FRIENDS! Today I’m going to write about something that’s very dear to my heart: the film and performance industry. Specifically, the Oscars, who released their nominations yesterday. Yes, it’s the subject all over social media: the fact that the Oscars have just back-pedalled equality into oblivion. Joy unbounded, more patriarchal bullshit!!! (For more on Patriarchal Bullshit, see my article on female perpetrators of ironic sexism here http://www.lucidmag.co.uk/in-defence-of-offence-everyday-sexism-reversed/).
OK, enough plugging of my own writing. I want to talk about this year’s Oscar nominations and why they are bullshit.
Firstly, the Oscars is more of a wealth race than anything else. In the Official Oscars Rules, which can be found on their website, the ‘eligibility for nominations’ section states that:
2. All eligible motion pictures must be:
a. feature length (defined as over 40 minutes),
b. (Things about cameras and pixels that I don’t understand),
c. for paid admission in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County,
d. for a qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days,
e. advertised and exploited during their Los Angeles County qualifying run in a manner customary to industry practice.
Which effectively means that if the film doesn’t have enough money to advertise in a cinema in LA, it doesn’t qualify for nomination eligibility. Which explains why Lilting, a new film written and directed by Hong Khaou, starring Ben Whishaw and a formidably brilliant Chinese-Cambodian actress Pei-pei Cheng isn’t nominated at all (it is nominated for a BAFTA, however). Lilting is a study on family psychology and displacement, and tells the story of a man (Ben Whishaw) whose boyfriend has been hit by a bus, the mother of whom is in a care home in London, does not speak English and had no idea that her son was even gay. Ben Whishaw’s character is determined to form a relationship with her and share a friendship in memory of Kai, his deceased boyfriend. It was one of the best films I saw last year, among many similar independent films which won’t be considered. It was beautifully shot, tenderly performed, the most interesting assertion on language barriers. Whishaw would be my vote for Best Actor at the Oscars – then again, I’ve never seen American Sniper, which I’m sure is great and really worthy of the greatest prize in cinematic history (#MURICA). Totes.
Of course, that’s not the only shit that hits the fan every year when the Oscars are happening, presented to a predominately white, predominately male audience of the extremely wealthy top contenders of the film industry. This year’s best director and best writer categories are 100% male. Not a single woman nominated – this is largely down to the fact that out of all the major feature films of 2014, only TWO were directed by women (Unbroken and Selma, directed by Angelina Jolie and Ava DuVernay). It is also down to the fact that neither of these women were nominated despite fantastic reviews, amazing accolades, extreme support worldwide for both of these films. Morten Tyldum is nominated for directing The Imitation Game, which received largely weaker reviews than Selma. Heaven forbid a BLACK WOMAN be given a chance to receive an astonishing accolade for having a BREAKTHROUGH in her career for Selma. Heaven forbid a film that, among many others this year, tells a true story, is shown to be the most relevant in today’s society than any other? *Cough Michael Brown cough* WHO SAID THAT? SHHH! That’d be LUDICROUS, wouldn’t it?
While we’re on the subject of race, once again the blame lies between a rock and a hard place. The rock being that there were so, so few actors of colour (by this I mean anything but caucasian) cast in major features in 2014; the hard place being that the few that were were totally overlooked by the Academy. Selma, which was termed ‘righteous and visceral’ by the Telegraph, David Oyelowo ‘seems to penetrate into King’s soul and camps out there for two hours. He’s tremendous, of course, when electrifying his congregation at the podium, but a sense of fatigue is even more paramount: like Sisyphus inching his rock up the mountain, Oyelowo’s King seems constantly braced for setbacks, haunted by the daily inevitability of his mission’s failure.’ Largely better than the reviews of American Sniper, for which Bradley Cooper is nominated for Best Actor, who is described by The Guardian ‘not particularly well cast or well directed in the role of Kyle; this actor’s natural charm and humour are suppressed, and Kyle’s personality is solemnly sketched in terms of straight-ahead patriotic can-do.’ This is the third time in a row Cooper has been nominated for an Oscar he doesn’t deserve. Where’s Oyelowo’s celebration? He isn’t particularly sexy or white or young or a veteran of Hollywood, and therefore is not worthy of our time?
I’m going to raise my hand and call bullshit on that. Excuse me, sir? Yes, you at the Academy, I can smell bullshit radiating from your office.
A word about the Academy. ‘There are 6,404 members of the Academy. 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.’ This was reported by the LA times last year – I don’t know how much of it is true, but even if these are rough figures, they’re disgusting ones.
In a nutshell, I have lost interest in the Oscars. What seems a noble ceremony is actually a breeding ground for white supremacy. There, I said it. I will watch the red carpet mainly for the dresses, and I will watch the speeches on YouTube if any of my favourite actors win. I just hope one of the winners is plucky and political enough to publicly call bullshit on the Academy this year. Free speech is really taking some blows at the moment, isn’t it?
On a separate note: an update on My Shambolic Life. I’ve spent this week basically squatting in my lovely friends’ flat, I finally hopefully have a job (waiting to hear for sure), and searching in desperation for an affordable flat, which in London is a similar experience to searching for a black actor at the Oscars.
Until next time!