oscar nomination.