Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Picking and choosing race wars in Hollywood

John Krasinski and academy president Cheryl Boone-Isaacs announce the 2015 white best actor nominees Courtesy of Indiewire

“The ‘struggle for civil rights’ crossed the finish line and lost its moral power when demands switched from equal rights to equal results." - Larry Elder

Everyone has the equal right to get nominated for an Academy Award. It doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a nomination.

For the second year in a row, the oh-so-powerful and PC barometer known as social media continued its e-march against the clearly racist voting body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after their list of acting nominees including not one non-Caucasian in four categories.

Of course, this called about continued strides to be made in the academy to have their nominees better reflect the varied persons of all nationalities who make up the population of the United States.

At face value, diversity is a great thing. On the other, I don’t think it’s responsible for a non-profit organization known for preserving the art and science of film to change its already democratic and fair practices by succumbing to peer pressure because people think it’s faulty for some lack of diversity.

While the four acting categories, out of 24 total categories, have come under scrutiny, people have neglected the great accomplishments of two men who aren’t white, but because they aren’t black people don’t care.

Auteur Alejandro G. Iñárritu has become the first Mexican filmmaker whose films were the most nominated at the Academy Awards two years in a row (2014’s eventual best picture winner “Birdman” tied for most nods with nine, while 2015’s “The Revenant” leads with 12).

Furthermore, since society loves to tag the nationality to people who aren’t white, Mexican cinematographer is poised to be the first to take home the Oscar for best cinematography for the third year in a row, this time for “The Revenant”.

When you go back to 2013 with Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” winning seven Oscars, and he the first Mexican to win best director, and “12 Years a Slave” winning best picture, I think it is very fair to say that the academy has been quite diversified for the last three years.

But again, if it’s not black enough at face value, like in 2014 and 2015, people will have a problem with it.

I guess Mexicans and Hispanics don’t really count as “minorities” in the eyes of those on social media commenting that the academy isn’t diverse enough. Are they just blending into the overly white academy and dodging cheers and jeers? No one seems to care how well they’ve done recently.

And that is the problem nowadays. People are picking and choosing which Hollywood race wars they want to start, and for which race/sex/nationality they wish to fight for. They want cheer for everyone who accomplishes something, but they’ll boo the white man when things don’t go their way.

Mexicans dominating the Oscars? Who cares.

Viola Davis becomes the first black woman to win the leading drama actress at the Emmys after 67 years? Tons of jubilation.

Darius Rucker becomes the first black man to win a country solo performance Grammy in the white-only field? Whatever.

In the same year Rucker broke into the country categories, white hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis win best rap album and best new artist Grammys over fellow rap newcomer Kendrick Lamar, and that causes an uproar.

And, of course, “Selma” was nominated for best picture, the only film about a black man to make the top lineup that wasn’t about a white man, and the film’s Oscar-winning songwriter’s for “Glory” were black. Being nominated for the top film award in the world is an honor, but there were too many expressions of ungratefulness for them to appreciate it. To top it off, it won an Oscar.

The trouble with our society is that we focus too much on our differences with each other and not our similarities. Every time there’s an awards show we focus on which white/black/Hispanic/Asian person won or lost what. We don’t celebrate the achievements of people in a wide variety of popular fields, we celebrate only the accomplishments their minority status has achieved.

It’s an invitation to further divide the masses by recognizing people by the color of their skin, and using that as a societal ‘F-you’ to put down the white man for their years of oppression.

Aren’t we tired of using race, sex, or any other physical characteristic as a sympathy card for acting like people haven’t been able to do anything though the doors have been open for a while?

The academy should hold firm against the naysayers who say the nominees are too white and or not diversified enough. If it’s any consolation, 11 of the acting nominees hail from other countries. Not good enough? OK then.

Perhaps the votes didn’t fall in favor of having at least one, non-white acting nominee, but should we be focusing on the color makeup of each category as opposed to the expertise of a nominee’s craft? Apparently, we have to.

Perhaps there isn’t enough award-worthy acting from the black community, let alone respectable pieces of work that have been seen by the masses.

“Beasts of no Nation”, though with plenty of awards recognition for Idris Elba, was slated, but look at its approach. It was released in theaters and on Netflix the same day, earning only $90,777 during its theatrical run. And do you think those old fogeys in the academy are going to sit at a computer for over two hours to watch a movie? Doubtful. That’s one reason I don’t think Elba was nominated, no one saw him.

Another “contender” that was slated was “Concussion”, starring Will Smith as the doctor who ripped open the concussion problem among professional football players. Earning a mere $33 million so far in theaters – which is low for that usual box office magnet – the predictable, sudsy story is nothing to write home about. If the film isn’t good, no one will care about just one performance being touted for award kudos.

Meanwhile, other black-centric movies like “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” received nominations, but for white people: Sylvester Stallone for his supporting turn in “Creed” and the white writers of “Straight Outta Compton”.

Everything else was Kevin Hart crap.

It's not the academy's fault the white men who run Hollywood don't want to make black films, nor is it their fault if anyone wants to make garbage. Expanding academy membership by a hugely large sum to increase diversity does not take away from the fact that great black films are not being made. 

Remember when the academy expanded the list of best picture nominees to 10 at the hopes of bringing in more popular fare into the mix and it only ended up expanding the field to more independent features?Who's to say that expanding academy membership isn't just going to broaden the support of a select few films that don't feature blacks?

People can’t be happy about these films getting any nominations when race has to be thrown into the mix. 

But these are the times we live in. We’re hyper-focused on our differences and exploiting that to make it a necessity to get things. Just being a black performer does not equate to an Oscar nomination for the hell of it. 

The fact of the matter is that minority status is only relevant when getting by own it doesn't benefit someone. It's an overprivileged way to get by for no reason other than being different. While Martin Luther King, Jr. said we should only be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin, that's not the society we live in, and we probably never will.

And in Hollywood, well, some areas are doing better than others in getting by, with accomplishments in movies being at the bottom of the totem pole. Pretty white? Yes. An emergency PR move to get more black people in the academy to vote for awards? Desperation. It won't solve the problem if there are no redeeming stories to be told.

Ultimately, why the hell would you want an Oscar? Not like your career can really take off if you win one. Look at Julia Roberts, she hasn't had to be anywhere.

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