MCN Commentary & Analysis

The State of Oscar. Nomination Morning, 2020

I’ve been explaining this for years. People don’t want to understand.

Next year’s Oscars are already down to 60 films being taken seriously. By March, the number will be down to 45. By the end of July, the number will be down to about 30. About 23 of those 30 (or so) will go to war through the August/September festival corridor. By mid-October, those 23 will be 12 and there will be about 7 films left with a legitimate shot at riding this train hard.

Seeing the movies will matter. Media reaction will matter. Audience reaction will matter. But in that pre-Labor Day window, modestly well-informed observers should be able to figure out the majority of titles that will end up being nominated for Best Picture in January. And in Gurus o’ Gold, the members have consistently figured that out before the fall festivals at a rate around 70% or better.

A subgroup of this kind of analysis is looking at movies that are by/for people of color and women. Obviously, this has been a huge issue for years. For good reason. Things are slowly changing. They must keep changing.

But back to the exercise…

There is this odd perception in the world that Academy nomination voting is some kind of shared decision between 8500+ Academy voters to make a statement about something more than the movies they prefer, drawn from the movies that have been shoved in their face in the months leading to the week of voting.

People in my position – writing about this stuff – have to be careful with how we express our sense of things. I think we all know, when pushed, that there is no monolithic “they.” Yet, it is our job to be experts… about what 8500+ people think… with almost no legitimate form of measurement. Yet there is a real feeling that one gets when the tone about a movie or a performance is changing. It really has to do with each of our small windows on all this showing some uniformity. When you hear something the 3rd time, the 6th time, the 8th time, it feels like something is happening. And maybe it is. And maybe it isn’t.

And then there is the history of all these years of award-giving. There are truths in history. And there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. There is a variety of depths of analysis and conceptual skillsets and interest in mining for something other than confirmation of our preconceived beliefs amongst strategists and journalists.

Fifteen, twenty years ago, I do think there was a sense of slots for people of color amongst nominees and extreme events needing to be in play in order to see women get nominations out of the then-expected categories. Nowadays, I hear none of that sentiment.

I’m sure there are cultural biases that are hard to quantify, manifesting in the choices of what movies to see and prioritize, as well as in how voters see elements that break the traditional molds as thrilling or pushing against their comfort zone. But I don’t think Academy members (there are always a few exceptions) are actively choosing not to vote for movies, actors or below-the-line efforts because of the gender or race of the talent delivering the work.

I often read, “Well, Actress X is better than Nominees 1, 2, and 3, so the reason she wasn’t nominated must be gender-bias or race-bias.” Even if I believed that those biases were actively coursing through the veins of The Academy, I would still point to any number of other factors that might factor in a non-nomination. To whatever degree gender or race biases might exist, there is a lot of other stuff in play through the season in every category.

There is no facility for the voting group to say, “Hey… we have too many familiar faces of the same color or gender and let’s make some room for others.” Individually, each voter controls their vote and can regulate it based on whatever their personal priorities are. But “they,” the voters, have shown little appetite for politically-driven voting, much as they have eschewed lifetime achievement award type choices.

I read things like, “the message being that even when we’ve got an open slot, there’s absolutely no way we’re going to look beyond a narrow catchment of supermarket aisle Hollywood royalty” or “for some reason they have been deemed unworthy of acknowledgement. It reeks of ignorance, and generates an image of the voting body as ginned-up newspaper barons decked out in soiled cricket whites.”

But again, this is ass-backwards argument, perpetuated by the false notion that there is a “they” out there making decisions about who they will deign to see as worthy of their votes based on some kind of willful thinking.

There is no such thing as an “open slot.” It is the parlance of Oscar chatter when a number of people have decided that 4 slots of 5 are locked down. But it isn’t a fact. It isn’t a mechanism for voter decision-making. It’s the same way that box office tracking, which is meant for internal use by studio marketers, has become a weekly measure of public expectations when it is ill-served for that purpose. And thus, it is often wrong. But as a result of journalists thinking they have more real insight than they have, box office is almost always about poorly set expectations instead of actual performance.

Awards voters don’t get to vote against anyone. They don’t “deem (anyone) unworthy of acknowledgement.” That does not mean that institutional bias isn’t real and that it should not be complained about and combatted. But someone’s vote for Todd Phillips was not a vote against Greta Gerwig. That is not the context of voting.

Moreover, a “good” Oscar year for inclusion, as last year was seen as being, was a function of three movies. One, If Beale Street Could Talk, was the next film from a Best Picture winner. One, Roma, was a stalking-horse from Netflix, which used enormous resources to not only get nominations in the expected categories for a well-regarded Alfonso Cuarón drama, but to get 2 Supporting Actress nominees into their mix. And the third, BlackKklansman, was from the legendary Spike Lee, who had gotten a Governor’s award just the year before. All inside players with enormous institutional support.

