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Oscars So Right On

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Strictly may have finished its run for the year but the Oscar dance I mentioned in my last article is just heating up. This week, Denzel Washington, owner of two Oscars and a shoo in for best lead actor and director at the 2017 ceremony, executed some clumsy steps in an interview.

Asked about the supposed lack of diversity in awards he threw this up:

“I’ve been the guy at the Oscars without my name being called. I’ve been the guy whose name has been called. I’ve been the guy at the Oscars when everybody thought they were going to call my name, and they didn’t. I’ve lived it.”

The answer is typical Oscar hopeful sidestepping stuff. Doublespeak. Washington wants to keep his powder dry with both the Academy and his fellow African Americans in the industry. He could have simply said, ‘I’m happy I’ve been recognised and twice but there’s room for others’ and then spoken about diversity generally.

Instead the implication of his answer might appear to be that he thinks he deserved more wins and that he failed on some occasions because…….

Let’s rewind:

In October 2015 posters on an Internet awards forum declared that their choice to win the best lead actor Oscar in February 2016 was Don Cheadle. None of them had seen his unreleased film Miles Ahead. They did not know if Cheadle was any good in it but they wanted him to win.

Their sole criterion was that he was black.

In 2013 articles were written about why Steve McQueen should be the first black director to win an Oscar, even if Mexican Alfonso Cuaron’s directing achievement had been the greater for Gravity. ‘McQueen should win to encourage little black boys.’

Presumably little Mexican boys need no such encouragement to succeed. And even seeing a black man in the White House isn’t enough to spur black kids on. Insulting all round.

Earlier this year Jada Pinkett Smith (best known for being Will Smith’s wife rather than her acting accomplishments) and Spike Lee (recipient of an honorary Oscar) decided to ‘boycott’ the Oscars due to a ‘lack of diversity’ in the nominations. (For ‘diversity’ read African American, like them). The media unquestioningly lapped up the ‘controversy’.

So, here’s a question: When has an excellent performance / film by a black artist been ignored in favour of a terrible one by a white artist?

Surely, that must be the test? It can’t simply be that you prefer one over another. Skin colour doesn’t come into that. Many people think Michael Keaton (white) should have won over Eddie Redmayne (white). Others think Avatar should have won best picture over The Hurt Locker. Tom Hooper winning best director over David Fincher??!

That’s called personal taste.

There’s nothing sinister about people preferring one piece of art over another.

Yet, somehow, when it comes to African Americans, apparently we have to assume everything is tinged with malice and that much misused word ‘racism’.

There are no African American nominees in the big acting categories? It must be racism.

So, what ‘ism’ explains the absence of Johnny Depp, Ridley Scott, Emily Blunt, Jacob Tremblay, Aaron Sorkin, JJ Abrams, all white, last year?

Remember too, Jennifer Hudson (black) is an Oscar winner despite giving a performance in Dreamgirls that would put Ikea to shame while Amy Adams (white) is not.

The test must be that great African American actors and filmmakers are actively being disregarded in order to reward poor work by white ones.

Any lesser test would be an insult to African Americans who simply want to be actors and filmmakers not black actors and filmmakers for whom standards have to be lowered.

When a black actor has given a performance that is special he has been recognized. Denzel Washington, Forrest Whittaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Cuba Gooding jnr, Octavia Spencer and Monique to name just a few. Monique ran a pretty graceless campaign but such was the force of her performance that she won every award going.

That’s how it should be.

Anything less is suggestive of quotas. It’s horrible tokenism ie here are 4 people nominated on merit and here’s the sub par black performance we found this year to make up the numbers to stop the internet bullying.

Straight Outta Compton made lots of money, it should have been nominated was another argument.

Er, Star Wars anyone?

Even Meryl Streep can’t be nominated every year. What makes an African American actor special that they HAVE to be nominated every year, regardless of quality?

Where is the self respect and pride in being recognized for skin colour rather than excellence that transcends it?

