Every year around late January to early February when the Academy Award nominations are announced, tons of people waste plenty of energy whining and bitching about what films got picked and which didn’t. The complaints often go something like this: ‘Whaa, whaa, Whaaaaa, my favorite movie/actor/director/whomever/whatever didn’t get nominated! Whaaa, it’s almost like the Academy is a bunch of old fogies who select nominees and winners based on personal taste, social convenience, political correctness, and ratings-boosters, whaa! And after all these years, I’m still so worked up over the Oscars!’
Honestly, if you’re still of the naive, hopelessly idealistic state of mind thinking that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is not a snobbish, heavily biased and overly-white old male-dominated institution that’s more concerned about cinematic hipsterism and television ratings than they are with selecting the actual, objectively best films of every calendar year….well, then you really need to see a proctologist to get your head out of your ass. As Ellen DeGeneres astutely pointed out with her opening joke at last year’s Academy Awards ceremony (I’m paraphrasing), “Either 12 Years a Slave (2013) wins Best Picture, or you’re all racists!“
I hate to break it to you cats, but the Oscars are as much about what the Academy wants to say about itself as they are about recognizing yearly “cinematic excellence.” As such, when Oscar-nomination freakouts turn their attention to clear racial and/or sexual bias by the Academy, perspectives and context go really off the deep end. With respect to this year’s (2015’s) Oscar selections, most of the leftwing-liberal/cultural-diversity social justice warrior (SJW) rage was pointed at the notable omission of Ava DuVernay’s Selma (2014) from the Best Director nomination list (as was Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken , though that wasn’t nearly as well-reviewed as DuVeray’s film). People were also pissed that David Oyelowo (Martin Luther King, Jr.) didn’t get nominated for Best Actor either.
Now ignoring the fact that (1) Selma’s selection as one of the eight Best Picture nominations really isn’t much of an “omission,” (2) the greater social progress-disparity within Hollywood lies in the lack of minority/female-lead productions actually being produced in the first place, rather than the few that do exist getting awarded, and (3) that Selma really isn’t that good of a film and probably doesn’t even deserve the award to begin with —- all that aside, if you’re relying on the Oscars as either (A) a barometer of societal progress and cultural diversity or (B) an actual meaningful enforcer of the former, you best go see a psychiatrist, because no professional ass-doctor is gonna be able to help you with personal misconceptions that ridiculous.
Look, I know we all want the world’s most popular and influential art form to be more of an active force for cultural change than it is, but honestly, looking to Academy Awards of all things —- Hollywood’s single most self-indulgent, self-reflexive industrial pat-on-the-back —- is just so dumb. I mean, come on, people, really?
By far the most sensible reaction to all this Academy Award nomination backlash has been Deadspin’s Drew Magary, who summed up the irony and ludicrousness of the whole affair in appropriately blunt fashion. Specifically he pointed out that:
“If you think that the unrelenting whiteness of this year’s Oscar nominations are meaningful in this regard, then you also have to suppose that last year’s Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress victories for 12 Years a Slave (both deserved) somehow signaled a sea change in the institutional rigidity of Hollywood, which of course they didn’t.
You’re investing in a cosmetic solution to a deeply rooted problem … a solution that has already proven ineffective. And honestly, I think a lot of these people are casting down shame upon nominations because it’s a nice thing to do publicly. LOOK HOW MUCH I CARE ABOUT THIS! It’s no different than when the Oscars congratulate themselves and coat themselves in liberal-do-gooder varnish for doling out a statue to the first female Best Director or whatnot. Look at how we opened the hatch on our glass ceiling for this person! You should encourage us to do this more!”
Even in a theoretical vacuum, there is no reason why any of us should be expecting the Academy Awards to be a supporting factor in the cause for artistic cultural diversity. The fact that the Academy is a collector’s-edition of rich, old, white guys who have a history of picking boring films by other, rich old white guys should have been a wake-up call to all of us decades ago. We should not be looking to mainstream film awards shows to lead us in the charge to broader social recognition. It is both unhealthy for our self-esteem and social morale and sociologically counterproductive to do so.
And finally, as I’ve said many times before on this blog, cinema (or any art form, for that matter) doesn’t bear any inherent responsibility to honor anyone or anything. It is under no obligation to pay tribute to any historical or cultural legacy or truths. Art simply exists for art sake, and assuming that film awards shows will or even should serve as affirmative action selections for social demographic under-representation is immature and woefully idealistic. Again, to quote Magary:
“Art doesn’t exist to redress injustice (or it shouldn’t, because when it does, you end up with The Newsroom), and the Oscars are a shitty arbiter of art’s value, anyway. Never look to a bad party Hollywood throws itself for signs of meaningful change. The Oscars will never solve America’s problems. And if they COULD, then I promise you we have much bigger ones.”
First World Problems, eh?
Seriously people, go see a psychiatrist after getting your head removed from your own ass. And if you’re still really, really worked up over all this, then have a go at Screen Junkies’ 3rd Annual Screenies Awards. It’ll make you feel a lot better 😀