The Oscars Grew Tired of Us.

Academy Awards to Ava DuVernay: “Love your movie. You, not so much.”

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.”

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

Too black, too strong to be honored by the Academy

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.

Well. Damn.

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.

We gave you people a holiday. You want Oscars too?

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.”

“Oh yeah?  Then we’re not interested in giving you an Oscar, so there!”

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.

A man who knows something about getting spiked.

Great White Father Figure: Lincoln versus “Lincoln”

"Fred Douglass? Don't know the man."

“Fred Douglass? Don’t know the man.”

I have not seen Lincoln.   I got to cop to that from the jump.   I don’t know when I will see it, but I know why I haven’t and that reluctance is based upon my fear that it’s going to be just another well-acted, well-shot, well-directed whitewash.    I’m all for entertainment,  and  I understand  Lincoln isn’t a documentary, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to rewrite history in the name of artistic license.    Even without buying a ticket I have no doubt Lincoln plays it fast and loose with the facts.

I’ve got nothing but love for Steven Spielberg.   Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t one of my favorite actors but I don’t see anyone standing between him and a third Best Actor Oscar. and maybe he deserves it,  However,  even though I haven’t seen Lincoln doesn’t mean I don’t know Lincoln and I know you can’t tell a credible story about President Lincoln and how his position on slavery evolved without including Frederick Douglass.

Lincoln was not some beacon of enlightenment and equality.  He was a man of his time, but not necessarily a man wholly of his own invention.   His hatred of slavery was not balanced by a love of Negroes.   Lincoln was very much a product of his time and his decision to rid the nation of slavery was a stance  he evolved to and  Douglass pushed Lincoln to be bold and brave enough to stand up  against the evils of “the peculiar institution.”

Douglass goes missing in “Lincoln”

The contradiction of Lincoln’s words to his deeds are the proof of how conflicted he was.    I wonder if Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner are aware of some of Lincoln’s more intemperate remarks?

  • I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
  • My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.
  • I cannot make it better known than it already is that I strongly favor colonization.

I think we know better.   The reality of who Lincoln was might get in the way of the romanticized whitewashing of Honest Abe.   Lincoln, which was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, had an earlier script by John Logan that focused on the president’s relationship with Douglass, but Spielberg abandoned that story for  Kushner’s that pushes Lincoln and his allies and enemies to the forefront and Douglass out of the picture entirely.

The omission of Douglass and the part he played in leading Lincoln out of the darkness and into enlightenment has not gone unnoticed by historians whom have generally praised the film.    Michael Shank,  adjunct professor at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution writing in The Huffington Post wondered how such a key character could be sidelined,   “It is ironic, in fact, that Lincoln opens with a close-up of black soldiers in conversation with the president. It was Frederick Douglass who not only recruited black soldiers for the Union army, but he also ardently advocated to ensure these very black soldiers had equal pay, were treated equally, especially if captured, and received the same promotions as white soldiers.”

When Abe met Danny

“Frederick Douglass made this film scene feasible. He found it absolutely inexcusable that black soldiers who served in the Army during the Civil War — totaling nearly 200,000 by the end — were being treated as second-class citizens, despite dedicating and ultimately sacrificing their lives for the country. Director Steven Spielberg or screenwriter Tony Kushner could have placed Douglass in that encampment encouraging black soldiers. The idea that the role of Frederick Douglass wasn’t afforded an historical fit in the film, as some have intimated, is utterly fallacious. ”

“What a missed opportunity to educate American audiences about the myriad black leaders that inspired, instigated and were involved in Lincoln’s leadership on the issue of civil rights.

After Lincoln’s death, Douglass said, “Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.”

Douglass’ observation about Lincoln was a statement of fact, not a criticism.    But that isn’t the Spielberg/Kushner/Day-Lewis version Hollywood is celebrating.   This is the American President as the Great White Father who through wit, cunning,  guile and pure force of will drags a reluctant, war-weary country out of the darkness of slavery into the light of freedom.

It’s a good story.   It gets even better when you skip the messy details by excluding Douglass and the part he played in Lincoln’s enlightenment.    It wouldn’t be the first time a White guy reaped the rewards of what a Black guy taught him and it won’t be the last.

America loves its Great White Father Figures who aids the poor darkies.  It makes ’em feel good.