Why Academy Members’ Lack-of-Diversity Is An Important Conversation


 

oscar_statueI’ve heard a whole lot about this topic from many different sides of the conversation lately. I come at this already not being a fan of the Oscars as a representation of film and cinema and I gave up watching them several years ago.

It’s been suggested by some (or many, even) that the reason for the complete lack of minority nominations this year may just be that the performances by non-white actors simply weren’t as good this year as the other’s nominated. Or that it’s a numbers game and there are fewer films and performances to choose from that highlight and showcase non-white actors and stories. While that second statement is certainly true for Hollywood and is something that desperately needs to change, it’s still far too easy an answer as to why most of the nominees this year are white. And it misses a crucial part of the point.

Here’s why I think the lack-of-diversity complaint that is taking place now is undeniably spot on: I know someone who has been in the industry most of their life and has been successful. This person is white. This person is older. And this person said to me that they walked out of the movie FRUITVALE STATION, not because it was a bad movie or that this person didn’t like the performances, but because, and this is verbatim, “I’m just not interested in movies about the black experience.” 

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Why Academy Members’ Lack-of-Diversity Is An Important Conversation

Does “SELMA” Shine A Light On More Than Just Its Story?


selmaI liked SELMA. And I thought it suffered a bit from the usual standard biopic pitfalls of not digging more deeply into the complex areas inherent in its story and characters, as well as not trusting actual events to be powerful enough of a story to not have to alter history to create extra drama or to paint a more “desirable” picture. That said, I still found the film effecting and it stayed with me longer than either THE IMITATION GAME or THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, the other 2 biopics from last year made in a similar mold.

For me, these kinds of linear tellings of stories with historical beats that need to be hit always feel too manufactured. Which isn’t to say they don’t have impact or are not good films. Many are, and this one is. But there’s a deeper level of human experience, the human condition, that these types of films never quite manage to reveal for me. More often than not, this begins at the script stage. These films often feel like the events themselves were strung out in a line with index cards and the characters’ personal struggles inserted to up the drama instead of revealing and exploring the many layers and complexities of the human beings and their struggles being portrayed. For me, the film MR. TURNER was the only biopic I saw from last year that transcended this issue. Perhaps because the filmmaker/writer, Mike Leigh, knows that it’s the characters’ inner journeys that dictate the “events” that unfold and not the other way around.

Continue reading “Does “SELMA” Shine A Light On More Than Just Its Story?”

Does “SELMA” Shine A Light On More Than Just Its Story?