January 26, 2011

2010 Oscar nominations are lily-white

Academy Awards 2011:  The Unbearable Whiteness of the Oscars

By Patrick GoldsteinIt's a wonder that the security guards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t stop Mo’nique and make her show ID when she arrived to help announce the Oscar nominations early Tuesday at the organization’s Beverly Hills headquarters. After all, she was the only person of color involved with the extravaganza, since the 83rd annual Oscar nominations have the dubious distinction of being an all-white affair.

Setting aside the more obscure, technical categories, when it comes to the best picture award along with the major nominations for acting, writing and directing, there are, ahem, zero people of color in the Oscar race this year.
And:Two African American coaches have faced off in the Super Bowl. Black coaches have won NBA championships. A black man has served on the Supreme Court, been a senator, an astronaut, a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, won a Pulitzer Prize and—oh, yes—is currently serving as president of the United States. But if you look at the people who make the decisions about what movies are made in Hollywood, you’d have to look far and wide to find any prominent AfricanAmerican or Latino executives.

There are no studio chairmen or heads of production who are black or Latino. In fact, there are barely any people of color in any high-level positions at any major studio, talent agency or management firm. When I asked a couple of reporter pals to name the most powerful black executive in town, a lot of head-scratching ensued before we decided that the person with the most clout was probably James Lassiter, Will Smith’s longtime business partner and production company chief.
Comment:  This is why I shake my head when people say the lack of Native films and actors is just a "bottom line" money issue. If Hollywood weren't racist, it would have the same percent of minority executives as the military, the government, or any other well-integrated segment of society. Its hiring practices would be unrelated to its choice of films and actors.

I see only two possible explanations for this. One, you can believe minorities aren't qualified to be Hollywood executives--despite their success in many other industries. Which is itself a racist assumption. Two, you can believe Hollywood hires white executives for the same reason it makes white movies. Namely, because Hollywood is fundamentally racist.

Clearly they haven't gotten the memo that the US's demographics are changing. They haven't understood the evidence in front of their faces. People will watch minorities in movies such as Avatar, Twilight, and The Karate Kid. And in TV shows such as Lost, Grey's Anatomy, and Hawaii Five-0.

For more on the subject, see:

Hollywood:  Poor people = losers
"We can't find the talent"
Hollywood ghettoizes Native actors
Dismissing the pro-Airbender arguments
Hollywood's cultural conservatism


John Lees said...

To be fair, in the acting and directing categories at least, I can't think of any non-white nomimees that I'd put in place of the white nominees listed, so strong and worthy are most of the shortlists.

Spanish Javier Bardem is nominated for what is said to be a stellar performance in "Biuitiful", in the process beating out a couple of white contenders who were considered very likely candidates for the shortlist: including Paul Giamatti and Ray Gosling.

Meanwhile, some of Hollywood's finest black actors - Forest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, etc - had pretty quiet years in 2010, not taking part in much Oscar-worthy fare.

Similarly, can we think of any black directors who put out a film this year that was a masterclass in direction on a par with Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan"?

I'm all for giving black candidates equal recognition as white candidates, but if you start giving them nods in place of more deserving white candidates just to say you're recognising more minorities, that is just as unfair as overlooking deserving work from minorities.

John Lees said...

I will say, however, that last year, Gabourey Sidibe was ROBBED in the Best Actress category, when her raw, heartbreaking performance in "Precious" lost out to Sandra Bullock's cookie-cutter "Inspirational" turn in "The Bling Side".

Burt said...

It appears you have a very limited film library John Lees. It would be safe to say you probably limit your knowledge of film to Walt Disney and Hollywood itself, yet its people like you that fuel boring remakes and are clueless about why Hollywood now has 7 Saw films and has run out of "white" material to do, or is comfortable with white actors portraying minorities in films.

Why not just have white actors paint their faces black instead of using real African Americans?

The reason there are no minorities in executive positions in Hollywood is simple.

Hollywood has been a long established syndicate of predominantly Jewish and Anglo media moguls that on one hand are already deemed as "liberal" and god-less when it comes to keeping a spoon fed and well-oiled racist American audiences.

Audiences that can be fickled and unpredictable, yet the bottom line factor comes from the top executives that back scratch with conservative corporate heads and big business sponsors that fuel the consumer industry keeping Americans buying $10 candy bars at theaters.

