I’ve got an answer for Oscar snubs
While the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag on Twitter is burning up, I confess I can’t get too upset over the lack of diversity in the recently announced 2015 Oscar nominations. They say it’s the whitest Oscars since 1998, yet I can’t rouse my inner Al Sharpton awake, if I even have one of those. And it’s not (just) because I loathe awards shows. It’s not that I couldn’t care less what designer a starlet is traipsing down the red carpet wearing. It’s not just the interminable songs, the lame jokes, forced laughs, or the rambling acceptance speeches thanking people we don’t know and don’t care about. Watching four hours of Hollywood masturbating itself isn’t my idea of fun.
Maybe some of my lack of outrage is over the categories. Why not make Best African-American Actor/Actress and Best Latino Actor/Actress awards? And we can go on down the line and honor Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and on and on. That would guarantee representation every year. That’s absurd, you say? Maybe bordering on racist and divisive?
Well, why do we have best actor and best actress awards? It’s the same job whether the person doing it has a penis or vagina. Are male and female actresses so different that there needs to be separate categories for their art? I don’t even bother to call them actresses usually. They’re all actors. Of course if we did away with gender-based Oscars, then the poor male actors would get mighty upset watching Meryl Streep (nominated 19 times) walk away with the statuette year after year.
It may be that I’m cynical. Look at the numbers. Academy voters are 94% white and 77% male. In its 84-year history, less than 4% of Oscars have been handed to black actors. Only one female director has ever won. Perhaps when “12 Years a Slave” took home the big prizes last year, it made more than a few of the white liberals in the Academy check that “diversity” box off, so “Selma” never stood a chance. Y’all won last year. I have no way of knowing if that factored into the voting, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
The Oscars often lean towards politics over art. The problem with the focus on race and gender is that when minorities or females do win, it’s often played as an affirmative action choice. That’s what happened when Denzel Washington picked up a best actor trophy (second black actor to win) for “Training Day” and Halle Berry won (first black actress to ever win) best actress for “Monster’s Ball.”
I’m not saying the Academy awarded Denzel the statuette out of white guilt because he’s black. “Training Day” is one of my favorite movies and Washington’s performance was hypnotically malevolent. But I think the Academy may have given him the nod since they screwed him when he should’ve won the Best Actor Award for 1993’s “Malcolm X.” At the time the Academy awarded it to Al Pacino for “Scent of a Woman.” Now I love Pacino and really liked “Scent,” but come on. Pacino won because he’d never won before. Pacino had been nominated seven times before for films like”The Godfather l & ll,” “Serpico,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “…And Justice for All” and “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and he wins for “Scent of a Woman?”
Politics have often hung over nominees and winners. When “Crash” beat out “Brokeback Mountain” for best picture in 2005, many claimed Brokeback lost because of homophobia. Had it won, you would’ve seen critics and bloggers saying it won because of its gay theme.
Everyone knows the Academy is political. Studios take out ads in papers and campaign for films. External events are often rumored to influence voting on something that should solely be about merit. But awards for art are always going to be political and arbitrary.
Is the Academy of Arts and Sciences racist and sexist? It’s probably no more so than the general population. And we can’t lose sight of the fact that there have been many Oscar snubs having nothing to do with race. Alfred Hitchcock never won a directing Oscar. Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest American directors of all time, has only one. Anthony Perkins wasn’t nominated for Psycho and Dennis Hopper wasn’t for Blue Velvet.
The real fight is getting more women and minorities behind the camera as well as in front of it. It’s a crime that Gillian Flynn, writer of the novel “Gone Girl,” didn’t get nominated for the screenplay she adapted from her book. The way we get more Gillian Flynns adapting and writing screenplays is to support their work. Ava DuVarney didn’t get nominated for the masterful job she did with “Selma,” but we need to keep supporting her. David Oyelowo acted his face off in the role of Martin Luther King, Jr. and didn’t get nominated. But he’ll be back. Talent will win out.
We need to support diverse peoples to get different stories told. Building more diversity in Hollywood will inevitably make the Academy more diverse, with more opportunity for women and minorities to be recognized for their achievements.
As for now, I don’t give a damn what some outdated, out of step group thinks is the best picture, best actors and the rest. I’m voting with my wallet. You should too.