Monday, January 19, 2015

Just in time for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; my thoughts on the Selma snubs...

You MUST vote for me!  I am IMPORTANT!

I was not planning on writing this post at all.  I posted my thoughts on the Oscar snubs and figured that was that, but then a debate sparked in the comment section about the Selma snubs and the misogyny vs. racism that exists in the Academy, and I went to give my two cents, intended entirely to be just that...two cents...and I wound up writing a dollar or so and the little comment box at the bottom of my post kept telling me that my comment was too long...so here it is (I'm not altering this from my original comment form):


So, I was away from my computer all weekend, but kept checking my phone and every time I did there was a new comment on the above conversation and I thought 'should I chime in' but before I could, another came and so I decided to just wait until it was done.

I'm not sure if it's done, but I'll chime in...a little.

I think that there is both racism and misogyny going on with the Academy (because, that really is what this conversation should be about, right?  The Academy?).  Oddly, while it's brought up a lot, I don't think that the racism is the strongest prejudice here.  I do agree with Sati that misogyny as a whole is a real problem with Oscar.  It's almost like, unless you are in a specific category FOR your gender or you are competing in a category dominated by your gender (costume design, for example) then we don't want to be bothered with you.

In all honesty, despite what so many want to make the Selma snub out to be...I think it speaks more to a misogynistic attitude than a racist one.  Ava DuVernay's snub in the director’s seat, while possibly undeserving (because, well, I haven't seen the movie and the thoughts on it and her approach are varied) speaks more to misogyny than racism, in my eyes.  In fact, the Selma situation as a whole feels more like reverse racism in a way.

This was touched on last year, with the 12 Years a Slave Oscar wins, but that film and Selma, all year, were toted as these SUPER IMPORTANT OSCAR FILMS ABOUT THE BLACK STRUGGLE, and because of that, it created this overwhelming feeling of REWARD US OR BE DEEMED RACIST, especially last year.  I mean, I'm not making it up, it became a thing, and the closer it got to Oscar night and the stronger other contenders looked (named Gravity and American Hustle) the more bloggers and critics and Oscar watchers were getting their "Oscar confirms racism" headlines ready for their morning after articles on the Oscar wins.  Now, I didn't think that 12 Years a Slave was a great movie, but it was a fine movie within the terms of 'Oscar winner', and I have no problem with it's win because it isn't a bad film (unlike this year's likely winner), but what I take issue with is WHY it won.  When you shake down the night, Gravity won EVERYTHING.  It was the best shot, best edited, best scored, best sounding, best directed film of the year...and yet it lost Best Picture to a film that only picked up a Screenplay win (which was the source of a lot of controversy) and a Supporting Actress win, and it didn't even take that in a walk.  12 Years a Slave won the Best Picture Oscar because it had to, or the backlash would have been HUGE.

I feel like, in many ways, Selma's Best Picture nomination is the same.  Here is a film that they clearly just didn't like that much.  You can try and make this about late screeners, and that may have been the case with some of the Guilds, because screeners MATTER, but Academy members have had this in their hands for weeks prior to ballots being due and so if they loved this, felt it was important or felt it had that kind of merit, they would have voted for it in more categories than Best Picture and Original Song.  It's the Original Song nomination that says it all.  This isn't The Blind Side...one of those cheap, everyone knows is mediocre type film that can snag that BP nom on a single Acting nomination and make sense.  Selma getting BP and Original Song and NOTHING else makes no sense, for the type of film that it is.

All year long though, Selma has kind of felt like that film people feel they need to honor BECAUSE of what they're being told about it.  If you don't believe me, just click on the tag '2014 Road to Oscar' and peruse the critics’ awards and awards bodies and see how many times Selma got in for either a sole ensemble nom, a sole BP nom (in a field of 6, where ever other category had 5) or how the NBR couldn't recognize it in their Top Ten and yet gave it one of those sidelined awards for 'courage' or some shit like that.  Selma had the unfortunate privilege of being the 'important black movie you need to vote for' that immediately followed that other 'important black movie you need to vote for', and AMPAS kind of passed.

The Best Picture nomination feels like an insult, to be honest.  LOOK, we nominated you...but as you can tell, we don't really think you deserve it.  It's pretty clear right now that Selma is dead last in the BP race, which is not what anyone thought a few months ago.

I don't think the snubs show racism...I think the nomination shows a FEAR of being perceived as racist.

But, I wholly agree that racism is an issue with AMPAS, I just think that this year, misogyny is much stronger an issue.