This marriage of consumerism does not want to see people of color dominating the silver screen anymore than over half the country is alleged (and I dispute this statistic) to not want a man of color in the Whitehouse.

America went forward in her reach for evolving into an actual FREE nation of thought, multi-culturalism, speech and expression with film, journalism and politics when Clinton had his two-term venture in the Whitehouse, not seen since Franklin Rooselvelt.

But when both Bush's held office at the mighty roar of the Christian right and its insurgence, Americans took three steps back into the 1950's. Arresting journalist; banning Michael Moore films; wiretappings; investigating public library records; websites and the firings of employees across the country for "political" views should tell us something about conservatism. And where was our beloved Tea Party then?

Christians like to say Hollywood is far-left in its politics and leanings, but ultimately its the media executives and the ordinary ticket buyers that have been duped into selling out to the far right in the culture war.

John Lees said...

I find it interesting, Burt, that in your post you attack close-mindedness, yet in your opening paragraph make a massive, groundless assumption about me.

It's "people like me" who are to blame for boring remakes? Actually, no. Yes, there are a few blockbusters and Disney films among my year's favorites, but alongside "Inception", or "Toy Story 3" I'd also rank "Winter's Bone", "Black Swan", "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", "Bad Lieutenant", "Shutter Island", "Four Lions" and "A Prophet".

Now, amidst that lengthy diatribe about the overarching conspiracy of the film industry not giving great black filmmakers their due, you failed to answer my actual point:

What films from 2010 by black directors, or with black actors in the starring roles, would you put in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor/Actress shortlist? What movies would you take out to put them there? What masterpieces am I, with my limited film library, unfairly overlooking here?

Unknown said...

The interesting part that certain comments are leaving out is the reason certain white actors were more interesting that certain nonwhite actors is due in part to what parts were offered to white actors verses nonwhite actors.
Unless a character is specifically designated by the writer as 'nonwhite' the part always goes to a white person.

No wonder our children have had a hard time seeing all the possibilities that are open to us. Even our 'heroe's are limited by whether the character has an obvious cultural stigma or not.

Burt said...

You single out black filmmakers but do not mention native, Asian, Latino, female or gay writers, directors and producers. This is where I am coming from.

Too bad you make no connection to audiences and the film industries major movers and shakers that DO have a hand at what we see and do not see on the big screen.

Too bad you also do not include television and other media forms just as closed in and segregated from the rest of Americans that are "of color".

I do not take hollywood seriously in its film industry anymore. This is the same industry that produced DW Griffith's "Birth of a Nation"; propaganda war films and racist films about natives.

There are more interesting foreign and independent films with authentic minority writers and directors that I find appealing over remakes about comic heroes and bland watered down myths of American history.

I was making a comment on the industry as a whole versus trying to critique or analyze any of the films from 2010!

Which is more important as an issue, the annual pomp and circumstance of the red carpet and who takes home the award, or the history and changes of the film industry?

John Lees said...

What's more "important" is immaterial, as the actual topic of the blog post was about the 2010 Oscar nominations, which I was responding to. Right now you're just going on a tangential rant.

I narrowed it down to black because you narrowed it down to black. If you want to look at some of the other groups you mentioned: two of the Best Picture nominees, "Winter's Bone" and "The Kids Are Alright", are by female writer/directors, with the writer/director of the latter film, Lisa Cholodenko, being a lesbian, and the film being about a lesbian couple.

Burt said...

Whats immaterial is the year, what the blog is confronting is racism in the film industry, not your personal favorite entertainers and or directors that remain white year after year?

John Lees said...

"Setting aside the more obscure, technical categories, when it comes to the best picture award along with the major nominations for acting, writing and directing, there are, ahem, zero people of color in the Oscar race this year."

That was the opening gambit of the article. This is what the title of the article was based upon. Later on the argument in the article expanded to other areas, which Rob may have focused on more in his commentary, but the original topic was about the 2010 Oscars and the lack of minority actors, writers and directors recognised amongst the nominees. That's what I was commenting on when you attacked me and accused me of embodying everything that's wrong with mainstream cinema.

And amidst all these racist narratives you're crafting and all the accusations you're lobbing in my direction, you've STILL to answer the question I have now repeatedly asked:

What more deserving minority actors, directors, writers, films would you include in the Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress category? What exactly is being snubbed in this vast Anglo/Jewish conspiracy? Tell me the movies that aren't being recognised here, so we can have a concrete discussion rather than this vague, abstract one.

