Oscar Ethics Post Mortem: The Academy Just Guaranteed That Whatever Artists Win Oscars Next Year, They Will Have No Credibility Whatsoever

Good job, everybody!

Good news, Sipke! The fix is in: if you make a movie this year, no matter how crappy it is, you'll get a nomination. Happy now?

Good news, Sipke! The fix is in: if you make a movie this year, no matter how crappy it is, you’ll get a nomination. Happy now?

Thanks to an extended public self-flagellation by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Scientists last night, any future Oscar nominations or awards to black performers, designers, writers and directors will be regarded by the public and the Hollywood community itself with justifiable suspicion, doubts and cynicism. Last night’s ceremony, from Chris Rock’s all-race monologue to the choice of the music over the credits, was a tacit commitment by the Academy to henceforth and forever name sufficient minority nominees and winners regardless of the merits of their work or the comparative merits of their work to any white artists. Diversity is officially more important than merit. By hook or by crook, there will now be prominent honors to Hollywood blacks….even if some of the honored work is crap.

Not surprisingly, given its traditional and intellectually wan reflex liberalism, Hollywood painted itself into an affirmative action and quotas mandate. After last night, the voters won’t dare fail to nominate a whole bunch of blacks, so Spike Lee will come to the ceremony.  This does put pressure on black artists to actually turn in some outstanding, or at least plausibly decent, work to avoid making all those guaranteed nominations and awards look as phony and rigged as they will be. If the 2017 Oscars include nominations for Samuel L. Jackson playing Samuel L. Jackson, a lifetime achievement award for Sydney Poitier and a gift nod to James Earl Jones for a charming cameo as a crusty old hermit in “The Sandlot, Part 3,” it’s going to be even more obvious what’s going on.

On the other hand, I suppose Hollywood’s blacks could guarantee a sweep for “The Michael Brown Story” by making that the only major film eligible for nomination, even if Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson plays “the gentle giant” and the only audience for the thing is Black Lives Matters, Jesse Jackson and Loretta Lynch.

What a brilliant plan this was! Activists guaranteed that from now on, some Tinsel Town honchos will go in a secret conference room and review the membership votes before they are announced, adjusting the totals to make sure that sufficient black artists are on the list to keep Al, Spike, and the rest from making a stink and calling Hollywood racist. Do you doubt it? Does anyone doubt that no matter what the reality of next year’s films are and the relative merit of design, writing, direction and performances, the Academy won’t allow an all-white shutout, won’t allow a result with a few “token” blacks, won’t allow any result that isn’t spectacularly “diverse,” because the backlash would be horrific?

Does anyone not understand that once the Oscars are decided that way, they will be even more meaningless than they have been, and that nobody in their right minds will care about them?

In order to ensure their “share of the pie,” Hollywood blacks just made the pie unsaleable and inedible. The activists don’t care about this, of course: as always, what matters to them is power. For black artists who wanted to feel that their little gold man meant something, however, it’s too late. Ironically, the only artists whose awards will be meaningful will be white artists, who at least will know that their work had to be so outstanding that even a diversity-rigged system couldn’t deny them the honor.

Well, that problem’s solved!

32 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Race, U.S. Society

32 responses to “Oscar Ethics Post Mortem: The Academy Just Guaranteed That Whatever Artists Win Oscars Next Year, They Will Have No Credibility Whatsoever

  1. Didn’t watch the Oscars last night, don’t care about the Oscars, they were irrelevant yesterday before the show and they’re still irrelevant today after the self-flagellation. I rarely watch any movies anymore and I don’t give a damn if anyone wins an Oscar for doing the job they were hired to do even when they do it with outstanding excellence; I just don’t give a damn what they do or say anymore.

    Personally I think the Oscars are for the actors, writers and production crew, their families, and their personal fiends, and are useless drivel to the general public and should never have been televised in the first place.

    I’m just sick and tired of the whole blowing of sunshine spectacle.

    I have some personal friends that work in the movie industry and I’ll directly participate in the spectacle when one or more of them are nominated, heck I might fly out there to be with a couple of them if their name comes up; otherwise, I’m checked out of the whole thing.

    • Of course, the post wasn’t about the Oscars as much as the “equality of results” version of civil rights, and how it degrades the benefits it’s supposed to more fairly distribute.

      • That started in the 1960’s, I believe.

        One result was the whole busing controversy. Back during segregation, students had to be bused to faraway schools because of their race. Many of the plaintiffs in the cases that led to Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). sued so that their children could attend schools in their own neighborhoods.

        But somehow, somewhere along the way, the right to attend a particular public school despite one’s race transformed into a right to have a particular proportion of students of a particular race at one’s school. In fact, a court order requiring school districts to assign children on the basis of race was in effect as late as 1996.

        http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1996/05/15/34cleve.h15.html

        So, in the name of desegregation, students were forced to take buses to distant schools because of their race.