I think that the strongest sign of racism in the Academy is the fact that, and I've kind of mentioned this before (and even had that 'recastathon' because of it), AMPAS will only recognize a black film if it is historically important.  But, this says a lot more about Hollywood as a whole, which is awfully racist.  I'd say that Hollywood is more racist than the Academy, and the Academy is more misogynistic than Hollywood.  Say what you will about 'the lack of great roles for women', but honestly, last year was a BOUNTY of incredible roles for women...a BOUNTY!  The narrow-mindedness of AMPAS and awards bodies as a whole shows their misogyny.  The roles/performances were there, but they were all ignored for a lot of the same/expected.

But I've rambled and said more than I initially intended and, because of this little box I'm not even sure if what I said is cohesive, but whatever...they are my thoughts on the matter.  I think you are BOTH right, sort of...

26 comments:

  1. YES, THANK YOU! Academy is petrified of being perceived as racist. Actually the studios are too. So now we have a black guy in Fantastic Four. Giving a movie BP nomination when the only other one is song is just laughable. It is precisely 'here, don't yell at us' kind of nom. And all the nominees this year in acting categories were more or less deserved. Selma didn't have a single performance so outstanding that it would be a travesty it did not get nominated, nor did that directing impressed too much.

    While there were plenty of good roles for women comparing to what the men had to play it's still very little.

    Anyways what is baffling to me right now is how they are frightened to be shown as racists yet they nominate a movie glorifying psychopath killing people. I mean all that shouting that people of color do over every single, literally every single thing has created such an atmosphere of paranoia it is now more acceptable to nominate a movie encouraging KILLING than not nominating a movie about black people for BP. And they are still not happy.

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    1. This American Sniper controversy is really making me curious. I have not seen the film, and know very little about the story, but every review I read is either so ANTI or so PRO...and the link you posted and the naysayers and all the strong, passionate responses from both corners have me really anxious to see this for myself.

      And Eastwood/Cooper/War is not a combination I'd ever really be interested in.

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  2. I hadn't really thought about it this way, but I think you're right. While I think Ava DuVernay had good intentions, I feel like she tried to hard to make an IMPORTANT movie about something very Important and that's exactly how I felt while watching it. It was trying so hard to tell me it was important, something I didn't feel like with 12 Years A Slave last year. And I don't think this helped with the not wanting to seem racist theory you have. If a movie about MLK is telling you it's important, and everyone else thinks it's important (even if they haven't seen it), it turns into a guilt trip all over again.

    But yeah, I agree, I feel like DuVernay's "snub" (I personally don't think it was a snub, the directing was whatever, tbh) had more to do with gender than race. Even less women make it into the Directing category than people of colour (which, remember, aren't just black people!) Kathryn Bigelow was snubbed just a few years ago (and just a few years after winning as the first female). Also, Gillian Flynn's huge snub from Adapted Screenplay is baffling to me since it's been picking up awards all over the place. She was the frontrunner to win, and she wasn't picked. Was it the fact that it was a movie about a woman, written by a woman?

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    1. The reluctance to embrace films about women is a real problem that I hate to see repeated every year. I had such strong hopes for this year, with films like Wild and Gone Girl looking so strong for nominations and attention, considering the source as well as the reception, and yet they were, once again, delegated to the only categories where their gender was a requirement; acting.

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  3. Hmm, I can't say I'm fully on your side with this...

    In terms of '12 Years A Slave', it was a much beloved film by critics and audiences alike. Let's not pretend the IMPORTANCE of films like 12 Years A Slave and Selma would override terrible reviews. You're smarter than that. Your personal opinion of it not being "great" isn't that relevant really. The Oscar result is a poll of thousands of persons. 12 Years A Slave and Selma had to be approved as good films before they could be considered legit as Oscar contenders. It's the reason why 'Fruitvale Station' and 'The Butler' didn't quite make it in the end. Good reviews, but not quite good enough despite being important civil rights stories just like "Slave". For white narratives, it is MUCH easier to still get nods by virtue of "importance" alone (Oh hi, Unbroken!).

    Also, I wouldn't say Gravity was so clearly preferred when it's script wasn't deemed worthy of a nomination. What that says to me is, they thought it was a audovisual marvel, but the writing sucked. Whereas 12 Years a Slave was seen as a well-acted, well-written film but not a big flashy extravaganza so they gave Gravity it's deserved bounty of "tech" wins.

