Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Thinking About Movies

Since I am an older white male, I don't see what the controversy is all about.

Yeah, right.

Of course I do.

Actually I think there are several issues.

  • First is the diversity one and the snub of an African-American Woman director- two strikes against her. If she hadn't been both black and woman she might have snuck by. Yes, there have been a couple black directors nominated and a woman, but the old exception proving the rule holds quite true.
  • Second, the problem is made worse by the few number of black actors who are given anything but stereotyped parts or good scripts to work with. Again, the few number show the problem. I don't know whether David Oyelowo's performance is equal to the five nominees since I haven't seen it yet. But nominations for Robert Duvall in a poorly reviewed movie or Meryl Streep (again and again) for a musical that doesn't come up to her normal acting chops, shows part of the issue.
  • Third, and I found this very interesting, four of the seven movies nominated, four of the five best male actor and only two of the five best female actors are based on real people and events. Somehow that, I think, has a limiting factor on the roles and scripts available.
I don't know what all this means in the long run. I would like to see someone be brave and creative enough to give some of our excellent black actors roles that would normally be given to white actors in some of the high-level scripts. Think how that could shake things up. How would people react if you told a story just like the American Sniper story with a black lead. I can hear the screaming about that. Change nothing but the color of his skin and see what happens. What if a Boyhood story happened in an Asian-American family? Or, God-forbid, the drummer under the abusive music teacher in Whiplash was a young Latina girl? Sure it changes the story greatly, but it doesn't mean it would be a lesser quality movie.

None of this is meant to denigrate the quality of the movies presented. This year has been a truly bonus year of great movies. As always to bring the numbers down to the final contenders is not a task I would like. But let's keep working at expanding the opportunities for greater story-telling.

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