Of all the things for the civil rights community to rail about, this year’s Oscar nominations seem to have gripped their collective consciousness. Who cares? Of course, Al Sharpton had to inject himself into the discussion; that was to be expected and he will likely be heading to Hollywood to shakedown the industry for “donations” to causes he deems worthy.
I confess to not being a great movie-goer. Charging $12 a ticket to get into a movie (plus the cost of necessary popcorn and a drink) is sometimes prohibitive for a movie where the chances of me liking it are about 25%. Personally, I prefer to wait for it to come on cable “On Demand,” although I have been burned there also. For example, a few years ago the movie Argo was all the rage and won the Academy Award. Yes, the acting was good, but the movie sucked. I and my wife were left with this thought: “Best of the year? Things must have sucked that year” Furthermore, the movies that critics often list as their best of the year are boring psychological studies of nobodies usually with British accents.
So, I really do not know if excluding David Oyelowo for his portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the best actor category is a travesty of justice deserving of this uproar. Having not seen the movie Selma, I am not sure if snubbing director Ava DuVernay in Best Director category should be the subject of indignation.
In fact, the Academy Awards are good for two things- advertisement publicity for nominated films and the source of future questions for an updated version of Trivial Pursuit. Does anyone remember who won the Best Actor award in 2010? The Oscars are but one of many awards shows for films and they have lost their luster over the years. Although they may be the oldest and longest-running and best known, many now consider them not the most prestigious.
The Washington Post recently ran a graphic showing that when it comes to the big 4- best and supporting actor and actress- whites dominate the winners. Again, is this something worthy of such indignation from the African-American community? Suppose the US population is 10% African-American. Should 1 out of every ten nominees be African-American every year? Even if their performances sucked? This seems to be what the civil rights community is arguing. Because there was a movie about MLK, should it automatically be afforded several nominations? With the growing Latino population, are they too going to demand representation in Academy Award nominations in the future?
Not to be outdone, feminists have entered the fray arguing that this year’s crop of nominees are skewed toward movies about great MEN in reality or the making. One suspects that in the near future the LGBT crowd will be arguing for their quota of nominations for the latest film chronicling the exploits of some denigrated transgender person.
Most of the innovation in the entertainment industry is not coming from motion pictures, but on television, especially cable television. They are tackling subjects over weeks and using a more diverse cast than movies use. The other area is animation. One would think that the black community should be demanding greater television roles (oops- they have BET) and Hispanics should be demanding more roles also (Oops again- Univision and other outlets…I have 6 Spanish channels in my cable package). And there should be more black and Hispanic animated characters!
Here is an idea that is sure to get some African-American nominations next year. How about a movie about the daily black-on-black gang violence which occurs in a city like Chicago? How about a movie about Boko Harem in Nigeria where 2,000 innocent villagers are slaughtered in a single act of barbaric violence? But then again, the seeds have been planted for next year because the Academy Awards have now been guilted into nominating minority actors, directors and movies next time out whether they deserve it or not.
I am sure that come the night the awards are actually handed out there will be further mention of this non-controversy and maybe even some protests outside the venue. Two days later, no one will care. This is an uproar in search of a controversy that doesn’t exist. There are more things in this country the civil rights community can rail about. I’d start with black-on-black violence and the high unemployment rate and low graduation rates of minorities. The problem is these are things that they themselves must solve somehow and that is a reality they are not prepared to face.