Ethics Dunces: The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, Or “Good-Bye, Oscar!”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Science signed the death warrant of the Oscars, or, in the alternative, the film industry itself. This would warrant the “Madness! Madness!” clip, but I’m getting sick of it since that last moment in “Bridge Over The River Kwai”  been relevant almost every day since early June.

It was in June, in fact, that the Academy said it would add a diversity component to the Oscar requirements. I wrote than that it was an anti-artistic development. Yesterday, the dreaded other shoe dropped, and it was far more dilapidated and stinky metaphorical footwear  than I could have imagined, even with the complete contempt for Hollywood and the intellect of its leadership I have developed over the years. I am certain the race-hucksters and minority activists are dancing with joy, having destroyed the Oscars in order to “save” them. Yes, it’s a victory: the Woke Mob has succeeded in wrecking another American  institution and source of enjoyment for the  public. The only question is which institution: merely the Awards, or Hollywood itself.

To be optimistic, I assume it’s just the Oscars, in which case the Academy just committed suicide. The Awards show once was a shared cultural experience, then the actors started getting political and partisan, then the integrity of the process began to look fishy, and over time, culminating in the nominations miraculously including more African American nominees because a activists complained about too many white people receiving the honors. If I had bothered to think about the Oscars at all, they would have been high on my list of casualties of the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. Of course Hollywood would leap at the invitation to mandate the “right” kind of discrimination.

When you read the hilariously pompously named “Academy Aperture 2025” below, it should become immediately clear that the Academy has abandoned its mission of encouraging, promoting and rewarding excellence in cinema, and now will be giving out awards for meeting interest group dictated quotas and dubious social justice criteria. Whether the movies are any good or not will be secondary. Artists are being given incentive to seek political objectives at the cost of artistic integrity and worth.  Well, good luck with that: I doubt many Americans will care about such awards, especially since they barely care about the Oscars now. The Academy Awards seem to be following the doomed path of the Miss America Pageant, which capitulated to the feminists, ceased to be about attractive women in bathing suits, and thus eliminated the only justification, already slim,  for its existence.

I think I understand how the Academy came to make such a bone-headed decision: it is dominated by progressives, and as they have devolved from  passion to fanaticism to  obsession, progressives have become deluded into  accepting the concept that politics and political correctness determines virtue and value in all things.  It is an indefensible decision that betrays the essence of art, but I understand it.

I assume that most film-makers, and all of those with integrity— will choose to follow their artistic vision whether it allows the requisite number of “diversity” boxes to be checked or not. I assume that eventually, maybe quickly, a widely praised and a hugely successful film will be snubbed for not having the required number of handicapped and trans key grips, and the Awards will be mocked out of existence. We shall see: the studios, being award-hungry and run my morons, will initially insist that films meet the Oscars’ restrictive criteria, and then, when the box office suffers, most of them sill conclude, “To Hell with this: let’s make movies people want to see.”

Hollywood has bet its chips on joining the Black Lives Matter mission of creating a race-based culture where color and ethnicity, and secondarily gender, dictate advancement, financial rewards, influence and power. This is part of the indoctrination process, and if it results in bad art, so be it.

I think it’s a foolish bet, but time will tell.

Now hold on to your butts, as Samuel L. Jackson says in my favorite dinosaur movie: here are the standards that, beginning in 2024, films  will have to meet on order to  to qualify for the Best Picture category… Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Appetizers, 6/16/2020: ALS, Artistic Freedom And Arrogance [UPDATED]

Bon Appetite!

1. Today’s fake news note from the New York Times: “A Trump justice delivers an LGBT ruling that demoralizes the Right.” This completely fabricated observation, a variety of fake news I refer to as “psychic news,”purports to, first, characterize the “Right” as a monolithic, anti-LGBT mob, in the way the Left really is a monolithic, anti-Trump mob, and second, claim an extreme reaction to the decision that just doesn’t exist. The Times front page says the 6-3 decision was one “few expected.” That’s deceit: most analysts I read reached the same conclusion I did, which was that a 5-4 decision supporting the interpretation announced yesterday had at least a 50-50 chance of coming down. I did not expect the vote to be 6-3, but anyone familiar with how these things line up shouldn’t be shocked. Once he realized that the majority was going to hold that discrimination against gays and transgender individuals illegal, Justice Roberts may have joined the majority so that he could assign the opinion to Justice Gorsuch, for example.

