2015 is here, and the year is already off to a start filled with controversy and debate. From the standpoint of media, the hottest topics have to be the “snub” of the movie Selma, and the fallout surrounding Anthony Mackie’s perception and reasoning(justification), which amounts to little more than a co-signature on the words of Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first black president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her words, tempered to appease the black public outrage, along with those of Mackie’s, deflect the claim of bias by identifying other established directors and films that did not get the nod for Oscar nomination, that also were not quite up to the level of those that were nominated. Using the same wording almost verbatim, both Anthony Mackie and Cheryl Boone Isaacs stated how the actors and directors nominated were “at the top of their game”. Apparently Selma director, Ava Duvernay, along with all the actors, supporting actors, cinematographers, sound engineers, etc, etc…just need to step their game up in order to be considered for a nomination.
The trouble with this from an outsider’s perspective(those outside of academy participation), is that the Academy Award nominations are completely based on subjective judgements of who and what is the best. Additionally, the Academy, is predominantly white and male. While this would not necessarily preclude equal consideration in a perfect world, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – a reflection of the Hollywood universe itself – has a documented history of both racism and exclusion.
Ava Duvernay appears to be the least bent out of shape of all parties involved. Which is a good thing. No doubt this dust up will generate plenty of new offers and directing jobs. The Academy “good ol’ boys club” also has a history of making restitution to those that they snub. Steven Spielberg, was snubbed for best director for, The Color Purple, as were the rest of the cast and crew. The Academy was sure to reward him for Schindler’s list though. Whoopie Goldberg, who was snubbed for best actress on The Color Purple(though honestly, I wouldn’t have nominated her either), miraculously won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her work in the movie Ghost. Like, really? In the end, there is a silver lining to this stormy cloud, which is that as long as Ana Duvernay keeps her head down, stays on her grind, and doesn’t offend anyone in the Academy with accusatory statements, she is all but sure to be rewarded for the slight, somewhere down the road.
As for the rest of us in the consumer public, this is yet another reminder of the need for blacks to produce, create, support, and recognize our own projects.
At a certain point, you have to begin to ask yourself, how much energy and emotional currency are you willing to waste, waiting for an association of predominantly white males to change, and begin recognizing and celebrating films outside of their culture and comfort zone? How much more of same do we need to see?
I propose a collective resolution of black people for 2015. We will not allow ourselves to get bent out of shape because we get excluded(by good ol’ boy networks in their various forms) for some of our most poignant and moving portrayals/productions of varied and versatile characters and subject matter – and nominated for the same old tired and rehashed stereotypes. (Denzel nominated/wins for playing a Slave in Glory, and a Thug in Training Day….Cuba Gooding for playing the fast talking football player…Whoopie Goldberg for playing the mouthy hustler-psychic…all coincidence, right? Let it be noted that I refrained from mentioning what Halle Berry was nominated/won for.)
I also propose that you are a black consumer, and happen to have a Nielsen box in your house, do not under any circumstances watch the Academy Awards. Your message to the Academy starts there.