      • Jack Marshall said, “Of course, the post wasn’t about the Oscars as much as the “equality of results” version of civil rights, and how it degrades the benefits it’s supposed to more fairly distribute.”

        Yup, I knew that; I just couldn’t stop myself from venting a little. What’s worse is the fact that I felt I actually needed to vent about it. 😦

        Demanding the equivalent to “affirmative action” in the nominations for Oscars is well beyond the usual egotistical self-centered hogwash that envelops the movie industry as it’s related to the Oscars, now they’ve added self-centered racism to the mix. I guarantee that the Oscars will cave in to anything that might make them seem anything other than the grandiose projection of perfection regardless if there is any truth to the claims or not; it’s all about appearances, they really don’t give shit about what’s right or wrong as long as the Oscars look good in the eyes of the masses.

  2. So what? I agree with Zoltar Speaks. The Oscars made themselves irrelevant long before this year, and have a well documented history to prove it. While much of what they do is subjective, and in the eye of the beholder, the fact that those who do the voting are not exactly representative of the industry, the movie going public or the population makes them largely illegitimate. The fact that they’ve gone over the top in a contrived show of false inclusion, shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s about protecting their brand and their money. But blaming Hollywood blacks, or those that are pissed after years of neglect, and being told, you simply weren’t good enough, when many clearly were is wrong. Additionally, it’ll do no more harm to the legitimacy of the Oscars than they had prior to this years half assed boycott. And for the record, both Sydney Portier, and James Earl Jones received Honorary Awards years ago. And Sydney, as I’m sure you know, won a Best Actor Oscar in the 1963- the first for an Actor of African decent.

    • I don’t see the argument. Of course Hollywood is representative: of the market, of the field, of its origins. Irrelevant to what? I’ve been involved with such awards—won them, been snubbed by them, judged them. Their purpose is marketing, PR, and to celebrate the profession. Mo mature, intelligent, astute artists regard awards as anything but, and certainly not genuine or accurate critical judgments, any more than reviews are. The tantrum thrown by Spike et al, as I explained in previous posts, was petulant and juvenile, and now they have done material damage and accomplished nothing positive at all, except some overdue voter qualifications.

      Al I can excuse, because he’s not in the business.

      I can excuse you, UR, for the same reason. Nobody in the business, except a few silly people, thinks the lack of an award or a nomination means “you weren’t good enough,” and there is no “wrong.” But if you think a new system where quotas are used won’t undermine the usefulness and integrity of the Oscars, you could not be more mistaken.

      And why you would choose to willfully misinterpret the point in which I used Poitier and Jones, I have no idea at all. Want me to name all of Poitier’s nominations and awards? Because I could, off the top of my head. I don’t know why black artists didn’t get nominated the past two years, but assuming that its because the profession is overwhelmingly white is its own kind of racism. I’m pretty sure its because there weren’t sufficient potential nominees, and that’s because the film business follows the box office (including abroad), not EEOC quotas.

      • And thinking about this, UR, I must ask: do you favor just assigning the awards to make every race and ethnic group feel included, valued and loved regardless of relative artistic merit? Once it’s clear that’s what’s going on, isn’t it true that the awards don’t show any of those things? It’s not about the Oscars, it’s also about jobs, Supreme Court appointments and law school.

        • urbanregor

          No I don’t. I do however favor diversity of opinion, point of view, and life experience within the rooms that make decisions on awards, jobs, Supreme Court nominees, law school admissions and elsewhere. It goes far beyond how a specific minority or group feels. And it’s never about the award or benefit specifically. It’s about the opportunities that one is eligible for as a result of winning an award or gaining admission etc.

          • I agree 100%. But I don’t think you get there by presuming (or publicly implying) that all non minorities are incapable of recognizing and rewarding minority talent. I ran a theater company, you know. We regularly produced controversial African American issue plays (Native Son,” for example—Danny Glover came and participated in the post show discussion) to our mostly white Northern Virginia audiences, big casts, substantially A-A—and got killed. The black media wouldn’t review us most of the time, and the A-A audiences we got usually didn’t make up for the narrow white audiences who stayed home. The big papers, meanwhile, didn’t review the shows because they had no name stars.

