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86th Academy Awards: Best Picture nominees
March 2, 2014 — Host: Ellen DeGeneres
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Wow. The Academy Awards are soon upon us. This year has been a box office bonanza for theaters despite Netflix and Hulu supposedly bringing on the demise of folks going out to see the movies. Box office 2013
The year has been financially good for the movies. Film is our greatest ambassador to the world. The world does actually believe Americans are like the films and movies we produce, and why not? Does not art famously reflect life? The Hollywood industry chooses what it green-lights and produces, so I think it is a fair assumption that we are what we produce, and we are what we consume. As Americans we are the biggest consumers of our own product- that product being the American film industry.
So the industry makes an obscene amount of money, and we eat it up, and it represents us as a country. So what we choose to nominate as the best of our product means something yes? We are saying that out of everything we have produced, these things represent the best of what we want to see, and have seen. These film nominations are who we are as a country and what we want to export to the world.
This makes the Academy Awards mean something far more important than at first glance. In discussing what has been nominated let’s look at some facts first. Who are these Academy voters? Academy Voters Statistics LA Times
Quoting from the above L.A. times article,
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%.
So with these sobering facts in mind, and also a fact from the article that the median or average age of the voters is 62, we have a more complete picture of who votes to award what Hollywood produces. That is to be specific, old, white, men.
Let me repeat, old white men choose who gets nominated for these awards. So it is no surprise that movies concerning white people getting away with stealing millions of dollars and committing heinous crimes against poor people, and the government -are popular and heralded. These movies being American Hustle, and Wolf of Wall Street. In these films, white people basically steal, and live the high life in divine decadence, wearing high fashion. (GOP wet dream anyone?)
Even though Scorsese claims Wolf is a scathing satire that is being championed as a great comedy- Wolf of Wall Street it concerns me. First I don’t see how bilking hard working poor slobs out of their money with penny stocks is funny, nor tossing midgets at target boards, or having orgies in the office with prostitutes. Let’s remember we weren’t watching a college frat, Wolf of Wall Street is supposedly a true story from a memoir. We are talking about the goings on in a hedge fund. Snorting coke of a prostitutes’ buttocks with investors money-this is the ultimate fantasy for these old white men who are voting for what they like…
The rest of the pack of films are interesting for what was nominated and what was left out. The popularity of 12 Years a Slave with the academy is no surprise. A free uppity colored man who is educated gets brought tumbling down by the white man and put in his proper place- back into slavery. A black educated man, brought to his knees by white men… hmmm seems like the desired GOP plan again regarding a certain black president doesn’t it? Total obstruction by the GOP, baseless calls for impeachment, the complete and total disrespect of the office by this fellow? Remember him? YOU LIE
A film being praised where an educated, talented black man is beaten, and tortured, and then eventually freed by the efforts of his white savior. This black man had NO agency. His fate, free or slave was completely determined by white men. I am sure it delights the voting block (old white men remember -94%) even more that it was a true story. This is the ultimate in slave porn which the white supremacist media is eating up. Throw in a gorgeous black woman, actress Lupita Nyongo who is beaten, and raped over and over for hours only to be abused by white men AND women, and you have the greatest slave porn, S&M scenario for this voting block. They also get the added benefit of patting themselves on the back as white men swoop in to save and free the protagonist. Yes, they get to have their slave whip, and emancipator title too…
Nebraska, now this is a film I actually like, because it’s about regular and poor folk. Although it fills a need also in the narrative of white supremacy. It helps to relieve white guilt. People, (and by people I mean white college students) are finally coming to grips with the long held unfair advantage of white privilege. It is finally being taught in schools all over. Even though, when people of color try to teach this important topic, they get punished…Black Professor Punished for Teaching about White Privilege So a movie that can allow the voting block of mostly old white men to say, “see we come from poor folk too.” It makes the voting block feel better about themselves and I’m sure aids in their sleep at night.
Lets move on to the motion picture, Her. Please, give me a break a movie where an insecure, broken man child starts a sexual, romantic relationship with an operating system, and is dumped, which leads him to a real life relationship with GASP a real live girl. This is the dream of geeks everywhere right? A date with SIRI leading to a real date with Sarah? If I just talk to my operating system long enough, one day I’ll be a real live boy?
Gravity. Sigh… This movie in my opinion sets women astronauts back years. Sally Ride MUST be turning in her grave. An incompetent woman is allowed into space with virtually no training, failing flight simulations. Then she is only saved by the perfect handsome white man (George Clooney) guiding her every step in what to do, using no intelligence of her own. He even leads her from the grave. Is this film a poorly veiled misogynist attack on Affirmative Action programs that have given minorities access and allowed what little holes minorities have been able to pin prick into the glass ceiling. I point out that the sole person of color in the film, dies early.
Captain Phillips- a white captain offers to give his life for his crew and become a prisoner when minority pirates take his ship. A true white hero. Except the actual crew says it is a lie…Captain Phillips not so heroic. Film is a lie says real crew
Dallas Buyers Club. This was a touching film. However it also plays into heteronormatvity and white savior complex. A straight, romping cowboy, who is a notorious lothario contracts AIDS and helps hundreds of gay men and women against his better judgement and dies a hero. While apparently a true story, this is also a narrative that assuages guilt. Especially in the early days of AIDS when the FDA was denying medications to patients that would at least make them ease the pain from AIDS and prolong what time they had left. The archetypes in the film, one being a transgendered prostitute fills the old sad, pitiable homosexual trope. Philadelphia anyone? Let’s stop pitying the Queer community. It does not help us. It actually pigeon holes the community and takes away agency.
And lastly Philomena, a sad white woman who gets pregnant too young and is forced to give away her child, and later on is found by a reporter and goes on a quest to find her child she gave up so many years ago…again virtuous white people doing, virtuous things, being heroes, and worthy of praise. White privilege, heteronortmativity, I could go on…
What is my point in all this? I want people to be informed viewers and consumers of media. I want folks to be able to armed with critical analysis of what is being spoon fed to them. There is a reason that films in which minorities are presented in a light where they have agency and make choices on their own that change their lives aren’t included in this years nominations.
Fruitvale Station makes a Oscar Grant not just some thug who was shot in the back by white police. It shows you his family life, and how he was on a path to regain his footing as a person.
The Butler shows black society during the civil rights movement from any angles and introduces folks to the Freedom Riders AND the Black Panthers.
These are just two huge omissions I see where minorities have a strong sense of agency. This makes them unattractive for voters in the academy to promote.
What are some others? Comment below. What movies do you think we’re left out and why? Whom would you have liked to see nominated?