Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’

By Amelia Solomon

It was a new year of hope and change, and then the biggest blunder of 2015 to date happened.  Okay, the second biggest blunder, if you count that little snafu where the United States “forgot” to send a representative to the Anti-Terrorism Unity Rally in Paris.

Maybe Biden and Kerry had post traumatic stress disorder from childhood games of Red Rover.

On the morning of Thursday, January 15th, the nominees for the 87th Academy Awards were announced.  Some of the nominations were expected, some were unexpected, and then others were given the infamous Oscar snub.  A snub by the Academy is nothing new.  In fact, it happens almost every year to someone.  For example, in 2013 both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow did not receive Best Director nominations, even though the films they directed, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty respectively, were both nominated for Best Picture.  2014 saw Spike Jonze miss out on a Best Director nomination for Her.

My beard should make me a shoe-in.

With often only five nominees announced per category, it’s a given that not everyone will get honored.  But Hollywood doesn’t have its panties in a twist this go round for no reason.  This year was less about too many great films to choose from, leaving an unlucky person out of the running, and more about an obvious dismissal of works by African-Americans and women.

Where dreams come true. Or not.

Let’s break down the biggest offenses by category and then look at the numbers:

-The Best Picture category expanded from five nominees to 10 in 2009, in order to allow inclusion of pictures that picked up a nomination in a category like best writing, adapted screenplay, but wouldn’t have normally made it into the best overall picture.  This was also a way where smaller films, made outside the studio system, would have a chance to compete against the $100 million studio backed contenders.  So it’s surprising that this year the Academy only nominated the following eight films:  American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash.  What’s also interesting is that every single one of these films revolves around a male main character.  It’s true that the number of films featuring a female protagonist are dismally low, but this category should have included Gone Girl and Wild.  Both films feature female leads and both films were deserving of a best picture nomination.  Gone Girl has made $167 million and has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Wild has made $33 million, which is quite successful for an indie, and has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  This isn’t about adding two films just because they had female leads.  It’s recognizing two films that have been both critically and financially successful and with two open slots, there seems no reasonable explanation for their omission.

It worked for James Franco in 127 Hours.

-The Best Director category this year includes Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Imitation Game.  But where is Selma?  Selma has made $29 million and has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Its story resonates with what has been happening in Missouri and New York recently.  It’s already proven its worth in various award circles where it was nominated for a Golden Globe for best motion picture drama and best director, won the AFI Award for movie of the year, nominated for best director for the Independent Spirit Awards, and won the freedom of expression award for The National Board of Review.  It’s placement in a multitude of additional film award programs is also not a fluke.  The film, directed by Ava DuVernay, were it to have garnered a best director nomination from the Academy, would have made history.  Ms. DuVernay would have been the first African-American woman to receive a best director nomination and only the fifth woman in the history of the Academy to receive a best director nomination.  But most importantly, Ms. DuVernay didn’t deserve a nomination because of her race or sex; she deserved a nomination because her film was one of the top films of 2014.  Whereas a film like Foxcatcher, lacked fine-tuning in terms of pacing and length, which is a misstep by the director.

Yes Ms. DuVernay really is a Director.

-The Best Actor category this year includes Steve Carell for Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper for American Sniper, Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton for Birdman, and Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything.  Again, the missing film is Selma and the missing actor is David Oyelowo.  It’s another instance where an African-American didn’t make the list.  Oyelowo has already been nominated for best actor for a Golden Globe, for best male lead for an Independent Spirit Award, and for best actor for a Critics’ Choice Movie Award all for his role as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma.  I’d replace Carell with Oyelowo in a heartbeat.  Visionary leader simply trumps creepy guy with a prosthetic nose every time, especially when the latter was only a supporting character.

This looks familiar.

-The Best Adapted Screenplay category this year includes Jason Hall for American Sniper, Graham Moore for The Imitation Game, Paul Thomas Anderson for Inherent Vice, Anthony McCarten for The Theory of Everything,  and Damien Chazelle for Whiplash.  The biggest misses in this section were female screenwriter Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl and Nick Hornby for Wild.  Both Gone Girl and Wild were successful books, revolving around strong female characters, and were extremely successful films.  In order for this to happen, the writer who pens the adaptation must know what they’re doing.  Inherent Vice is a trippy comical farce, but it’s all over the place, lacking a clear plot and making sense only half the time.  Whiplash is about a young Jazz drummer who dreams of becoming the next Charlie Parker and his abusive college band teacher.  It’s a simple story, with lots of tension, but the locations are simple, there are few characters and it most certainly did not come derived from a novel with two points of view, told in both the present and past, or from a memoir relying heavily on flashbacks to enhance the current situations.  In other words, both Gone Girl and Wild were difficult books to adapt and that is the mark of a best adapted screenplay.

The Cool Girl Speech. Enough said.

There were many other misses in this year’s Oscar nominations, but overall the above mistakes highlight the fact that both deserving African-Americans and women were passed over.  It doesn’t matter if some films weren’t nominated because the screeners didn’t get sent out in time, which is really a reason being touted in the blogosphere.  Or maybe the reason is because 12 Years a Slave won last year, and the members of the Academy already awarded a film about African-Americans.  I certainly hope that’s not the reason, but I don’t doubt it.

Damn you, US Postal Service.

It’s also a shame when the conversation about how DuVernay and Oyelowo deserved nominations gets twisted.  Somewhere along the line it gets lost that they deserved the nomination not just to make history, and because they are African-American or a woman, but it’s because their directing, their acting, and frankly the film was that good.  The only reason race and sex comes into it is because the public is trying to understand why they weren’t commended.  The one explanation that makes sense is this is what results when the people who do the picking are mostly male and predominantly white.  But it’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen from the outside, it comes from within.  So the best thing anyone can do is not get discouraged, support these films, and go and make yours; in other words keep trying to affect change.

Remember when Congress was only white men?

 

 

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