Anonymous said...

Hollywood can't help it. Beauty is important in Hollywood, and beauty is the dominant culture, all over the world. That's why you saw Japanese women getting their eyes surgically altered after the war, for instance. And why black women use relaxers. And why Issur Danielovitch became Kirk Douglas. (Yes, I know, stereotypical Indians are lust objects. Doesn't disprove my point, though.)

Sadly, this also means that most well-written works about minorities or the poor tend to get passed over by the Oscars. That's actually one of the reasons minority awards (mostly in music) came about.

BTW, a promo of New Moon on a post dedicated to Oscars? LOL

Burt said...

I've said all thats needed to be said about this discussion John Lees, but you sound rather similiar to another person on these comments that always wants people to "answer" HIS question over commenting on the issue at hand.

You seem stuck in the year 2010 and everyone else looks at the bigger picture and issues about Hollywood.

Get over yourself! Nobody has to dance to your question(s)!

John Lees said...

How many times is this I've asked now? 4 times? 5?

What more deserving minority actors, directors, writers, films would you include in the Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress category?

No, nobody has to dance to my questions. And yes, people are free to discuss the bigger issues. I'm not saying everyone who comments here HAS to talk about the 2010 Oscars specifically. But the onus is on YOU to reply to my points, not vice versa.

See, I could have commented on the 2010 Oscars angle of the article, and you could have commented on the issue of perceived racism in Hollywood, and they could have been seperate replies. But you attacked me for my views and made assumptions about me based on them, so I'd say that requires you to actually then follow up on it rather than then refusing to participate in the discussion.

You say that I know nothing about the year's quality films, then when I ask you to tell me the ones I'm missing so I can actually offer a rebuttal and defend my stance you reply with "Oh no, we're not talking about that, we're talking about racism instead." If we're talking about racism why take the time to criticise my "unrelated" post in the first place?

It's basically the equivalent of this:

JOHN: Oh wow, "Mad Men" is the best show on TV.

BURT: Shut up, you know nothing about good TV.

JOHN: Okay, what shows are better?

BURT: I don't need to answer that, we're talking about the war in Iraq.

JOHN: What? But if you're going to criticise my taste in television you need to back it up and explain what you think is better so we can have a discussion about it.

BURT: No, we're talking about important issues here. Are you saying "Mad Men" is more important than THE WAR ON TERROR!!!?!

JOHN: I'm not saying that at all, I'm saying that the war on terror is totally unrelated to what you just started an argument with me about. Are you going to actually back up your assumptions?


Burt said...

Well now that you have written a made for TV script on my obvious ability to get under your skin to the point of "capitalizing" your fonts, I will engage you with my summation of why "The Blind Side" won over "Precious". Maybe this will calm your temper tantrums about the 2010 Oscars.

I have a tendency to see things in the larger realm rather than minute details because Hollywoods racist portrayal of natives in film is a very interesting and valid extension that shapes the American publics opinions, belief systems and intellect believe it or not. Is this not why Rob post these articles and events?

Anyway, before you blow another gasket on me answering your question, I actually believe that both films are very good films.

PRECIOUS deals with a controversial subject, incest, while THE BLIND SIDE is a success story.

PRECIOUS was directed by LEE DANIELS, an African American and written by Sapphire, also of black heritage.

THE BLIND SIDE was written and directed by John Lee Hancock Jr of THE ALAMO fame. Hancock is white.

My opinion as to why THE BLIND SIDE won more awards over PRECIOUS has less to do with race than with how both films are opposites in how African Americans rise or fall in regards to the American dream.

While Precious holds powerful and strong acting talent, The Blind Side takes on multiple issues in the black community and comes out ahead as a "feel good" film, something audiences always respond to well rather than negative portrayal of the black community.

Daniels admits this himself.

Freedom Journal said...

White movie executives need to more racially sensitive, in my opinion. In the United States, last time I checked, citizenship is for all races, not just whites. Now citizenship does not guarantee an Oscar, however, citizenship does require that other races should not be excluded from society, public awards, or employment. Since the Oscars program is publicly broadcast on to a National and International audience, race needs to be taken into account in terms of public perception and/or racial representation. Hollywood needs to incorporate other races into the motion picture business, including work in both the arts and sciences.