The Oscars Suck, What Else Is New
“SELMA? One of the best pics of the year. But the directing, script, all the acting, & cinematography? Meh. Nice song, though.”
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) January 15, 2015
The Oscar nominations were announced this morning, with no big surprises: white men are continually rewarded for just showing up, people of color and women are almost completely shut out, the sky is blue, etc.
The biggest letdown, of course, was Selma (depending on what social media circles you run in — -a lot of outrage about The Lego Movie being robbed, too), Ava DuVernay’s painful, masterful work about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s efforts to get LBJ to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It was nominated solely for Best Picture and Best Song.
I am not a movie person — -I generally only stick to “dramas in which a patriarch dies and the family must return to his estate for one weekend to divvy up his things” — -but, my God, Selma shook me to my very core. I wept throughout, both bitter about the story yet grateful that it was being told. But I will admit to you: a small part of me was afraid that I would dislike the film, simply because I’m exhausted by depictions of people who look like me being limited to the context of suffering. I’ve been on this kick where I’m only seeing movies with people of color as leads (Beyond the Lights! Top Five! Annie! I’m living my best life!!!), and I’ve said before: representation matters, and while it’s incredibly important to me to see representations of people of color in the media that I consume, it’s almost more important to see movies in which black people are just chillin’. (The scene in Top Five where Chris Rock travels back to the projects and hangs out with his friends — -a room full of black comedians, just riffing and joking and having a good time — -will stay with me for a very long time.) I’m so drained by films and television shows that treat the black experience as one that is powered by suffering and not much else.
But I made an exception for Selma and I’m so glad I did: despite losing the rights to King’s speeches and accusations of historical inaccuracy, DuVernay made an indispensable, noble film; one that is full of suffering, yes, but also an ugly, neccessary truth.
Films like Do the Right Thing and The Color Purple were also shut out from Academy recognition (DTRT wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, and even Kim Basinger was mad about it; TCP was nominated for 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, but didn’t win a single one), films that also — -unlike the bulk of Best Picture winners — -feature a black lead. They, thankfully, still remain integral to both our cultural conversations and to me — — to my sense of self, to my power, to seeing my story and stories like mine being told and being proud of it — — even without a statue. Just because the Academy doesn’t recognize their greatness doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t.
I mean, look at who we’re dealing with here:
A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.
Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.
Are you really surprised?
TL;DR: the Oscars suck. We’re not in the Academy, but we still have pull: go see Selma — — or whatever movie you think got snubbed, I don’t care! — — this weekend! C.R.E.A.M., even more than a statue does.