Oscars Recap & Commentary

I’ve been away for a bit, primarily working on other projects, secondarily working on developing a pipeline of blog material that will be timely/thought provoking/interesting for my dear readers while giving serious thought to the direction that this platform will take over the next few months. So, please pardon my dust.

I had the displeasure of attending an Oscars viewing party yesterday night.  While I am typically loathe to partake of such thoroughly dildofied spectacles, the invitation came from a work colleague and I figured that it would be best to take this one on the chin and put in some face time.  The 2016 Oscars was more dreadful than I could have even anticipated, highlighting just how disconnected from reality and dour the ((entertainment establishment)) has become.  We are currently in an era wherein the entertainer’s greatest sin is that of merely wanting to be entertaining.  One must make a statement, one must pay lip service to the issue du jour, one must genuflect before the secular deities of tolerance and inclusivity.  Chris Rock was brutally unfunny as host, immediately launching into an insulting and frankly abusive monologue about lynchings, racism, and oppressive whiteness. . .before imploring the white Hollywood elites to open the gibsmedat spigot for the considerably less agentic black Hollywood elites  Upper echelon rent seeking.  It was all quite brain dead.

Rock’s main gripe is the gripe of every mediocre actor/entertainer of color in the industry: Hollywood fails to provide sufficient opportunities for non-white (read: black) actors, resulting in an #Oscarssowhite predicament year after year.  The remedy for this great injustice is to arbitrarily cast non-white black actors in a greater number of roles regardless of whether or not the castings make narrative sense.  Thus, Hollywood’s mandate is not to produce films that are thematically interesting, phenomenally plotted, impeccably acted, or visually sensual.  These elements do not a good movie make, according to the envious shills of color. Rather, a film’s goodness rests almost solely upon the extent to which its cast is diverse as determined by whatever metric these goons may happen to cook up.

As usual, this is a case of basic people coming to basic conclusions and proposing simplistic fixes due to their inability to think critically or logically. To them, the importance of the Oscars is merely symbolic.  They do not view it as an event shaped by other more. .  pragmatic. . .consideration$.  So, if there are insufficient numbers of black people cast into Oscarworthy roles, it’s not because the market is at best agnostic to diversity and at worst doesn’t give a fuck about it, it’s not because black celluloid offerings are generally vapid, trite, and poorly acted-it’s because the Academy is full of old white racists actively discriminating against black people because. . .reasons.

However, this is their mistake: their failure to understand what the Oscars truly are.  While the Academy Awards is ostensibly an event aimed at recognizing excellence in film making from a more artistic rather than commercial perspective, the films that are ultimately made must nevertheless scratch that proverbial (commercial) itch.  That is to say: the movie made purely for the sake of the art is an increasingly uncommon one and directors and actors are keen to work on and star in movies that not only pique the interest of the Academy, but also appeal to consumers further downstream.  Furthermore, producers are not interested in financing films unlikely to yield a significant return.  Why else would Inarritu have done his damnedest to snag Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead when Chris Pine or even Idris Elba would have arguably performed just as capably?  Because DiCaprio is certified box office platinum.  When he’s in a movie, he puts asses in seats and puts money in bank accounts. This is far less true of the other two. As the moviegoing public is still predominantly white, it prefers to consume movies starring actors they can recognize and identify with.

Artistically, Stuff Black People Like tends to be pedestrian and one note, with black audiences overwhelmingly responding to features like the Friday series, the Barbershop series, biopics about famous black people, and musical movies (think Dreamgirls) or movies about music (think Straight Outta Compton).  Their tastes don’t run particularly esoteric or experimental or conceptual (think Jonze’s Her or Garland’s Ex Machina). While the black movies listed may be somewhat commercially successful (even this is questionable, because the subject matter and the casts mean that these movies’ popularity will be limited to largely black audiences), they will for obvious reasons never be lauded by the Academy.  The problem here is very sharp.  Due to the expressed preferences of both black and white audiences, directors and producers committed to solving Hollywood’s “diversity problem” are forced to either sacrifice art for representation (no Oscars) or to sacrifice representation for art (no dollars).  You can guess how that tension is frequently resolved.  As Leo said in that other movie for which he was unceremoniously robbed: “money talks and bullshit rides the bus.”

The artistic and the commercial are inextricably linked, and black themed movies generally fail on both counts.  Enough black actors in a movie, and you already know what the movie will be like. These affairs are highly predictable.  The problem here is that black audiences don’t like the kinds of films that are either artistic enough to merit Academy recognition or broadly appealing enough to merit being made.

Hollywood is pozzed beyond redemption.  You’ll find no quarrel with me on that point. But, consider the range of subject matter in the films nominated for best picture this year:

  • Bridge of Spies (a movie about the Cold War)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (a dystopian action film)
  • Revenant (a historical drama about American trappers set in 1823)
  • Spotlight (a movie about journalists uncovering sexual abuse in the Catholic Church)
  • The Martian (space travel)
  • The Big Short (a movie about the root causes of the 2008 financial crisis)
  • Room (a movie about a woman kidnapped and held hostage in a room with her son)
  • Brooklyn (a movie about an Irish immigrant living in 1950’s Brooklyn)

Which, if any of these films would appeal to a black audience?  One of Rock’s prerecorded sets provides us with an answer: precisely zero. In this segment, when asked if they’d heard of some of the pictures nominated like Bridge of Spies or Trumbo, the black individuals polled expressed bemused confusion. One even went as far as to accuse Rock of making the movie up. The one movie that all of the assorted blacks watched?  Straight Outta Compton.

Which serious director wants to toil to film the millionth MLK biopic?  Which ambitious actor wants to make a name for himself working in music themed movies and Barbershop spinoffs?  All of these BLM “we need more diversity in Hollywood” types fail to recognize the importance of the market in determining what gets produced and what doesn’t; who gets cast and who doesn’t.  The Academy will never be able to review movies not made due to lack of commercial viability. At the end of the day-in a roundabout way-the Oscars are about dollars and cents.  Who calls the shots in Hollywood?  The same ((ones)) who make the racist bottom line casting decisions in order to generate the most revenue while skating off scot free and letting white people hold the bag and play defense against a vast horde of ungrateful grievance mongers.