It’s not so much I’m mad about Selma and its directory Ava DuVernay being screwed over by the Academy Awards, because I haven’t seen Selma yet and I thinking I’d get around to it in my own good time but since Selma and DuVernay were snubbed now it’s a holy mission.
There’s a certain irony Martin Luther King fought a strategic battle in Selma, Alabama against racial discrimination and 50 years later along comes a woman who makes a movie about the battle ends up facing racial discrimination all over again.
Columnists, bloggers and social media blew up with a collective Now this is some bullshit when the Academy Awards nominations were announced and Selma was limited to one category it won’t win (Best Picture) and another nobody cares about (Best Song). New York film critic David Edelstein summed up how Selma got screwed, “I tend to think that the Academy collectively thought it had discharged its duty to the African-American experience with 12 Years a Slave. How else, in a year in which black people confronted inequality with greater urgency than any time in the last 50 years, can you account for the omission? You say it wasn’t a very good movie? You’re wrong. Selma has scale and depth. Ava DuVernay was robbed.”
Here’s a plausible reason for the exclusion and it’s right there in the title of an 2014 article in The Atlantic: “Oscar Voters: 94% White, 76% Men, and an Average of 63 Years Old.” Blacks make up only two percent of the Academy Awards voters and to drive the point home of how White the folks are who decide who goes home with the little gold man, if they were a state, Oscar Voters would be the eighth Whitest state in America.
How embarrassing it must be for Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first Black president of the Academy of Motion Pictures to be the diversity hire thrust in the spotlight and have to represent, but represent she did. Or at least she tried as Boone Isaacs looked to score a few brownie points, “In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members. And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories, “
The sad thing is Boone Isaacs knows what she said is a steaming load, but she has to say it anyway. The old White guys who hired her in the first place exactly for a bit of cover provided by the a Black face in a formerly all-White place. Let’s cut the crap. Cultural diversity was the big hit of 2014 with all that 12 Years A Slave stuff. Throwing an Oscar, if not jobs at Lupita Nyong’o gave all those good liberals a warm, fuzzy feeling especially when Brad Pitt showed up to free the slaves, but there’s no time to linger on faded glories. Hollywood is getting back to doing what it does best: Celebrating White men making movies about White men doing White men stuff.
Being blown off by withered old bastards of the Academy is nothing new for someone like Spike Lee, no stranger to Oscar snubs for both Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X had some explicit advice for DuVernay about being passed over by the bosses, “…That doesn’t diminish the film. Nobody’s talking about motherfuckin’ Driving Miss Daisy. That film is not being taught in film schools all across the world like Do the Right Thing is. Nobody’s discussing Driving Miss Motherfuckin’ Daisy. So if I saw Ava today I’d say, ‘You know what? Fuck ’em. You made a very good film, so feel good about that and start working on the next one.”
“Anyone who thinks this year was gonna be like last year is retarded,” said Lee. “There were a lot of black folks up there with 12 Years a Slave, Steve [McQueen], Lupita [Nyong’o], Pharrell. It’s in cycles of every 10 years. Once every 10 years or so I get calls from journalists about how people are finally accepting black films. Before last year, it was the year [in 2002] with Halle Berry, Denzel [Washington], and Sidney Poitier. It’s a 10-year cycle. So I don’t start doing backflips when it happens.”
You can’t go to awards like the Oscars or the Grammys for validation. The validation is if your work still stands 25 years later.’”
Absolutely motherfuckin’ right, Spike.
It’s possible Selma marches to a Best Picture victory even with DuVernay denied a shot at Best Director and David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. passed over as Best Actor, but it’s obvious the fix is in. How can a movie be nominated and win as Best Picture of the Year but the director, screenwriter and none of the actors aren’t? Does that mean the movie was great but everybody who made it sucked?
I have nothing against Boyhood, The Imitation Game, Birdman or any of the other nominees for the Picture of the Year, but I don’t have anything for them. Every movie is not for everyone and this movie tells a story about people who look like me and not the Academy membership. DuVernay probably pissed off some movers and shakers in Tinseltown when she dismissed the film’s critics who griped she didn’t give President Lyndon Johnson enough credit by clarifying, “I wasn’t interested in making a white-savior movie.”
King deserves his praise. A lot of folks believe Selma does too, but the voters of the Academy doesn’t have anything for them either.