Did Halle Berry deserve an Oscar for Monster’s Ball?
Did Halle Berry’s Oscar win mark any kind of significance for black actresses?
Check out my video response below:
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In 2002 Monster’s Ball (an indie film about racial prejudice and redemption) received major film nominations at the BAFTA’s the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. Halle Berry received an Academy Award for her performance. Her fellow nominees were Judi Dench (Iris) Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge) Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’s Diary) and Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom).
Berry was named the first black woman to ever win an Oscar in the best actress category. That same year Denzel Washington won a best actor Oscar for Training Day and Sidney Poitier won a lifetime achievement Oscar. Her Oscar speech was also a topic of much conversation. Please see video below:
Prior to 2002 only 33 black actors and black actresses had been nominated for acting awards. Since the year Berry and Washington won 29 black actors have received acting nominations with seven wins. Prior to Berry’s win two African American actresses won Oscars in the supporting category. Hattie McDaniel (Gone With The Wind, 1939) and Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost, 1990). These wins are not considered to be as significant as Halle’s win because they were in the supporting actress category. This led to the belief that Halle Berry had opened door for black actresses
Halle Berry’s acceptance speech was excruciating. It was the kind of speech that made me uncomfortable and it was hard to watch. It was incredibly over the top and deliriously emotional to the point of nausea. It seems that she won many people over with her over emotive drivel. Among all the screaming, screeching, wailing, crying and “oh my gods” she managed to utter this nonsensical line:
“This moment is so much bigger than me. This is for every nameless, faceless woman of colour that now has a chance because this door has been opened”.
It might make some of us feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside to think that she opened the door for black actresses but she did not.
A fact check into her family history reveals that she is not of full black origin. Her father was African American yet her mother is Caucasian (English/German descent). Her white mother is visible in the Oscar win video above. Therefore, she did not open anything except her irrational mouth. US actress Jennifer Beals was born to an African American father and an Irish American mother. She is referred to as Bi-Racial. Halle Berry is referred to as a black actress. That doesn’t make any sense to me.
Halle Berry also forgot to acknowledge black actresses who have actually won Oscars in the supporting category (McDaniel, Goldberg). I would claim that McDaniel actually kicked the door open and Goldberg smashed it down. Who cares whether the win is for lead or supporting? It was a massive deal for a black actress like McDaniel to win an Oscar in 1939. It was highly significant when Goldberg won in 1990. The gap between a black actress Oscar winner was fifty years!
Whoopi Goldberg was the Oscar’s host the year Berry won. She snidely remarked “I’d like to thank Halle Berry for opening those doors”. Goldberg apparently has held a grudge against Berry for this omission. When Whoopi was interviewed on a Dutch television show and was asked about Berry’s Oscar win, the interviewer made a remark about “the door already being opened” hinting at Goldberg’s 1990 win for Ghost. Whoopi sarcastically retorted “Halle apparently forgot that”.
I enjoyed Monster’s Ball. It was a well made film with solid performances and a sound script. Halle Berry gave a good performance but it was not Oscar worthy. I would have awarded the Oscar to Judi Dench for Iris. Overall, she is not a good actress and generally picks woeful film projects. I suspect the director of Monster’s Ball pushed her into a good performance. A one off good performance does not make one an overall good actor. Her Oscar win will always be a mind boggling. Her wretched speech will always leave a bad taste in my mouth.
Check out my Meryl Streep article here