Friday Film : Oscars so right on

In October 2015 posters on an Internet awards forum  declared that their choice to win the best lead actor Oscar in February 2016 was Don Cheadle. None of them had seen his unreleased film Miles Ahead. They did not know if Cheadle was any good in it but they wanted him to win.

Their sole criterion was that he was black.

In 2013 many articles were written about why Steve McQueen should be the first black director to win an Oscar. One argued that even if Mexican Alfonso Cuaron’s directing achievement had been the greater for Gravity, McQueen should win, ‘to encourage little black boys.’

Presumably little Mexican boys need no such encouragement to succeed. And even seeing a black man in the White House isn’t enough for black kids.

Now Jada Pinkett Smith (best known for being married to Will Smith rather than her acting accomplishments) and Spike Lee (last made a good film before Saoirse Ronan was born) have decided to boycott the Oscars due to a ‘lack of diversity’ in the nominations. (For ‘diversity’ read African American)

Way to go guys. What better way to ensure that every African American in future who is nominated or wins will be privately side-eyed for ‘only getting in because otherwise there would be a fuss rather than on merit.’

Here’s a question: When has an excellent performance or film by a black artist been ignored in favour of a terrible one by a white artist?

For, surely that must be the test. It can’t simply be that you prefer one good performance or film over another. Skin colour doesn’t come into that. Many people thought Michael Keaton (white) should have won over Eddie Redmayne (white) last year. Lots think Avatar should have won best picture over The Hurt Locker. I still can’t get over Tom Hooper winning best director over David Fincher.

That’s called personal taste.

There’s nothing sinister about people preferring one piece of art over another.

Yet, somehow, when it comes to African Americans, apparently we have to assume everything is tinged with malice and that much misused word ‘racism’.

There are no African American nominees in the big acting categories this year. It must be racism.

What ‘ism’ or ‘phobia’ explains the absence of Johnny Depp, Ridley Scott, Emily Blunt, Jacob Tremblay, Aaron Sorkin, JJ Abrams (all white)?

Does Spike Lee think it’s fair that Jennifer Hudson can call herself an Oscar winner despite giving a performance in Dream Girls that would put Ikea to shame while Leonardo Di Caprio cannot?

The test must be that great African American actors and film makers are actively being disregarded in order to reward poor work by white actors and film makers.

Any lesser test would be an insult to African Americans who simply want to be actors and film makers not black actors and film makers for whom standards have to be lowered.

Is Pinkett Smith aggrieved that her husband was not nominated this year? He wasn’t because not enough people thought his performance was anything special. You know, just like Johnny Depp.

When a black actor has given a performance that is something special he has been recognized with a nomination and/or a win. Denzel Washington, Forrest Whittaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Cuba Gooding jnr, Octavia Spencer and Monique to name just a few. Some people thought Monique ran a pretty graceless campaign but such was the force of her performance that she won every award going.

That’s how it should be.

Anything less is suggestive of quotas. It’s tokenism ie here are 4 nominees who are here on merit and here’s the sub par black one we found this year to make up the numbers to stop the blackmailing and bullying.

Straight Outta Compton made lots of money, it should have been nominated goes the argument.

Er, Star Wars anyone?

Even Meryl Streep can’t be nominated every year. What makes an African American actor or film maker special that they HAVE to be nominated every year, regardless of quality?

Where is the self respect and pride in being recognized for skin colour rather than excellence that transcends it?

OscarsSoWhite is a catchy, right on bandwagon that thousands on social media and the blogging world jump on. But it doesn’t help that many of the people making the loudest noise freely admit that they haven’t seen most of the films nominated, so can’t actually compare quality.

You can’t just watch Creed and Straight outta Compton and then claim that the Oscars are whitewashed when you haven’t seen the competition and can’t comment on it.

It doesn’t help that the focus of these ‘movements’ is the big, glamorous categories, namely acting, directing and best picture. That smacks of just wanting glory not actually wanting to put in the hard work to develop talent that will organically grow and make the industry naturally diverse from the bottom up.

Will Smith is one of the highest paid actors in the history of the Hollywood. Jada has benefitted from that personally. I’m not aware that as a couple they have funded any initiatives to develop African American talent.

if Jada cares that much about awards why doesn’t she become the Berry Gordy of Hollywood and create a Motown for film?

Simply handing Will Smith the trophy he admitted on a chat show he wants won’t change anything. Why is his desire to win an Oscar any more important than that of Tom Cruise (also Oscarless)?

Indian actors and film makers have movies that rake in the money at the box office around the world. South American film makers have movies that break new ground. Their creativity gets them the big gigs because the only colour that matters in Hollywood is green. Film makers in Hong Kong and Korea have their originality that is the envy of the likes of Scorsese.

African American actors and film makers have a hashtag and a boycott.





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