President Trump has never indicated any animus towards gays or same sex marriage (Pence is another story); the presumption that the President’s supporters are horrified that discrimination against gays and transsexuals wasn’t upheld is just another version of the “deplorables” slur. Moreover, I believe the decision, and the fact that Justice Gorsuch joined with the Left wing of the court to cement it makes the President look good to all but reflex Trump-haters. His job is to appoint competent, open-minded justices, and he has. Gorsuch was never a conservative ideologue, though the Democrats who opposed him in the Senate falsely represented him as one. The decision also makes the Supreme Court look good by once again proving that it is not the lock-step partisan body Democrats claim, and that Chief Justice Roberts has correctly denied. It would be even better if the Court’s block of four liberals were as open-minded and non-partisan as Roberts, Gorsuch, and in other recent cases, Kavanaugh have shown themselves to be. Continue reading

A Law Student Creates A Dishonest List Called “100 Times A White Actor Played Someone Who Wasn’t White” And Begins Another List Called “Times The Washington Post Published A Race-Baiting Piece Of Lazy Research And Sloppy Reasoning By Someone Who Looks Like She Will Be A Terrible Lawyer”

I didn’t set out to make the news media’s tolerating unethical race arguments the theme today, I really didn’t. While I was researching ESPN’s decision not to hire whites on its new website, to which the Wall Street Journal shrugged and said, by not saying, “Wait….WHAT?” in effect, “Sure, go ahead, discriminate!”, I came upon this piece of journalistic offal called “100 Times A White Actor Played Someone Who Wasn’t White” on the Washington Post website. It was authored by Meredith Simons, a law student and freelance writer. Well, Meredith, free-lance writers get away with these miserably researched and unfairly gathered articles a lot, but if you try to sneak this kind of crap past a judge or a senior partner, you’re going to have a rude awakening.

The fact that her article is incompetent and unfair in myriad ways doesn’t mean that Hollywood has been an equal opportunity employer throughout decades past. It hasn’t, but it has reflected the society and tastes in which it operates, and often has been a leader in race attitudes, as in the film “Imitation of Life.” There is work to be done, but careless articles like Simons’ just causes ignorance and confusion.

The immediate impetus for her hit piece on Hollywood casting was apparently the controversy over the casting of white actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in a planned biopic. Simons calls him “African American icon Michael Jackson,” which is the lawyer’s trick of framing an issue to rig the debate—good one, Meredith—but skin-bleaching, child-molesting, whitebread pop star Jackson is hardly an “African American” icon: he’s a national pop icon who went out of his way to reject race and racial labels. That is what the song “Black and White” was about, right? Sure, the casting was a gimmick, but it’s a clever and legitimate gimmick that I would guess Jackson would have approved of enthusiastically. When they make “The Rachel Dolezal Story,” will Simons complain if a black actress gets the part?

So based on a phony race controversy—two, in fact, with the Oscar nomination spat included—Simons comes up with an even more phony list. “Despite decades of protests over racially inappropriate casting and the recent protests over the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees, filmmakers continue to cast white actors as minority characters on a depressingly regular basis,” she writes.

(A tip  for Social Justice Warriors: don’t write about the performing arts and casting if you don’t know a damn thing about either. The purpose of the performing arts is 1) to make a good product and 2) to make money. Anything that in any way interferes with either is irrelevant. There is no such thing as “racially inappropriate casting” if it furthers either of these objectives, or ideally both. It is not Hollywood’s job to eradicate racial inequality in the U.S. If it helps, that’s responsible and ethical of the movie-makers. This is, however, neither its art nor its business.)

Simons’ list is the epitome of the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy done badly. The fallacy consists of cherry-picking facts that support a predetermined argument and “drawing a circle around them” as if they are the sole relevant facts, while intentionally or mistakenly omitting equally relevant facts that would tend to disprove it. Bad lawyer that she is, she draws a metaphorical circle around “facts” that don’t even support her argument. I’m not going to go through the entire hundred  (say “thank-you, Jack!”) but I’ll point out some of her most egregious botches.

To begin with, either she didn’t see the movies on the list, or intentionally misrepresents them. My favorite, and typical of her terrible research: Continue reading

The Destructive, Useful, Unethical Presumption of Bigotry, Part 2: The Oscar “Snub”

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For the second time in nearly two decades, and for the first time since 1998, the Oscars will be awarded to only white acting nominees. This, then, if you listen to the caterwauling race-baiters, is because Hollywood is racist. The Academy’s voters just hid it well since 1998, that’s all. Does that make any sense to you?

There are few more infuriating and transparently illogical examples of an unfair slapping down of the race card than looking for bigotry in the notoriously arbitrary, bias-soaked, essentially meaningless choices for “best” in the various Academy Award movie-making categories. Yet the race card sharks were up to the task.  Naturally, the authority on the subject was Al Sharpton, he whose own performance quality on his MSNBC TV show is so amateurish that it would be shut out in any community theater awards.

