Monday, January 19, 2015

Is Hollywood Racist? No, But Maybe the Directors Guild is Sexist

Is Hollywood Racist? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this year’s Academy Awards, the Oscars, nominations last Thursday on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday. Selma is a historical movie about the pivotal 1964 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights marches. The movie focuses on the leadership role of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the roles of his wife, and the major civil rights leaders of the time, in the historical context of half a century ago. David Oyelowo is outstanding as Reverend King and the supporting cast was also exceptional. The script was well-written and the directing by Ana DuVernay superb. However, the movie was essentially snubbed, winning nominations only for Best Picture and Original Song, “Glory” by John Legend. The 20 nominees for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress were all whites, unleashing a flood of condemnation. The five nominated directors were all males. The hope was that David would receive a best actor nomination and Ava for best director, making her the first African American director nominee. The response is that the Academy lacks diversity. The Reverend Al Sharpton joined the critics, demanding an emergency meeting with the Hollywood leaders. The Academy has over 6,000 voting members. A Los Angeles Times study three years ago showed the median age of the members was 62 with 94% white and 77% male. Hollywood cannot blame the nominations on Republicans, Conservatives, the Tea Party, or George W. Bush. Hollywood is one of the most liberal bastions in America. Conservatives are an endangered species in Hollywood. The Academy’s members have proven in recent years that they are not racist in their awards. These “old white men” of the Academy awarded the Best Picture award last year to “12 Years a Slave” and Lupita Nyong’O as the outstanding actress from the movie. Oscars have been awarded, starting with Hattie McDaniel in 1940 (Gone With the Wind) to Sidney Portier, Denzel Washington (Outstanding Actor and Outstanding Best Supporting Actor). Jamie Foxx, Forest Whittaker, Halle Barre, Lou Gossett, Jr., Cuba Gooding, Jr., Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique, and Octavia Spencer. Oscars for music have been awarded to Isaac Hayes, Irene Cara, Stevie Wonder, and Lionel Ritchie. The fault this year traces back to Paramount Studios, which committed “studio malpractice.” Studios pick the movies they wish nominated for an Oscar and then routinely send DVDs to the Academy members. Paramount missed the deadline for the screener DVDs. Paramount needs to take lessons from Harvey Weinstein on Oscar promotions. The Weinstein Company produced “The Imitation Game,” nominated for Best Picture. Selma may also have been hurt by the controversy over its treatment of President Johnson. That will be my next blog. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not the day to address this issue. Suffice to say, the two leaders worked together as partners in pursuing equal rights for the African Americans. Not as significant as the Selma omissions, but the Lego Movie was not nominated for the outstanding Animation Movie. Nor was Amy Adams nominated eventhough she is on her way of becoming the next Meryl Streep, who received her 19th nomination. Angelina Jolie and Unbroken were not nominated. The Oscars have historically been unkind to women directors. Only four have been nominated: Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, and Kathryn Bigelow, who won in 2009 for The Hurt Locker. None, much less the African American Ava, have been nominated since then. Even Angelina Jolie and Unbroken were ignored by the Oscars. The Director’s Oscar appears to be a Good Ole Boy Network – definitely sexist, but perhaps not racist. . We don’t regularly go to the movies, but have managed in the past few years to see many of the nominated movies. My view is that David Oyelovo is definitely more deserving than Benedict Cumberbatch, who always seems to be the same regardless of the movie. One final comment: Cheryl Boone Isaac, an African American woman, has been President of the Academy since 2013.

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