      • urbanregor

        http://bit.ly/1ArQ59G

        Actually, I don’t think it’s about the box office at all. Movies with diverse casts routinely out perform those that don’t share this trait at the box office. This largely due to the fact that they attract a more diverse, and larger movie going audience. People like Spike Lee get pissed because they can’t seem to gain acknowledgement, which translates to more money, budgets and opportunity for themselves and those they would hire. The same people that shun minority actors producers, and those that work behind the scenes, gladly take the minority movie going public’s money, then turn around and want to claim there weren’t sufficient potential nominees. And yes, it is because the profession and those that vote for such awards are not representative of the overall movie going public. I see no racism in that. I didn’t mean to misrepresent your use of Poitier and Jones. I figured you knew their history better than most. I think your point might have been better served if you chose minority actors who were less well known. I assume your regular readers would have made the connection. I would hope that they’d also have known that Poitier and Jones were previous winners. But those not in the business (myself included) might not know.

  3. So it just means that the series of left-wing activist sermons about pet left-wing crusades that we’d be forced to listen too will now be selected based on racist standards.

    Won’t effect me, I think the last Hollywood awards ceremony I watched was….

    Erm….

    Hm…

    I don’t think I have.

  4. Other Bill

    Some interesting, worthwhile points made in this article:

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/26/opinions/oscarssowhite-mcwhorter/?iid=ob_article_organicsidebar_expansion&iref=obnetwork

    and I think the author goes well beyond the “it’s not the worst thing” rationalization he might be accused of. He seems to marshal some actual data.

  5. THE Bill

    And the funny thing is the same people who are pushing this agenda are probably the same people who think Hattie McDaniel was a sell out, while she won he award under much more difficult times and opposition then any of the these artists have had to deal with.

  6. Neil Dorr

    Jack,
    The Oscars are worthless — you’ve said so yourself. I hate trends like this, but I’m not going to cry over the death throws of an awards show which hasn’t been relevant since before I was born. I realize it’s the precedent you’re worried about, but this isn’t exactly surprising. A political, ethically-void institution like the Academy bowed to public pressure rather than defending artistic merit? Say it ain’t so.

    “Hollywood’s blacks”
    Are they a monolithic group?

    • They say they are a monolithic group, so I guess they are. People like Ice-Cube and Jamie Foxx have dissented, but that didn’t seem to matter.

      I’m sorry, Neil, but all of these “I don’t like the Oscars, so who cares?” comments are insular and ignorant. Hollywood is a cornerstone of American culture, it’s a tradition, it’s fun for the people who care, and it sells tickets and makes careers. It matters a lot. If it didn’t, blacks wouldn’t be complaining that they have been snubbed. Awards shows exist on the myth that they actually pick the “best.” So do dog shows, which are the same thing, and just as absurd. They are still worth the nonsense. Losers tearing them down when they know how arbitrary they are is selfish and irresponsible. Your comment reads to me like someone who doesn’t watch baseball saying “Who cares if the World Series is fixed? It’s just a game, and anyway, it’s boring.” I have no sympathy for that attitude.

  7. Beth

    “[A]ny future Oscar nominations or awards to black performers, designers, writers and directors will be regarded by the public and the Hollywood community itself with justifiable suspicion, doubts and cynicism.”

    I think the idea behind the #oscarssowhite controversy is that should we be looking at the nominees from EVERY year “with justifiable suspicion, doubts, and cynicism” because routinely White actors are named, with few Black, Latino, and Asian actors, I don’t watch many movies and I personally think a show where trophies are handed out to millionaires is pretty ridiculous. But, I do think that its dangerous to presume that the current system isn’t already rigged, and perhaps it’s rigged toward Whites. I agree with your assessment Jack that this is all about marketing and PR and not merit — but, you can still have a diverse bogus marketing and PR rewards system, right?

    • Not if the awards are clearly rigged according to race. I have seen pretty clear examples where a minority performer was nominated just because he or she was “of color.” I have never seen an example of a black performer who was obviously snubbed because of race. Try this: right now, any transexual performer has a spectacular chance of getting nominated just for diversity. With all the many excellent performances in Orange is the New Black, for example, does anyone think for a second that the one trans actress in a minor role was nominated because of her acting chops? Danny Glover recommended eleiminating the Oscars beacuse not enough blacks won awards. That makes sense.

      When there is a mainstream, serious film blockbuster with a mostly black cast that isn’t an extended civil rights lecture or an attack on the United States and its culture, and it doesn’t get the same level of nominations that the equivalent white blockbuster would get and has received in the past, then there will be evidence of Hollywood racism…a little.

      The current system isn’t rigged, and the fact that Sylvester Stallone didn’t get the Oscar proves it. That would be a great story, good for the industry, and great TV; everybody expected it; nobody would have complained; and it would have honored a film with substantial black artists. Instead, the award went to a subtle, excellent but hardly immortal or flashy performance by an actor most people have never heard of.