“In the time of Staten Island and Ferguson, to have one of the most shutout Oscar nights in recent memory is something that is incongruous,” Sharpton told The Daily News. Wait, what??? Incongruous is the assertion that the nominations for film-making excellence should be influenced in any way by how many blacks are killed resisting arrest. Anyone who finds that to be a logical argument for why more black actors should have been nominated for Oscars is useless to any rational discussion of the issue. I want a show of hands. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “12 Years A Slave” Plays The Racial Guilt Card On Oscar Voters

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“It’s time.”

This is the  tag line in the post-Oscar nomination ads being prominently run in New York and California for  “12 Years A Slave,” a strong Academy Award contender (nine nominations, including best film).

Although there is room for disagreement, and the ad has the virtue of all clever advertising that it conveys different messages to different markets—Haven’t seen the film yet? “It’s time!”  Desperate to see the best movie you saw in 2013 finally get its due? “It’s time!”  When will the question of whether the most honored film of the last 12 months will win the biggest honor of them all be answered? “It’s time!”…or almost time, as the Oscar ceremonies are coming up on March 2—the consensus is that “It’s time” is mainly aimed at Oscar voters, and the message it conveys is, as Slate puts it, “it’s time for a movie about slavery, and with a significantly black cast and crew, to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.” Film critic Phil Hammond puts it slightly differently:

“The ad not only can be interpreted as shining a light on a very dark period in American history, it also shines a light on the Academy’s fairly dismal record of awarding its top honor to any movie about the black experience. In fact there has been only one Best Picture winner in the 85 years the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been handing out Oscars that even remotely qualifies in this regard. In 1968, In The Heat Of The Night, a murder mystery set against the racial divide in a small Southern town, won Best Picture and four other Oscars just a few days after the assassination of Martin Luther King (the ceremony was even postponed two days out of respect). The votes were in before the King assassination, but it seemed then that “It’s Time” would have been an appropriate way to describe that victory. However, outside of lead actor Sidney Poitier — who also co-starred in another racially themed Best Pic nominee that year, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner —  this movie  featured a largely white cast, white producer, screenwriter and director (Norman Jewison).”

If so many in the industry are interpreting the ad this way, it is fair to assume that this was at least one of the ad’s objectives, and on the assumption that it was an objective, your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today is this:

“Is appealing to Oscar voters on this basis fair and ethical?”

I can see strong arguments for each position. Continue reading

Academy Awards Curtain Call Ethics: The Unkindest Snub of All

Every year the Academy Awards manages to neglect a distinguished actor or actress who has died since the previous Oscars ceremony, and usually it is inexplicable. Two years ago, it was Farrah Fawcett who was snubbed. This year  Oscar was more callous and negligent than ever before, robbing at least eight deserving performers of their final curtain calls, and there is  just no excuse for it. As usual, Oscar flacks will claim that time was limited, but that won’t fly: why was there time to include, for example, Whitney Houston, who not only had minimal film credentials but who also  had an entire awards show dedicated to her just a week ago? Whitney hardly rated a gratuitous nod from Oscar, especially while it was snubbing so many real actors.

I will be generous and apply Hanlon’s Razor, but with reluctance: it seems to me that there were too many blatant omissions and too many obscure insiders included for it all to be accidental. Did the behind-the-scenes members of the Academy stage a coup, and demand that their fallen colleagues get their names displayed this year to millions of Americans who almost certainly never heard of them? If so, that still couldn’t justify the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences showing such apathy and disrespect for deceased actors that audiences do remember, or if not, should be reminded of one last time.

Here are the actors who Oscar neglected to help us remember, appreciate, and thank: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Melissa Leo

Give the soap to Melissa, Ralphie...

That certainly settled it: Melissa Leo is an inexcusable boor after all.

Winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Leo blurted out, “Really, really, really, WOW” and then,“When I watched, it looked so fucking easy!”

And thus do tasteless, disrespectful, uncivil so-called professionals degrade our language, public standards of decency and respect for others. Continue reading

Oscar Ethics: Was Melissa Leo’s Campaign Wrong?

On a difficult day, I am not up to writing about heavy ethics issues, so instead I will comment on an ethics controversy that is as inconsequential as possible—one involving the Oscars.

Melissa Leo, a front-running Best Supporting Actress nominee for her role in “The Fighter,” courted controversy by violating one of the Academy Awards’ unwritten rules: “Don’t promote yourself for an Award—it’s tacky!” Leo personally placed Hollywood trade ads showing her in full glamor mode, a sharp contrast to her character in “The Fighter.” The text simply said “Consider,’ then below that, “Melissa Leo,” and in small print off to the side, the web address http://www.melissaleo.com. She argued that she needed to promote herself because her competitors were getting the benefit of big studio publicity, while she was not. Continue reading