The year before, we had Oscar regulars Denzel and Octavia, plus a hard push by Universal to push Get Out into Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actor… which was a huge get for a genre film, which also happened to be made by a black filmmaker with a black lead. The year before, regulars Denzel and Viola (in Fences) and Octavia and more from Hidden Figures coming together at Fox, and the remarkable run of Moonlight c/o A24.

My point is, it’s almost always familiarity and/or big money involved with every film that ends up with these kinds of nominations. One more year before these (88th Oscars), A24 pushed Room past the expected nomination for Brie Larson and ended up with Picture, Director and Screenplay nominations as well. All white people… just as indie.

So did we have films and candidates in acting of color or female directors who had the kind of familiarity that Oscar tends to go to, regardless of gender or color? Well, we had Greta Gerwig, whose film got 6 nominations, but not Director. Jamie Foxx is an Oscar winner. That’s about it.

I have loved Alfre Woodard since Cross Creek, which she was nominated for in 1983. (Steenburgen, too, who won in 1980 and has never been nominated since.) She certainly should have been nominated again for Passion Fish in 1993. She is a well-loved veteran actor. But she isn’t Denzel or Viola right now and most of the Academy wasn’t voting in 1983.

This year’s schedule, before Sundance and Cannes happen, already has Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights in June, Spielberg’s West Side Story in December, Eddie Murphy in a likely theatrical hit in Coming To America 2, Michael B. Jordan back in Without Remorse, Will Smith as the father of the legendary Williams sisters in King Richard, Denzel in Joel Coen’s take on MacBeth (produced by Scott Rudin and distributed by A24), and Viola Davis in the film version of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom… and that is the start of the list. That is a loaded year of high-profile Oscarbait projects that also happen to have leads and full casts of color. We won’t know until we know… but next year is very unlikely to be nearly as SoWhite.

As for female directors… that is less clear to me from here. Not thinking we will have anything from Greta, Kathryn or Sofia. I’m not about to start setting expectations for Patty Jenkins because she has Wonder Woman 1984 coming. There will certainly by films of value directed by women. But I don’t have enough intel on what may move into the highest positions at this point.

Don’t confuse social media with Oscars. Every year, there are new people who become part of the nomination family. But mostly, history repeats. That does inhibit inclusion to some degree, but sometimes you get Moonlight. And I have to say, social media told me I was crazy when I said Hidden Figures would be a Best Picture nominee starting in September. They changed their minds sometime in November and, amazingly, forget that they once thought it unlikely. I didn’t think it was going to get there because it was about 3 black women. That was a great story, whatever race or gender is fighting to get respect and success. And the actresses in the film are all incredibly compelling personalities… again, just because they are.

The trick to all of this is to acknowledge and to make changes to the organizations that have, undeniably, had troubles with institutional racism. But also not to get caught up in the idea that racism is the primary driver of every circumstance that doesn’t feel great.

And let’s get down to it… do we really feel good about the idea of Academy voters committing to voting for at least one person of color or a woman in every category, regardless of whether the voter feels that person did the best work of that year?

And I have to say also… do we really think that voting for Todd Phillips for Director was an afterthought for those who voted for him to be nominated today? I think Joker is pretty much an all-in or all-out kind of film. You may hate the choice, but I don’t think you would find many voters who voted for the directing they loved and had an open slot and just threw Todd in there instead of embracing, say Greta Gerwig, flipping the coin in the air. In the Venn diagram of it all, I would bet that there is not a lot of crossover between Love Todd and Love Greta.

The industry has done a little better lately. Not nearly enough has changed.

For me, a couple more nominations for people of color and/or women in gender-free categories would not make me feel much better about the overall state of things. It’s easier to have those noms and not have people freaking out all over the internet. But I don’t want Hollywood and The Academy to be waiting on Denzel and Viola and Octavia and Barry Jenkins and Cuarón (working in Spanish) and Guillermo and Alejandro to make the industry seem less racist every other year. I would love to see another 7 or 8 films a year that fit in that Oscar ideal, made by people of color and/or women. Because they won’t all make it.

And then we can get out the pitchforks and torches to burn down The Academy if they can’t find something to love in all those inclusive movies. If your line to getting the torches is closer than mine… okay. A bit further away… okay. But please, take all the facts into consideration before you rage. I will try to do the same.

Congratulations to all the nominees… and to everyone who made anything that people loved this year. It was a very good year.

44 Responses to “The State of Oscar. Nomination Morning, 2020”

  1. leahnz says:

    white boys, white boys,
    whatcha gonna do,
    whatcha gonna do when they vote for you

  2. Douglas Pratt says:

    So, do you still not think that the Golden Globes had a significant impact as reflected not just by the nominations, but by your Gurus O’ Gold ratings?

  3. Amblinman says:

    ”I would bet that there is not a lot of crossover between Love Todd and Love Greta.“

    Yes. The French have a word for that: “misogyny”.

  4. Stella's Boy says:

    Seems like the same old Oscars to me. Not really any surprises. Safe and expected choices. Almost entirely white. Directors all male. Many overrated BP noms. Many glaring snubs. Same shit different year. But I’m sure ratings will just skyrocket with all the Joker noms.