      • Beth

        I don’t know Jack. I don’t care about this issue enough to fight about it, but I think an argument could be made that the Oscars already are rigged according to race. Just looking at the best actress category, I can name over a dozen pretty white girls who won after turning in mediocre performances in a so-so movie. (Julia Roberts leaps to mind as an easy example.)

        • And who was the more worthy black actress that year?

          The movie Julia won for is a powerful movie, about a pet Hollywood lib issue, celebrating a real life female underdog hero, with excellent supporting performances, well-scripted, funny, inspiring, and one of the movies I’ll watch just about any time it’s on. Roberts, moreover, is a movie star–she glows on screen; it’s magic. Ask Ashley Judd, who is just as good an actress, maybe better, but without the same charisma, or better yet, poor Anabelle Gish, whose starring vehicle was stolen out from under her by Roberts. I knew Roberts would get the Oscar for “Erin Brockavich”…everyone did. Race had nothing to do with it. She deserved it. No rigging was necessary; just seeing the movie was. If the Oscars were rigged, Cary Grant would have won one.

          Try this: what proportion of prominent black actors haven’t had a nomination? What proportion of prominent white actors have never been honored? (Hint: the second % is a lot bigger than the first.)

          • Beth

            But that’s a rigged question too! If Black actors are being denied good roles, then more good roles are going to White actors. You are looking at this through a particular lens and assuming a fair slate.

            As for this year, I would argue that Will Smith (annoying Oscar boycott and all) should have been nominated — and certainly should have won over Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo grunted and/or was silent through half the movie. Ridiculous.

            We have to disagree about Julia Roberts. The real Erin Brockovich is far more interesting and enigmatic that her. I also went back and looked at the acting nominations for that year — male and female. There were no black nominees at all in any of the acting categories — shocker. So, either Black actors are getting good roles or they aren’t being recognized for their good work.

            • Other Bill

              Albert Finney playing that car wreck solo was an incredible performance. Just his American accent was worth the price of admission.

            • De Caprio was honored for “work” rather than acting. That’s dumb, I agree, but it is a bias–not a racial bias, just a foolish one. “Concussion” itself was less than it could have been, and—I disagree with this, but it is a big deal with critics—Smith’s accent was shaky. Certainly Smith could have been nominated, and worse performances have been, but it was hardly an immortal portrayal.

              Oh, they aren’t getting good roles, but that means that the Oscars are an unfair target. But if black actors are going to argue that their white colleagues being honored doesn’t mean anything to them, then they have eloquently explained why white stars are cast to attract white audiences.

              That will stop when people stop giving in to tribalism and group identification. How can black actors decry a situation caused by the very same phenomenon their complaint embodies?

      • urbanregor

        So according to your criteria, does “Straight Outta Compton” not qualify??

  8. Other Bill

    Last I saw, Hollywood has one objective: making movies that make lots of money. If there are minority people out there with projects that will make lots of money, I’m sure Hollywood would love to hear about them. If not, produce and make the movies yourself and make all the money for yourself, with whatever actors and technicians you want to employ. And if Hollywood won’t give you a prize after you’ve done all that, start your own awards show.

    • Other Bill

      And frankly, I think the elephant in the room no one is willing to talk about is the trope that, in Jessie Jackson’s inimitable words, Hollywood is “Hymietown West.” I think there’s definitely a strong under current of antisemitism at work here (not to mention in all the Wall Street vilification going on). Actually, they are one and the same, come to think of it: “The Jews control all the money and all the money’s on Wall Street and in Hollywood!” Blah, blah, blah.

    • Beth

      Last I saw, The Force Awakens has made more than any movie ever. And the stars of that movie are a Black male and a White Female. There is no White male headliner.

      It’s not about money. There’s a ton of movies with diverse casts that make money at the box office. This is about Hollywood elitism. Often the movies and actors that take home prizes don’t perform well at all at the box office. For e.g., I hadn’t even heard about The Danish Girl until Oscar night. It was ranked #157 in 2015 in ticket sales. http://www.the-numbers.com/market/2015/top-grossing-movies

      • Not the point, and I didn’t say diverse casts, I said predominently black cast serious movies. You didn’t see Star Wars on that list of best pictures, did you? You don’t really think Billy Dee Williams was stiffed in “The Empire Strikes Back,” do you?

        • Beth

          I was responding to Other Bill’s point about money — that’s it.

        • urbanregor

          Straight Outta Compton?

          • Other Bill

            My point was, if you’re black and want to be in the film industry, make movies, market them and make money, maybe even do quality work. If you don’t get a little statuette, who cares? Same as practicing law. If you can’t stand being in a big firm, you’re a human being, er, I mean, go to a smaller firm or start your own. Forget prestige and all that other nonsense. If you’re not appreciated, do your own thing. What was Groucho’s line? “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would let me in.” Stop groveling. Life’s too short.

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