Sasha Stone of Awards Daily wrote this very passionate piece about racism and the Oscars. I never share opinion pieces with readers but I was very taken by the truth that was said in the piece. Here’s an excerpt and please give it a quick read:
It’s really hard, isn’t it, to defend, spend time on, invest any emotion on an institution that could continually, and repeatedly, up to and including this year, make such ridiculous choices when the better films are staring them right in the face. Blame the public too, blame the critics especially, and blame our human experience, which seems to like narratives separate. For all of our liberal talk, Hollywood has still not figured this whole racism thing out.
Two decades ago, racism played itself out uncomfortably at the Oscars, when a young filmmaker and upstart named Spike Lee, one of the best filmmakers working in and outside of Hollywood, released Do the Right Thing. It was by far one of the best, if not the best film of that year. However, Oscar, in all of his progressive glory, decided to nominate Do the Right Thing for only supporting actor for Danny Aiello, and screenplay for Lee. The Best Picture nominees that year were instead:
Driving Miss Daisy (9 nominations, won 4, director NOT nominated)
Born on the Fourth of July (8 nominations, won 2)
Dead Poets Society (4 nominations, won 1)
Field of Dreams (3 nominations, won 0)
My Left Foot (5 nominations, won 2)
But that year, unlike this year, people were willing to talk about it, get mad about it, even say something publicly about it.
In a year where the theme seemed to be ‘silence,’ an shadow was cast over films thought brought to life very significant and important issues that still face us today. “The Help” is an obvious choice but there was gender discrimination in “The Iron Lady,” men who hate women in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” animal cruelty at its worst in “Project Nim,” and the discrimination of homosexuality in “Beginners,” “Weekend,” and you can even make an argument in “J. Edgar,” although poorly done.
Oscar can run away from these issues as we’ve seen in the past (“Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain”), and where Ms. Stone takes her argument, it seems it’s not entirely Oscar’s fault. Precursors such as the Independent Spirit Awards or ICS can embrace the differences that separate us, but these aren’t friendly films that make it the DVD shelves of middle America. Critics can embrace the culture of the films at first glance but often times won’t stand by it by year’s end. I can only hope that progression has been made in our changing times where homosexuals and lesbians are able to marry and have children and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is a horrible memory of the past.
This bridges its way into the way we, or AMPAS rather views films and its performers. Andy Serkis’ work in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was one of the most unique and wonderful turns seen this year. A commitment that can nearly go unmatched. He’s done this before in “King Kong” where fans and critics were championing his work. Oscar does not see that way. Will there be something that changes their minds in the future? I’d argue if the performance of “Gollum” in “The Lord of the Rings” didn’t do it, we’re in for a long road. Motion capture is a controversial topic as some members of the animated film branch have said “Tintin is NOT animation.” I knew this which led to an omission off my Animated Feature predictions. Oscar thought like Oscar does. No “Tintin” nominated. Some can argue, it just wasn’t in the top five best of the year. How many have seen “Chico & Rita” and “A Cat in Paris?” We don’t know. We’ll know soon enough.
Is there still a strong prejudice at the core of the Academy after all this time? Only recently were we able to get a women her directing Oscar. Kathryn Bigelow took on a male-driven genre and made it even more authentic than most war films have been for a while. “The Hurt Locker” was a superb piece of cinema that showcased a very familiar war in a time where it’s still going on. A dirty, vulgar, and sweaty Terrence Howard received a nomination for “Hustle and Flow” over big names Russell Crowe (“Cinderella Man”), Jeff Daniels (“The Squid and the Whale”), and Ralph Fiennes (“The Constant Gardener”). The film received a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild for Best Cast Ensemble. Was that telling that some felt a Best Picture nomination was deserved? Who knows? Was it worthy? I argue it may have been. It introduced us to talents of Taraji P. Henson and Taryn Manning as prostitutes with a heart of gold. Both went ignored by AMPAS but you can’t satisfy everyone.
This is for general discussion and I don’t mean to piggy back or step on Sasha Stone’s shoes, her great piece got me thinking. Let us know what you are thinking!
Comment and discuss.