Last summer, actor and San Antonio native Jesse Borrego (Blood In, Blood Out) was one of 395 movie professionals invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Now, for the first time in his career, Borrego is a voting member of the body, and he recently cast a ballot for this year's Oscars.
Through its diversity initiatives, the 2021 class, according to the Academy, was made up of 46% women, 39% from underrepresented ethnic communities and 53% from countries outside of the United States.
During an interview with the Current, Borrego talked about his first year as an Academy member and — without revealing who he voted for — named some of his favorite films and performances of last year.
The 94th annual Academy Awards ceremony takes place Sunday, March 27, 2022, at 7 p.m. For a complete rundown of nominees, visit oscars.org.
What was your experience as a first-year member of the Academy?
It was good to be able to see it from the inside out. We're getting to see a lot more representation [in Academy membership]. It was a good feeling to be a part of it and see what's happening now. People are now advocating for more representation, and it's effective. As an actor, if you're not involved in one of the nominated films, you're usually on the outside looking in.
How did you handle all the Oscar movies you got to screen over the last few months?
It was easy to binge watch [the films] instead of binging Netflix shows. As a cinephile, you really get to enjoy them at a whole new level.
So, what Oscar nominees did you like?
The Power of the Dog was very strong as a total film. It has a lot of great performances. I think Andrew Garfield was incredible in Tick, Tick ... Boom. That one was a surprise. I would have liked to see it get more nominations.
What did you think about West Side Story?
I love the musical genre, and I'm glad it's coming back. I loved In the Heights and Tick, Tick ... Boom. I'm not a big fan of franchises or remakes. I thought West Side Story was fabulous, but the perspective was not my favorite. I don't think it was necessarily the correct, contemporary perspective of the Latinx culture. West Side Story is a musical theater perspective on urban culture, but it was the urban culture of that time. I wouldn't redo West Side Story unless some Latinos came in and wrote a whole new version of the script and the score, but then it wouldn't be West Side Story, right? Still, anything Steven Spielberg touches is genius. I don't think it's wrong that it's up for Best Director, but Best Picture? Why would you make the exact same movie 50 years later and give it Best Picture again?
Director Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog) has won just about every precursor award leading up to the Academy Awards. Seems like the Oscar is probably hers to lose.
Her work was incredible. As an outlier to the [Western] genre, it was an incredible piece.
It sounds like you want to see more original work in Hollywood.
I want to see a fresh perspective! I don't mind if they use old stories for inspiration, but there has to be a new perspective, especially if you're talking about diverse voices.
You just described my favorite film last year, CODA. At its core, it's a narrative we've seen countless times before, but it was told in such a beautiful way.
[CODA] to me is the [Best Picture nominee] that stands out. Film is an artform. The goal is to provoke, to create discussion, to teach, to grow, to entertain. I thought CODA accomplished that on so many different levels. I thought it was great seeing a film where you could enjoy that.
Who didn't get nominated that you thought should have?
As a first-time filmmaker, I thought Lin-Manuel Miranda should have gotten a [Best Director] nomination [for Tick, Tick ... Boom]. That didn't feel like a movie made by a first-time director. Also, I really thought Clifton Collins Jr. should have been nominated for Best Actor [for Jockey]. Those are the two that stuck out to me.
What are your plans for watching the Oscars?
It's like the Super Bowl for me. I like how they're really trying to diversify the ceremony with different hosts and presenters. But I'm going to pay attention to see if I voted for the winners. Everyone nominated deserves to be there. They're all Oscar-worthy. It's all about getting enough support and then seeing where the chips fall.
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