Tag Archives: Oscars

The Iconic Ruby Dee Dies at 91

For many, the allure of a life in the arts stems from the possibility of becoming a legend. The right role and the right story can permanently catapult an actor into the public consciousness.

For Ruby Dee, the iconic actress and civil rights activist, her legend stemmed not just from her break-through roles and wonderful performances, but also from the important part she played off-screen in shaping America’s civil rights movement and fighting for equality up until her death last Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Dee was 91 years old.


Born in 1922, Dee was just 18 when she landed her first role in a Harlem production of On Strivers Row. From those humble beginnings, she went on to  multiple roles on Broadway, television, and in film, starring opposite such heavy-hitters as Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, and James Earl Jones.

She was the first black woman ever to play a lead role at the American Shakespeare Festival, or on such popular soap operas as Peyton Place and Guiding Light. Her acting achievements earned her an Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award, five Emmy nominations (with one win for Decoration Day),  a Grammy, two Screen Actors Guild awards, the NAACP Image Award, Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, and the National Civil Rights Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Then, at the age of 83, she garnered an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress in 2007’s American Gangster, playing the mother of Denzel Washington.

Dee and Washington in American Gangster.
Dee and Washington in American Gangster.

As important as Dee’s acting career was to her, it always went hand-in-hand with her activism. In fact, she saw no separation between the two, commenting once that if actors could be image makers, “Why can’t we image makers become peacemakers, too?” When she met Ossie Daivs in 1945 and they married in 1948, she found a lifelong partner in her devotion to both the arts and activism.

The two were married for 56 years, becoming one of Hollywood’s most enduring and romantic couples. Together, they made great strides for civil rights, forming close friendships with Martin Luther King, Jr., Harry Belafonte, and Malcolm X, just to name a few. Dee famously emcee’d the 1963 March on Washington. Together, she and Davis received the National Medal of Arts in 1995, were inducted into the NAACP Hall of Fame in 1989, and received SAG Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2000.

Davis and Dee accept their Lifetime Achievement Award at the 37th Annual SAG Awards.
Davis and Dee accept their Lifetime Achievement Award at the 37th Annual SAG Awards.

Davis passed away in 2005.

Proving what a special place Dee held in the heart of the entertainment community, she was thanked twice during the recent Tony Awards on June 8, 2014, first by six-time winner Audra MacDonald, and then by Kenny Leon, the winning director of A Raisin in the Sun. Both were influenced by Dee’s talent and passion.

What sort of mindset led to Dee’s lifelong success and contentment? As she said in a 1988 interview regarding her and Davis:

“We believe in honesty. We believe in simplicity. We believe in a good breakfast when we can get it. We believe in not going heavily into debt. We believe in education. We believe in love. We believe in the family. We believe in Black history, and we believe in involvement.”

To read more about Ruby Dee, please check out the following articles:

RIP Ruby Dee (1922-2014)


By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

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Who Gets Your Oscar Vote?

The 86th Annual Academy Awards are less than a week away and film enthusiasts everywhere are wondering who will win.

Let’s focus on the Best Picture category. It’s been called the closest Oscar race in recent history. The three front-runners, American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave, have all been equally acknowledged at other awards shows this season. There is no clear favorite to take home the biggest prize of the night, so it seems that fans will be guessing the winner up until the last moment.

Yes, there are six other films nominated, so everyone could be in for a big surprise… but let’s take a look at these three most-likelys:


American Hustle

Director David O’Russell’s latest… this movie received rave reviews, but also acquired a fair amount of nay-sayers. It benefits hugely from its prestigious, of-the-moment cast (which includes ‘it girl’ Jennifer Lawrence) and O’Russell’s own popularity.

Despite the stellar performances and the fun ride it gives audiences, does this film really deserve Best Picture? Its detractors argue that there are glaring plot holes and that it often seems actors were ad-libbing and having fun instead of following a tight script. It’s also been called a “hairdo” movie, relying on the period-piece costumes and wigs for a lot of its appeal.

What do you think?



Gravity, from Alfonso Cuarón, has been a game-changer in the world of film. Nothing quite like it has ever been seen before, and it left audiences breathless. Beginning to end, the film maintains tension, stunning visuals, and heart.

However… it has also been simultaneously accused of having one-dimensional characters and having the backstory for Sandra Bullock’s character be unnecessary.   Some people view it more as a thrill ride that doesn’t achieve Best Picture ranks on an emotional level.


12 Years a Slave

Director Steve McQueen is no stranger to tackling difficult subjects in brutal, graphic ways. 2008’s Hunger was a devastatingly vivid portrayal of a hunger strike that took place in a prison in Northern Ireland.

McQueen continues to cast his eye on harsh realities with 12 Years a Slave, based on the true book by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was abducted and sold into slavery. True to form, McQueen doesn’t pull any punches when showing the brutality toward slaves. However, some people have accused this movie of being ‘torture porn,’ and still others have pointed out that its chances for taking home the Best Picture Oscar are damaged by the fact that, not wanting to see extreme suffering, many academy members may not even watch it.

Who do you think will take home Best Picture? American Hustle, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave – or one of the other six films nominated? The complete list of nominees is as follows:

Cast your vote in the comments below – then tune in to the Academy Awards on March 2, 2014 to see if you’re right!

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

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