#OscarsSoWhite is a catchy bandwagon that people jumped on. But check the social media accounts of its followers. Many making the loudest noise freely admitted they had only seen one movie in an entire year!

You can’t just watch Creed then claim that the Oscars are whitewashed when you haven’t seen the competition and can’t comment on it.

It also doesn’t help that the focus of the ‘movement’ is the big, glamorous categories, namely acting and best picture. That smacks of just wanting glory not actually wanting to put in the hard work to develop talent that will organically grow and make the industry naturally diverse from the bottom up.

if Jada cares that much about awards why doesn’t she use Will’s millions and become the Berry Gordy of Hollywood and create a Motown for film with black sound recordists, cinematographers, set designers as well as star players?

Simply handing Will Smith the trophy he admitted on a chat show he wants won’t change anything. Why is his desire to win an Oscar any more important than that of Tom Cruise (also Oscarless)?

Oscars 2016 saw a Mexican win best director for the third consecutive year. A Pakistani woman for best short documentary. An Italian composer for best score. Filmmakers from Hungary, Chile, Poland and many other countries won but hey, there was no diversity because an African American wasn’t good enough to be nominated for a showy acting award?

At the 2016 BAFTAs I spoke to the fans who had waited hours in the freezing cold to watch the red carpet. All said they don’t want a politically correct distribution of awards. Many also expressed the view, forcibly, that they were ‘so sick’ of the media’s obsession with the story. They thought it was disrespectful to the deserving nominees who were overshadowed by “bitterness.”

The fans who most angrily rolled their eyes at the suggestion of awards quotas based on race were themselves black or of South Asian origin. They said they were embarrassed by the idea ‘that we should be handed awards for our colour because we’re not good enough to compete with the best.’

Awards News

Black Panther Aiming For Best Picture, Not Best Popular, According To Chadwick Boseman

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It’s Hollywood’s worst-kept secret; Marvel Studios’ chief Kevin Feige wants an Oscar. And not just a technical Oscar either. Following in the footsteps of Walt Disney, Feige’s ultimate goal is for one of his movies to win Best Picture. With Black Panther being a cultural juggernaut, the producer-extraordinaire sees it as his best chance yet and has reportedly hired veteran award strategist Cynthia Schwartz’s company – Strategy PR – to push for the nomination.

However, The Academy themselves threw a spanner in the works last month, when they announced the introduction of a brand new category at next year’s awards ceremony: Best Achievement in Popular Film. With Black Panther presently the highest-grossing film of the year domestically, and the second-highest internationally, it’s the clear favourite to win in the new category (at least, to the best of everyone’s knowledge – The Academy have, frustratingly, refused to define the new award). However according to King T’Challa himself, Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, that’s not the goal.

“We don’t know what [Best Popular] is, so I don’t know whether to be happy about it or not,” Boseman told The Hollywood Reporter, “What I can say is that there’s no campaign for Popular Film; like, if there’s a campaign, it’s for Best Picture, and that’s all there is to it.”

“A good movie is a good movie,” the Get On Up star continued, “and clearly it doesn’t matter how much money a movie makes in order for it to be ‘a good movie’ because if [it did], the movies that get nominated and win [predominantly low-grossing, highly-praised art-house fare] wouldn’t get nominated; and if it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter on both sides. For my money, the only thing that matters is the level of difficulty.”

“What we did was very difficult. We created a world, we created a culture … we had to create a religion, a spirituality, a politics; we had to create an accent; we had to pull from different cultures to create clothing styles and hair styles. It’s very much like a period piece. … So, as far as that’s concerned, I dare any movie to try to compare to the difficulty of this one. And the fact that so many people liked it — if you just say it’s [only] popular, that’s elitist.”

