Will Smith Won’t Get an Oscar for Emancipation, So Can We Cancel the Slap Apology Tour Yet? +2023

Will Smith is not nominated for an Oscar emancipation.

Price predictions are always a tricky business, but this particular assessment feels safe. Yes, it’s too soon after the actor beat Oscar presenter Chris Rock live on TV in March. (Late March, at that – just eight months ago!) But more than that, there’s the fact that emancipation– which hit theaters last week and started streaming AppleTV+ today – is just not very good. And it’s certainly not worth Smith’s cringe-worthy apology tour.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua – known for his action thrillers like training day, Olympus has fallen, and infinitybased on a screenplay by William N. Collage, emancipation is a disjointed mix of a clichéd Civil War slave drama and an action-packed chase film. Smith plays an enslaved man named Peter with a Haitian accent too precise to feel natural. Peter is separated from his family and forced to work on building the Mississippi Railroad, and as he is carted away, he shouts back to his sobbing son that he will find his way back. Fuqua leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to showing audiences the brutality of slavery. Through a muted sepia palette we see the decapitated heads of black men on poles, black men collapsing from exhaustion, and mass graves full of black bodies carelessly tossed one on top of the other.

It’s hard to watch, and that’s the point, to be sure. But it only makes it more chilling when Fuqua abruptly switches to “fun, alpha male, chase” mode. Peter and a few other men make a breakthrough through the swamp with the ruthless slavers (led by a sociopathic Ben Foster) hot on their heels. From that point until he reaches the safety of a Union Army camp, Smith is a bonafide action hero. He wrestles an alligator with nothing but a knife and wins. He climbs trees and cuts down wasp nests. He cuts leeches from his body, cauterizes his wounds with hot coals, and he never, ever cries. (Until he’s reunited with his family, of course.) Instead, he grittes his teeth and chokes back his screams, like a man. All of this has very little to do with the “based on a true story” historical drama Oscar Bait emancipation was clearly sold as.

Though it’s impossible to know what would have been, even without The Slap, emancipation doesn’t feel like the kind of film that would have earned Smith the hardware he’s been chasing for years. (It’s all the more tragic that he overshadowed his long-awaited win for best actor King Richard.) Despite everything, Smith is still a great actor. But unlike the layered, complex character study of Reinaldo Marcus Green King Richard biopic, emancipation doesn’t make Smith an Oscar-worthy character. Peter is flat and one-dimensional. All we really know about him is that he is a man of faith, loyal to his family. And that’s it. During the film’s two-hour and twelve-minute runtime, we learn nothing more about Peter apart from his superhuman survivability. Too bad, too, because the real story that inspired the film is a fascinating chapter in American history worthy of a much better film than this one.

Sure, Apple – which won the Oscar for best picture last year KODAbelieves the film has a shot at this year’s Academy Awards. Why else would the studio let Smith tell the story The daily News‘s Trevor Noah that he “lost it?” And assures the readers of diversity that he “fully understands” when audiences aren’t “ready” for his comeback? It’s an apology tour filled with far more hand-wringing and admissions of wrongdoing than most of the Hollywood men on 2017’s #MeToo list. It’s uncomfortable. It’s frightening, as the kids might say. And frankly, Fuqua’s mediocre film isn’t worth the hassle.

If Apple can’t be persuaded to delay the film’s release — because it really is too early — then Smith and his PR team should do the world a favor and spare us the rest of the apology tour. Nobody gets an Oscar for it.

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