    Apparently some folks around here think black people complain too much, but I think whites need to just deal with it. This isn't a post-racial world and equality hasn't been achieved yet. The fact remains that we all know the Oscars aren't strictly a meritocracy, so why shouldn't we want them to make an effort to be a teeny tiny bit more inclusive in their nominations? Again, it's not like we're begging Oscars for Tyler Perry movies. Selma (in addition to Belle, Top Five, Dear White People, Beyond the Lights) received GREAT reviews.

    In the end, we're all culpable in the unfortunate whitewashing because:

    - the critics themselves were intent on championing the same narrow group of films...

    - audiences didn't come out to support the black films to make sure they were in the pop culture spotlight...

    - the pundits didn't even try to put films like Dear White People, Top Five, Belle, Beyond the Lights in contention despite their excellent reviews...

    - and finally yes, the Academy has narrow taste. It's the reason we can predict what they'll like so far in advance. I won't call it active racism, but there's obviously a subconscious preference for white male narratives. Until that changes, I will continue to side with the #OscarsSoWhite protest (though yes, I will always love the Oscars lol).

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    1. Like I said, 12 Years a Slave is a fine film and, in the scope of Oscar winning films, is a deserved winner. That being said, while it had critical support and did win a LOT of critics wins (unlike Selma and much like Boyhood) there was always that layer of 'this film is so important' and when it started to come time for Oscar the cries shifted from 'this film must be seen' to 'this film must win', and those cries were VERY evident.

      I mean, it was so evident it was the butt of jokes.

      And while I'd like to say that a film really has to be deemed a good film to even enter into the Oscar race, that isn't always the case...but I never really raised 'quality' of film, so I'm not even sure that applies. Like I said, 12 Years, while not my favorite film of last year, is NOT a bad film. It's a pretty good one, and it makes sense as an Oscar winner. I have not seen Selma and will not judge until I do, but I am intrigued by all the praise and the negative word and can't wait to judge for myself.

      I do feel, as a whole, that Hollywood is far more racist than the Academy, and I stand by that. Oscar may feel 'so white', but it's Hollywood's job to not only make more black centered (or any other color) films but also to promote them. That, sadly, doesn't happen enough.

      And you know I'm on your side with regards to the racism in Hollywood, for I have talked about it here quite a few times last year, and I've been one of Belle and Beyond the Lights' most vocal supporters here and on Twitter.

      I truly am glad you weighed in here, though, and I do see the points you raise, but I still think it's more an industry problem than an Academy one.

      I do, strongly, feel that Selma suffered from too many voters feeling that they were being told what to vote for and not enough actual passion for the film and it's individual parts.

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    2. "And while I'd like to say that a film really has to be deemed a good film to even enter into the Oscar race, that isn't always the case...but I never really raised 'quality' of film"

      I made this point in reference to black films, where quality is indeed the first thing that allows them to enter the race. You may not have brought up the quality issue, but I feel it's an important discussion to have in order to understand why many detect some racism in the Academy's choices. Regardless of whether Slave's importance became it's only Oscar narrative, it had to be seen as a great film in the first place. Compare that to the poorly reviewed films that somehow become Best Picture nominees still. They are very rarely, if ever, "black films".

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    3. Oh, and I agree with that comment. Like I said in my initial post, there IS racism in the Academy, I just, for the sake of the debate that was going on, tend to feel that there is more misogyny, or at least it is clearer.

      The trouble, with black films and the Academy, is that so few black films of merit are promoted as Oscar material. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but they are rarely even heard of. I mean, DuVernay's own Middle of Nowhere had great reviews and yet only people who follow awards races would have heard of it...and ONLY if they follow EVERY awards (like I do here) and knows what the Gothams are...otherwise you wouldn't have heard of the film until this year, and even at that...you would have been baffled that you couldn't even find it on DVD until, like, next month. WTF. That isn't an Academy issue...that's Hollywood assuming that black films are less important than a shitty Adam Sandler movie.

      Now, if Hollywood would step their game up, and producers like Harvey Weinstein would throw him money and support behind something of real merit and not just see 'black suffrage' and think Oscar (I mean, come on...The Butler?) maybe we'll see some more color in the Oscar race, and I for one would LOVE that.

      I hate that every black movie nominated for anything HAS to be about history and the black movement of some sort. To me, this is insulting. That's like how every foreign film nominated from a country like Russia or Germany has to be about the Holocaust or something to that nature. I agree, Oscar can be VERY one track minded, but I also feel they are sold that one mind because it's a mold studios feel they can sell.

      I mean, if Boyhood (which, mind you, I kind of hate) had been made by an ambitious black director starring a cast that included even well known black names, we probably would have never even heard of it; least of all Academy voters.

      It's a problem...a big problem...with many layers.

