MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar: #GlobesSoWhite

The irony is profound.

Last year, while Oscar was pounded to a pulp for not nominating one of a small handful of black actors and films, somehow, by including Will Smith, The Globes didn’t get pounded. And oh, yeah, no one takes them all that seriously anyway, except as the world’s most dramatic photo op.

This year, with four serious Best Picture candidates “of color,” The Globes remind us what racism in Hollywood actually looks like. They included the one “black” film that is on top of every list of every awards group and prognosticator and tea leaf reader in town. Moonlight. Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Score. All 6 looking sure to be Oscar nominated.

The other three “black” films? Fences was good enough for its two big stars of color to be nominated. Loving was good enough for its two likely Oscar nominees to be nominated. Hidden Figures was good enough for its Oscar-winning star to be nominated along with, uh, Best Score.

THIS is what racism in Hollywood looks like. It’s not a big ol’ snub, where no black actors get in for two years. That is not the real shape of this problem. It is the lack of opportunity overall. And then, when there is a real opportunity, it is a half-open door, welcoming only the most familiar.

I’ve written before that this award season will not be “#OscarSoWhite” because of the product in the marketplace, not because The Academy membership is any more or less racist than they were last year or the year before. And I stand by that. 6000 or 7000 members of the industry are not making choices based on color in any kind of direct way. The Academy, which has always been a nearly-exclusively white group of people from inside the bubble of Hollywood because that is what the bubble demographic has looked like for over 100 years, leans against stories of racial struggle in America. It is silly to dispute that.

But 2016 represents one of the rangiest groups of “films of color” that The Academy (and everyone else) has had to choose from in a while. Each of the four films being focused on has something very different to bring to the table. And that is great. I don’t suspect you will see such a feast next year. But hopefully, in time, with attention being paid, it won’t be long before we have another year with this much color and this much range of tones and styles and stories are there to be picked from again.

The hard part about writing about bias in awards is that it seems to be putting down the other nominees… and even the nominees who are getting in under a biased group’s system. That is truly not my intention. None of the Globes movie nominees this year are shocking to me. There is no giant movie star whose film was a disaster sneaking in. And perhaps the group’s most significant snub was Silence.

But Moonlight has been the hottest title of the last couple months. It got 6. All that kept it from equaling La La Land was a song.

And then… Denzel, Viola, Octavia, Pharrell (for Score, not Song)… and Ruth and Joel, who have been touted as sure nominees for months.

Sorry, but it’s quality, not quantity to me. And it’s not likely a coincidence that Hidden Figures and Fences and Loving were all shut out from the rest of the categories.

Honestly, it shows too much respect to what is an inherently dishonest organization to spend time arguing about the details of what they decided to nominate. Can’t get behind Jackie or Silence? Fine. That reflects on who they are as a group. Typical. Sully hasn’t had enough heat. Expected. I’m even pleasantly surprised by Aaron Taylor-Johnson getting recognized for his work in Nocturnal Animals, which hasn’t been discussed much before now.

But that’s how they get you. You start talking about the details. And the surprises. And the “snubs.’

And you never really consider how corrupt this organization is. How many tens of millions are spent annually on courting these 80-something half-ass journalists who are considered the second-most valuable marketing tool in Oscar season because they have a TV show that works.

You never really consider how racially biased this group tends to be and how disinterested they are in the art form of filmmaking (unless it makes them seem influential).

HFPA is still a group that wants credit for wearing a Jackie Robinson t-shirt five years after he had integrated baseball.

HFPA is still a group that sells itself.

HFPA runs one of the single greatest cons in America… and it airs on national TV!

But that party is so much fun, we just look away and mainstream mediocrity into a process of honoring the best. Then we raise it higher and higher in perceived significance because… well… everyone is getting a ride on the gravy train and the more cars on the train where some money can be made, the better for the economy of award season and thus, the economy of industry media, etc.

That is how we all participate in devaluing not only awards, but our personal principles, little by little each year. Up the ridge we go.

And I am not Desmond Doss myself. Throwing a little mud now and again ain’t putting much skin in the change game.

But how does one fight an 800-pound gorilla? This was the question of the 2016 presidential election as well. People want to have fun and when the nuclear option is the only one that might work, no one wins. And so, we all tend to try to focus on the positives on the surface and pretend the rest isn’t really happening.

All that said, I offer a true “congratulations” to everyone who was nominated. Every nominee is a part of something bigger and more significant than The Globes. I know it feels good to be recognized. Nothing wrong with that. And all of these people have earned it. No one got here being a mediocrity or not giving of themselves deeply.

But the system is broken. Long live the system.

9 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: #GlobesSoWhite”

  1. Glamourboy says:

    I’m so tired of all these vague accusations on the Globes….if people have information they should just spill it. Do people BUY nominations and awards? Ok, how do they do it and for how much? There must be more than the nominated actors or films that want to get the nomination….is it a highest bidder situation? Why doesn’t anyone (including Dave) come forward with a real expose?

  2. John E. says:

    This column feels like it would have been written no matter how few or how many people of color got nominated.

  3. David Poland says:

    It wouldn’t have. I am not a statistician, but I would guess that the odds of having so many “black movies” in active Academy play overlooked by The Globes in the same way is pretty low. I am not one to call racist. I thought it was wildly overstated re: The Academy (and Globes, along with it) last season. The problem is an industry problem. But 1 for 4 in Best Picture, Director, Screenplay??? No. This is how the subtle racism of this industry works. Against women too, but not in this season.

  4. Rod says:

    I would totally agree with this article if all 4 movies were very well received but besides Moonlight, the other three aren’t.

    Fences is at 67 on Metacritic, Hidden Figures is at 66 and Loving has been missing from most top ten lists, including AFI. They are all good movies but not good enough to be top 5 IMO.

  5. Karl says:

    Forget it, Jake. It’s HFPA-town.

  6. Bradley Laing says:

    The Oscar shortlist of 15 Documentary Feature nominations was a week ago, but I cannot seem to find any ideas about which of the 15 are seen as likely to reach the five nominees list.

    If I was choosing, it would be “Zero Days” or “The Ivory Game” for the statue. But I have no idea what the Academy membership is likely to vote for.

    Could you say something on the weblog about the 15 Documentary feature nominations?

  7. drake says:

    yeah this is ridiculous. davis and Mahershala Ali are gonna win best supporting actor and actress. are you going to write an article about how racism is keeping them in supporting categories? silliness.

  8. Daniella Isaacs says:

    I’m one of the people who thought there was some sort of racism involved (maybe at the studio awards campaigning level, rather than the awards-voter level) in CREED and STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON being so sidelined last year, but I have to say, having just seen LOVING, it got the only two Globe nods it deserved. It’s an actors/theme driven film and not much more. I can’t speak to FENCES or HIDDEN FIGURES yet.

  9. Robert Fuller says:

    Is there racism in Hollywood? Sure. There’s racism everywhere. But a group of foreign reporters participating in a meaningless movie poll and ending up with a list of five dramas that isn’t 80% movies about African-Americans is not an act of racism. Do you not realize how insane you sound?

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
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“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
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