“How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White?”
Writer/director Spike Lee
“He said I don’t know what it’s like to be a black person? I’m Mr. black people!”
Screenplay by Cameron Crowe
This blog depends on a certain amount of serendipity to exist. There’s no team of people planning the direction the blog will take months ahead. It’s just me floating down the river of cinema—finding quotes and making observations that I hope filmmakers find helpful. Especially those outside the Hollywood system.
And having just spent the past three weeks writing posts in, around, and about the Rocky Mountains—including the posts Rocky Mountain High and Rocky Mountain Movie Battle Royale—I couldn’t pass the the comment below after the Oscar Awards were announced last week:
“Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher up you get the whiter it gets. And this year’s Academy Awards will be yet another Rocky Mountain Oscars. Yet again, deserving black actors and directors were ignored by the Academy — which reinforces the fact that there are few if any blacks with real power in Hollywood.”
(Statement after the 2016 Oscar nominations were announced)
No matter what you think about Sharpton or his comments, you’ve got to admit there’s some good zingers in that statement—and a measure of truth. And many have made the point of Beast of No Nation, Creed, Straight Outta Compton, Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson and others of color being under represented in the Academy nominations.
Of course, there is always a subjective and political nature in just about any kind of award—in Hollywood or anywhere. I do think this has less to do with racism than it just does that the Oscar voters are 94% white and on average 63 years old.
Last year when an older than average industry heavyweight white writer/director wrote last year about a certain movie “…everything at highest levels…best ensemble cast, best acting by movie stars, costumes, music, locations, editing. the look!”, it’s no surprise he was talking about The Big Short not Straight Outta Compton. (And for all I know he may have loved Straight Outta Compton, too. But The Big Short was much more in his demographic wheelhouse.)
And a few years ago a working screenwriter publicly admitted he was voting for so and so because he was his friend. We want to live in a world when things are won purely on merit—but that’s not the world we live in. Hence the struggle for justice on many levels.
“Everything is supposed to be different than it is.”
Simon (Danny Glover)
Grand Canyon written by Lawrence Kasden & Meg Kasden
And on this Martin Luther King day if there’s one thing we can do is look at the world of change that’s happened since the civil rights was killed in 1968. Including not only a black man being elected president of the United States, but some changes in Hollywood including that night in 1992 when both Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won Best Actor/Best Actress Oscars, to John Ridley, Lupita Nyong’o, and 12 Years a Slave winning Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Film in 2014.
But it’s also understandable—and expected—that Spike Lee write his #OscarsSoWhite thoughts that were posted today:
Dr. King Said ‘There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It’s Right”. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The “Real” Battle Is. It’s In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To “Turnaround” Or Scrap Heap. This Is What’s Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With “The Green Light” Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, “I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS”. People, The Truth Is We Ain’t In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White.
Spike Lee Instagram post today
Spike Lee is Boycotting the Oscars
And the Rashomon effect is to look at it from the executive and studios perspective where they are trying to make decisions that will be profitable and preserve their jobs. It’s a tangle web indeed. Here’s a real life example from the creator Everybody Loves Raymond on the notes he was giving in casting the show (before it won 15 Primetime Emmy Awards) :
“We started hearing about how we shouldn’t go too ethic with the cast [on Everybody Loves Raymond]. What does that mean? It means that for this show to play in Middle America, we couldn’t have too many overtly swarthy Italian or Jewish types populating this family. Ray [Ramono]and Brad [Garrett] are both, and respectively, swarthy, Italian, and Jewish. I asked, ‘It’s an Italian family. What are we supposed to cast? Network Guy says, ‘Nonethnic ethnic.’
Phil Rosenthal (Creator and Executive Producer of Everybody Love Raymond)
You’re Lucky You’re Funny
So we’ve gone from “nonethnic ethnic’ in the mid-90s to the “Rocky Mountain Oscars” in 2016. Sometimes it’s hard to see the progress, but I think this is a great country and I have hope for the future. And this is as good a time as any to show a clip I shot and edited a few years ago of artist Gary Kelley’s work done in conjunction with the Waterloo Cedar Falls Symphony and conductor Jason Weinberger.
In was a special night when the images where shown on a large screen with a live orchestra before 1,000 people.
25 Links Related to Blacks & Filmmaking
The First Black Feature Filmmaker
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting
Postcard #82 (Selma)
Screenwriting Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton (Wearing SIlver & Black)
Jackie, Spike & Sanford, Florida