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    4. Very much agreed. It's a problem with many layers. But where do we go from there? In my opinion, if we overanalyze protests like #OscarsSoWhite and make them seem like exaggerations then I think that kinda undermines our shared endgoal. We all want better minority representation in cinema, regardless of who we think is to blame. I think #OscarsSoWhite is more effective than a more general statement of "Hollywood is racist". The latter doesn't really mean anything to studios and the people in charge. It's too easy for them to ignore that (heck, they hear that complaint every day and do nothing).

      When we point our fingers at a specific influential subgroup however, it has more weight. The Oscars have established themselves in the public eye as the judges of what is most valuable and praiseworthy in cinema. So when the Oscars declare that almost everything they loved in 2014 was made, directed, starring and about white people, it's a major statement. At the end of the day, if #OscarsSoWhite manages to stir some change, then I'm fine with it. I almost don't care if it's a false accusation! Desperate times call for desperate measures, or else people like Ridley Scott will continue say "he can't cast colored people" and continue to get away with it.

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    5. I do completely agree with your end-goal, our end-goal! In the long run, I feel like we are really reading from the same page, and I love that. This is a needed debate, and I am glad we're having it...and I'm glad that it appears it's less a debate (because, we really all agree on the problem) and more a discussion, which is what we need to have more of!

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  4. Great thoughts here. I'm overwhelmingly disappointed with the Academy for all the reasons you've mentioned above, but especially with how SAFE they play their cards every year. I honestly thought 12 Years was tremendous filmmaking and deserved it's win. I don't know about Selma as I still haven't seen it yet, but it's on my list!

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    1. Now, yes, the Academy as a whole is so safe every single year that it is depressing. Sometimes they do branch out and envelope something clearly unsafe, but it is never en-mass, and when they have the opportunity to take a real risk (I mean, Amour AND Beasts of the Southern Wild and even Life of Pi, which I didn't really care for, were all TOP FIVE BEST PICTURE CONTENDERS IN 2012), they opt for the safe route and crown a mediocre 'good' film like Argo BP in a field of really great and challenging cinema.

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  5. Lord knows the academy has been racist, misogynist and genre-ist (a word i just made up to describe how they ignore certain genres) for years. drives me crazy. it is weird that there is a best pic nomination and not any other major nomination, but, you know, the academy is weird.

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  6. Hi Drew! I think Hollywood as a whole does have issue w/ misogyny AND racism, not really out of malice I don't think, just pure ignorance. I mean, the stats of the Academy members speak volumes about who are really represented in the industry, middle-aged white males.

    "I don't think the snubs show racism...I think the nomination shows a FEAR of being perceived as racist." Yes that certainly sounds like it, though Best Picture nod usually goes to the producers, which in this case are Brad Pitt AND Oprah, so the Academy is obviously more afraid of alienating them than DuVernay or Oyelowo.

    I too didn't think 12 Years A Slave deserved to win last year, I was rooting for Gravity all the way. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Oscar is more about politics than actual merit.

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    1. Oscar has always been a political game, which is a shame. It very rarely is entirely about merit. A lot of times, even when merit is a factor, it is still a political decision as to which merit to recognize.

      But your first paragraph is probably very close to the truth behind it all. We really need more diversity within the AMPAS voting bodies if we're going to see real change.

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  7. I think you nailed it with this post. They are terrified of being seen as racist, but at the current time, they're far more misogynist.

    This American Sniper thing is starting to disturb me a little, with seeing all those tweets of people saying they want to go out and kill Muslims after seeing it. The only thing I really knew about Chris Kyle prior was that he lied about punching Jesse Ventura and got sued for libel. So immediately I'm like, "okay, that guy's an idiot." but I read excerpts from his book yesterday and I'm shocked they actually made a movie about this guy now. He was pretty racist himself.

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    1. When Ellen came out with it at the telecast and actually said "If 12 Years a Slave doesn't win then the Academy is racist", while in a joking manner, she basically laid it all out. If Gravity of American Hustle had pulled an upset, the headlines the following day would have been BRUTAL!

      I know nothing of this sniper, but the rumblings I've heard, I don't like...I need to see this movie.