Chadwick has a point – the gross of a film has never, and should not, affect a film’s chances at winning Best Picture. However, whilst The Academy has made clear that a film can be nominated for both Best Film and Best Popular (frustrating many members who have then rightfully asked what the point is), they have somewhat written themselves into a corner when it comes to Black Panther. See, through a very specific sequence of events, The Academy have manufactured a situation where the most likely events to play out on the night will be Damien Chazelle’s buzzy First Man, a movie with an all-white cast and crew, winning Best Picture… whilst the all-black cast and crew of Black Panther accept the new ‘separate but equal’ award for Best Achievement in Popular Film. Yikes.

Black Panther is available on Digital, DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K now, and is rated 12A.

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Awards News

Danny DeVito To Receive Lifetime Achievement Award At The San Sebastian Film Festival

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Batman Returns star Danny DeVito is set to receive the coveted Donostia Award, honouring him for his career achievements, at the sixty-sixth annual San Sebastian Film Festival this September.

“The award recognizes a career of almost five decades related to acting in theatre, film and television, telling stories as an actor, producer and director,” the Spanish festival’s organisers said in a statement, “The Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner is known for his roles in television series Taxi and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and movies such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment, Romancing The Stone, Twins, Ruthless People, and Tin Men.”

“He has also directed – and starred in – hugely emblematic films, including The War of the Roses (1989), Hoffa (1992), Death to Smoochy (2002), Throw Momma From the Train (1987), Curmudgeons (2016), Duplex (2003), The Ratings Game (1984), and The World’s Greatest Lover (1977).”

The San Sebastian Film Festival will run from the 21st to the 29th of September. Danny DeVito can next be heard in animated children’s flick Smallfoot, which will premiere on the 23rd at the Festival.

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Oscars 2018

THE BURDEN OF OSCAR: POLITICS AND FILM.

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2017 was not overly kind to Hollywood. A drop in cinema audiences. Dismal summer box office. Increasing competition from the rise of Netflix and compelling television shows. Decreasing ratings for movie awards shows. Justice League.
And please, nobody even mention Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey.

In short it all went a bit Pete Tong for La La Land last year.
In fact the La La Land /Moonlight mix up at the Oscars in February now seems a rare bright spot in the 2017 tinsel town calendar. Reading out the wrong best picture winner? Light relief! Oh, how we can laugh now at a ‘wrong envelope mishap’ in the wake of #metoo and #sheknew

So, where and when did the rot start?
I’d suggest November 2016. On 8th November to be precise. Hollywood was tux and gown ready to celebrate the presidential victory of the woman whose campaign many A listers had funded to the tune of millions. However, 60 million Americans had a different plan. Enter the Donald!
The rest is outrage history.

Hollywood has since used Twitter, late night chat shows the press and most of all, awards shows to bash Trump……….and by association the 60 million who voted for him. 60 million potential movie fans.

Some love the political content of awards shows. Some are infuriated by it. But for many the politics has just got old really quickly. All they want from their movie and tv stars is entertainment. Yet the one industry that has the power to bring polarised communities together isn’t managing it. Nor does the entertainment media help.

The dumbest question on the movie red carpet in 2017 was one that was repeated the most, earnestly each time as if it was something unbelievably profound: what do you think will Trump voters make of your film?
Alexander Payne when asked it at the Venice film festival was one of the few who refused to be baited. He said he hoped that he made films for everybody. Unfortunately for him, his film Downsizing didn’t exactly please everybody but at least he recognised that his role is as a filmmaker not political campaigner. Similarly, while other stars have lost fans due to their relentless political tirades, Frances McDormand has been gaining them by being funny, entertaining and making it clear that her politics are her private business. But Payne and McDormand are rare. Too many stars and filmmakers take the media bait or can’t resist lecturing the world on the cause du jour when it isn’t the time and place to do so.

