The Kenblog: “Oscars” Diversity Controversy Indicative Of Larger Problem!
Howdy folks! It’s The Kendog!
Phew! I wonder if the folks in Hollywood are secretly loving all of this “controversy” over “lack of diversity” in the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. Let’s face it: the Oscars, despite taking place in the liberal Hollywood biosphere, is represented by a decidedly slanted panel of old white men. The governing body of the Academy awards was, as of 2013, represented by 93% whites and 77% males with only 2% of the governing body being black. Is it any wonder why there is a dearth of black representation in the Oscars. The question is: does it really matter?
If there is a color bias in Hollywood, I believe it revolves solely around the color green. The color of the almighty dollar is what’s going to rule those in power at the various movie studios. If it makes money, it’s not going to matter what the skin color is of those making and starring in the movie. In that way, the Academy Awards are a way for the studios to boost revenue, exposing little seen but critically acclaimed films to more publicity, which in turn leads to a higher theater count, which in turn leads to more people seeing the picture, which in turn leads to. . .you guessed it. . .more money. Movies this year like “Carol” and “The Room” will probably get nearly a 100% jump in business by being nominated in various categories at the Academy Awards. To me, it’s always about the money.
In one sense I do agree with filmmaker Spike Lee in that the Academy Awards are symptomatic of a deeper problem in Hollywood. There appears to be a decided lack of representation of African Americans (or other minorities, for that matter) in the upper echelons of the Hollywood hierarchy. The films being greenlit are being done so at the behest of the old guard, most of which are white and male, with very few exceptions. If you look at the lack of diversity at the Oscars, you have to also examine the lack of diversity at the multiplexes. Let’s face it: this year the Academy had relatively little to choose from in terms of Oscar-quality fare. “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” were obvious admissions, as both played to critical acclaim and sizeable box office. But let’s look at the other African-American films released this year.
“Concussion” was a middle of the road film with a decent but not overly impressive performance by Will Smith in the lead role. Smith has been nominated twice before and twice before he’s lost to black actors. (“Training Day” in 2000 to Denzel Washington and “The Last King Of Scotland” in 2006 to Forrest Whitaker). “Concussion” is not his best work and his lack of inclusion in the Oscars speaks more to the superiority of the other nominees than anything racial in nature.
“The Perfect Guy” was essentially a version of “Fatal Attraction” with an attractive black cast. It wasn’t a very good movie, let alone one the Academy would recognize.
“The War Room” was a critically lambasted religious drama that did fairly well from a box-office standpoint, especially with its core audience, but again, is not a film the Academy would recognize, regardless of the race of the players involved.
“Beasts of No Nation” was an incredible film that unfortunately ran afoul of the Hollywood system for reasons having nothing to do with race. It was released by Netflix in an attempt to establish a new paradigm for the way movies are viewed, being released simultaneously on its streaming service and in theaters. That moved angered theater chains to the point that many of them would not show the film on their screens and the Netflix strategy flew in the face of everything the Hollywood power structure believes in when it comes to the movie business. As a result, no Oscar love for “Beasts” including Best Picture, Best Actor for Idris Elba, and directing for Cary Fukunaga.
“Chi-raq” is Spike Lee’s latest, an interesting a generally well-reviewed adaptation of the ancient Greek play “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. Yet as well as it was reviewed, it received little or no theatrical distribution and was available on Amazon. I have not seen it yet, so I can’t comment about its quality, but the fact that a Spike Lee Joint is not getting a decent theatrical release tells you all you need to know about his perceived commercial viability at this point in his career.
Just recently we had “Ride Along 2” with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube reprising their roles from the hit comedy of a couple of years ago. This is proving to be a popular film, but it’s been critically reviled and won’t be anywhere near the award nominees for next year.
After that, we get “50 Shades Of Black” a Marlon Wayans parody film about the “50 Shades of Grey” phenomenon. If you’ve ever seen a Marlon Wayans parody film, you know that it’s more likely to get nominated for the Razzies than the Oscars.
So let’s count’em up, shall we? That’s nine films featuring the African American culture as a central theme, nine out of how many hundreds of films released during the last year. And that, my friends, is where the problem really exists. If you are a black filmmaker in Hollywood, the challenge is actually in getting your project greenlit and off the ground before you can ever start to dream about feeling the love at the Academy Awards. In this, I think it behooves Hollywood to change its thinking. In terms of pure profit, Hollywood should be looking for talented filmmakers of all races to represent the diverse population of the United States. We are, now more than ever, a melting pot of a variety of races, races who want to see representations of their people on the big screen. If Hollywood is thinking in terms of dollars, they should jump on this diversity bandwagon, not only for the obvious public relations boost it will give them, but for the expanding marketplace in which they can make a boatload of money showing their films. Movies like “Straight Outta Compton” and “Creed” prove that there is a marketplace for films that cater to audiences that aren’t strictly white, and Hollywood should stand up and take notice.
I hope for a time when race doesn’t matter at all, but I have a feeling that, people being people, that won’t be happening in my lifetime. I think issues of race still run deep in Hollywood, just as they do all over the world. Do the Academy Awards have an overabundance of rich white people at their soiree? Is water wet? Is the sky blue? Don’t blame the Oscars, though. Instead, let’s lobby for diversity within the filmmaking apparatus of Hollywood and work for more diverse roles and scripts for actors of all races and creeds. Until that happens, the Academy is stuck with what it has to work with and sadly, that is far too little at this point. So Sayeth The Kendog!
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