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Eddie Murphy was dynamite in Dolemite, regardless of his Oscars snub

#OscarsSoWhite? Let’s add #OscarsSoDumb.

While it’s ludicrous that this year’s nominees in the acting categories include only two people of color, the most egregious snub was Eddie Murphy’s, who has never been better than his performance in Dolemite Is My Name.

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The Academy has made strides in recent years by adding more non-white voters to its rolls, but this year seems like a step back, with notable snubs of Asian (Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen for The Farewell and the cast of Parasite), Latina (Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers), and Black (Lupita Nyong’o for Us and Murphy) actors.

All of the above actors gave Oscar-worthy performances, but the exclusion of Murphy stands out as particularly clueless. The comedic actor appears in every scene of the film and is never less than an absolute delight to watch in each, whether he’s clowning around or exploring the dramatic depths of his character, real-life comedian and blaxploitation film star Rudy Ray Moore.

One potential factor in Murphy being passed over for a nomination is the actor’s long and stormy relationship with the Academy. While at the height of his fame in 1988, the then-26-year-old Murphy showed he was way ahead of the curve by admonishing voters for not doing a good enough job of recognizing Black people in the motion picture industry.

Eddie Murphy Calls Out Hollywood at 60th Academy Awards 1988

“I’ll probably never win an Oscar for saying this, but what the hey, I gotta say it,” Murphy said while presenting the Best Picture award at the 60th Academy Awards ceremony. “Actually, I may not get in trouble because the way it’s been going, [with a Black actor nominated] every 20 years, … we’re not due for another until about 2004, so … by that time this will have all blown over.”

If only he’d been as prescient about that last bit. Murphy was eventually nominated, in 2007 for Dreamgirls, but lost to Little Miss Sunshine‘s Alan Arkin, who appeared in that film for all of 14 minutes. Murphy, in contrast, did a lot more with his much meatier role as a drug-addicted soul singer patterned on James Brown and others of the age.

Let’s face it, he’s made a slew of terrible movies over the years.

Whatever the reason for Murphy’s Dolemite performance being ignored  — let’s face it, he’s made a slew of terrible movies over the years — it’s clear that Oscars voters still have strides to make in recognizing not just the increasingly diverse acting talent out there right now, but also genres such as comedy.

While comedic films have historically been passed over for Oscar nods, Dolemite is one of the best films I saw all year and, along with Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, one of those I most enjoyed watching. The fact that it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination — or one for its electric star — is yet another in a long list of the Academy’s major omissions.

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Rob Oster
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