That is the issue. There is a time and place to make earnest speeches, to berate, to demand change, to highlight injustice. The Oscars podium isn’t it.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Oscars. It was a terrific experience. It was everything I’d imagined the Oscars to be; glamorous, fun, starry and an escape from the norm. The dresses were colourful and gorgeous. The jokes were funny. Everyone was out to party!
Was it frivolous, unreal and superficial. Yep. And it was all the more wonderful for that because I’d come to the event from conducting a 15 day case in the High court about a paedophile ring. So I know about the real world, thank you. And so do the millions who watch the Oscars on television around the world. The Oscars is their escape from the real world, as it was mine.

Yes, the Oscars has always been political to a degree; Marlon Brando sending a Native American woman to collect his Oscar for The Godfather, Michael Moore leading the charge against President Bush and the Iraq war, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon highlighting Haiti and many more issues. But those were moments in a lengthy ceremony. The rest of the show remained light and fun. The atmosphere overall wasn’t somber, even funereal. In the last 3-4 years the politics has completely overshadowed the films and the film stars.

The Oscars now seems to be first about race, sexuality, political affiliation, hashtag movements with the actual work second.

The #oscarssowhite in 2016 campaign was the first year that I can remember when a cause dominated the coverage, pushing the films and actors in contention for the awards out of the limelight. But it has continued. Last year the subject was President Trump. This year it’s #metoo and #TimesUp.
Around Oscar time I get asked 3 main questions: which of the nominated films do I recommend? Who do I think will win? Who had the best dress?

The first suggests that being nominated/winning really does help a film’s box office. And since the Oscars is essentially an industry event at which the film business shows off its wares, that’s a good thing. The second shows that humans are a competitive lot at heart. It’s why we love sport. No one truly likes ‘participation prizes’. We want there to be a ‘best’ so we can endlessly argue about it for evermore afterwards.
And yes, the third question is every bit as legitimate as the first two. Hollywood is the epitome of glamour. Fashion is big business that employs many people. The Oscars brings the two together on a world stage. And yes, women get asked about their dresses because it’s what many people tune in to see. The men’s tuxedos are the same each year. They aren’t the draw.
Funnily, the questions that don’t crop up are ‘what does Chris Hemsworth think about Brexit’ or ‘ What are Rebel Wilson’s views on the fiscal crisis’.
Maybe, just maybe, people don’t really care.

As I write this, some media outlets are reporting that Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster will present the best actress award this year instead of Casey Affleck. He withdrew recently from the tradition of the previous best actor winner presenting the new best actress winner with her gong, most likely, because he didn’t want or need the media coverage that would have dogged him in respect of allegations of sexual misconduct which were subject to an agreement between him and two women. None of the trio are legally allowed to speak publicly about the agreement. No one outside their respective close circles and legal advisers knows what the terms of the agreement were. Affleck could have agreed terms because he’s guilty as hell and didn’t want a court trial to prove it. The women could have been lying through their teeth and didn’t want a court trial to prove it.

Or, you know, the truth could lie somewhere in the middle. As it often does. Point is, we will never know.

That, of course didn’t stop hysterical speculation last year on social media of what Casey Affleck was ‘definitely, absolutely, 100% guilty of” – because – wait for it- he always plays creepy guys on screen! And it wouldn’t have stopped it this year, specially in the wake of #metoo. So Affleck stepped aside.

If it’s true that Lawrence and Foster will replace him, has the Academy really thought it through? What’s the message here:

That it takes two women to replace one man?

That there are no men left in Hollywood who can even safely present a woman with an award?

That only women can present an award to a woman because gender segregation is where we’re at in 2018??!!

See, this is what happens when you add politics to the mix. You may think you’re doing something right but it can come out all wrong.

On Oscar night on Sunday, armed police and security guards will protect stars who will go on stage and speak passionately against guns. Actresses who cheered and gave standing ovations to convicted child rapist Roman Polanski will now speak passionately against sexual predators. The list is endless of hypocrisies Hollywood can be called out for, so the wise thing to do might be to leave politics outside the door and, you know, entertain on the biggest night of the glamour industry.

However, I’m not betting on it.

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