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  8. The more things change the more things stay the same. When one deals with the old guard, no matter in what area, one comes up against some type of prejudice and/or keep it the old guard style. I saw most films from last year except for Wolf of Wall Street and Her. I thought Gravity was horrible in almost every way except for the great special effects. 12 Years a Slave was underwhelming. I felt detached from this film even though the subject matter was moving. American Hustle was not impressive to me at all except for the clothes ( which I would never want to wear again) and the music. Ok I think i am veering off course here because most men will win in categories where the sex doesn't matter. Most white men will win for the most part and dramas will win over most other films. If an actor does a great performance in a comedy-an all out comedy not a nuanced I am a comedy that pokes fun and I am smarmy as hell, type of comedy but a full out laugh out loud comedy...that actor/actress won't have a chance. I think of Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. he was brilliant and was much better than Tom Hanks in his performance but Tom Hanks is a man dying of AIDS and a black man is defending him. Hollywood loves Gay men dying of AIDS. This is one area where most actors will win no matter what. I have to see Selma. It is getting all this news but one thing I hate is being told I better like it or else. I can hear people gasp in horror if I see this film and then don't like it because I find it boring or full of itself. People were shocked by my negative reaction to 12 years but i don't care. I will say this, to give a throw away nomination to Selma for best Picture and Best Song (may win there) and not much else is insulting. I f I was part of that project i would tell the academy to kiss my royal behind. I will want to see American Sniper. I have a feeling they will have the main character have to shoot young kids blah blah because he feels he has to only to deal with his PTS afterwards. If the actual man was a true jerk that would not be in the film because it is not 1973. Nowadays they must make these "heros" suffer through what they have done. Let's face it MASH, Apocalypse Now would never be made now as it shows Americans in too negative a light. OK I think I wandered here and there in my thoughts.

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    1. "The more things change the more they stay the same."

      That really is the core of it. Josh kind of touches upon that in the comment below yours as well. If the industry doesn't change, the Oscars won't.

      And you're right, the Oscars like what they like, but it's up to Hollywood to produce, support and promote films of diversity in order to allow the Oscars the opportunity to like that flavor.

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  9. We're pretty much in sync on this. The awards represent the industry, so the best way to change one is to change the other. If the industry features more diversity (from the kinds of films being made to the people making them), that should translate to the awards that honor it.

    I wonder if the highly competitive categories hurt Selma more than anything else. (Though, in DuVernay's case, misogyny in the Academy certainly could've kept her out.) Best Actor had several contenders, as did categories like Original Screenplay and Cinematography. Selma underperformed, but I don't think the whole Academy is inherently racist because it did. Maybe it just missed in several categories. Or maybe they just didn't think it was one of the year's best. It seems hasty to label them racists. I hope the industry starts to change. Only then can the Academy have more options for diversity.

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    1. Yeah, I do think that a lot of people are forgetting how stacked these categories were. I mean, realistically, even if Selma had performed well, it was looking at Picture, Director, Writing, possible 3 Acting, Song...and that's kind of it. No one was talking about it in any other category because it either wasn't strong enough or the category was too stiff.

      Out of all those categories, the one snub that feels the oddest is Screenplay. That category, with Whiplash leaving, was ripe for a BP biopic to take it, but they chose Nightcrawler and Foxcatcher instead, two films that did not make BP. Selma seemed like a far more Oscary pic.

      But you know who has a writing credit on Selma...? DuVernay.

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  10. I believe you're right about 12 Years A Slave and how it won Best Picture. There was that whole mentality of "vote for it or you're racist." Originally, I championed it to win Best Picture. Now, after thinking of how it won, I probably would've picked Her to win Best Picture or my personal choice, which wasn't nominated, Blue Is The Warmest Color.

    I also agree with you that the people behind Selma had the whole mentality of "nominate this movie or else." Honestly, the more outraged people get over that film getting largely ignored, the more overrated it gets because while it wasn't a bad movie, it was far from perfect or masterful. It doesn't make the Academy racist for not loving the film the way people wanted them to. The way I see it, it's just them having an opinion and like you said, them not wanting to be told what to do.

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    1. Yeah, I finally saw Selma a week ago, and while it was good, it was far from great and it didn't deserve the Oscar nom to begin with. It's a shame that the only black movies that get Oscar attention are the 'important' ones, which I think dampens the impact of the ones that should be embraced.

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    2. Exactly. One thing that's upsetting about Selma's Best Picture nomination is not just that it shows it is only just the important black films that get recognized, or that its nomination was mainly them saying "please don't hurt us", but if it was never going to win, its spot could've easily gone to a greater film like Gone Girl, Nightcrawler, or if they want to go crazy, Interstellar or Guardians of the Galaxy. They would have the audience favorite people hope for every year.

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    3. Yup! The fact that it couldn't even snag a screenplay nom shows that they really didn't think it was great, and so the nom was one out of fear more than anything else.

      It's a shame.

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