  5. amblinman says:

    I think the Ava Duverney and Stephen King kerfluffle perfectly illulstrates the problem:

    White people, even when they agree racism is a problem, constantly find permission structures that allow them to ignore most of it. Thus a person who seems of good faith, like King, can use banal platitudes regarding the best person winning and feel good about himself.

    Shit never changes cause white people are insane.

  6. PJ says:

    These nominations destroyed the talking point that it is not the issue of opportunity when it comes to nominating people of color, it is a much deeper and systemic issue within the entire industry. What is thought of as great is different for a white person than it is for a person of color. We must start with the pundits who follow the beat every day and yet only lift up gutter trash like Richard Jewell and not masterworks like Queen and Slim. We must start with the studios who spend lavish amount of money on campaigns with the white leads they picked by algorithm. We must start with the critics who only try to predict oscar instead of choosing the best films. There is a lot of work to be done and no one is willing to lend a hand and start.

  7. Stella's Boy says:

    Interesting comments from Glen Mazzara:

    Call me crazy but I believe that white men, feeling threatened by recent pushes to hire more women & POC, are not voting for films made by those people because that would validate those films & create a shift in the market place.
    I’m hearing a lot of guys say they can’t get jobs, that it’s hard for white guys out there in Hollywood these days. The numbers don’t support that but it’s the current narrative.
    These folks aren’t used to competing against people with different backgrounds and perspectives.
    So they cast their secret ballot for films that they can make. Those films will keep getting made and they’ll have job security.
    Sure it’s a conspiratorial view but truth is, Hollywood could solve it’s race and gender issues if it wanted to. It doesn’t want to despite what it says.
    I believe people are actively working against any agenda that involves greater inclusion. What better way to do that then when you cast your secret ballot?
    Of course, people will now tweet me about being a SJW and that these were the best films and people need more to do better. Gotcha. Let’s see what happens next year.

  8. David Poland says:

    Yes, Doug… no impact at all.

  9. David Poland says:

    Is misogyny the only factor, Amblin? Really?

  10. David Poland says:

    PJ… they nominated Kathy Bates, who they love. That is the only Richard Jewell nomination… a movie I hate, btw.

    Was there a Supporting Actress performance in Queen & Slim that was in the race? Did Queen & Slim even get a serious awards push?

  11. leahnz says:

    it’s because white men (and ‘white’ is an appearance-based metric, as has been proven time and time again; more conversations about ‘passing’ would probably assist in education on this matter) are socially conditioned in western patriarchy to believe that their minority group with outsized representation in power and status is based on ‘meritocracy’ and perpetuates itself innately, rather than the reality: that institutional structures (underpinned by conscious and unconscious bias) self-perpetuate this unearned and largely unacknowledged advantage – born of active exclusion and oppression of other groups – of white men as ‘neutral’ gatekeepers rather than minority power brokers advancing their preferences and agendas – both overtly and sub/unconsciously – in a cycle of complex favoritism that promotes their group as arbiters and producers of ‘quality’ that inevitably results in elevation of mediocrity.
    and here we are. lots of individual men realise and acknowledge this, and act accordingly. many don’t. the academy (and film ‘critics’ with platforms as a group, for that matter) is OVERWHELMINGLY male and white. that DP and everyone else can write these silly mass of rationalisation of the status quo columns without acknowledging this basic fact is – at best – a function of willful ignorance at this point.
    if the academy was primarily comprised of women in film of multiple races/ethnicities, would the nominees for this year be the same? haha girl please. this entire thing is a farce, as are the people propping it up.

  12. mustang sally says:

    Rushfield is right. ” the eternal misconception that the Oscars are the problem with Hollywood and changing the Oscars will fix the industry…”

  13. YancySkancy says:

    Everything David says is true; everything leahnz says is true. The Academy is a large and now somewhat more diverse organization, and contradictions exist within it. The issues we all argue over are in flux, but the salient ones are the demographic makeup of the voting body and the comparative lack of well-promoted “Oscar bait” type movies by women and POC. The former is actively being addressed by the Academy, but it could still take years to reach anything resembling meaningful parity. The latter resembles a lost cause as long as the blockbuster mentality drives theatrical, because directors of today’s blockbusters don’t typically get nominated, regardless of gender or color.

    Re the Stephen King thing: I was rather astonished that Ava Du Vernay called his statement “ignorant.” How is voting one’s subjective taste “ignorant”? Plus, he said he didn’t consider diversity when voting in a merit-based competition, not that he *refused* to consider the achievements of women or POC. Pretty sure he meant he considered everyone, regardless of gender or race. He didn’t reveal his votes, so obviously it’s possible that they all went to white males. But even so, if he voted his honest opinion (however fueled by the cycle of social conditioning leah mentioned), I’m not sure “ignorant” would be the proper descriptor.

    At any rate, it’ll be hard to break that cycle, because people quite naturally believe their own subjective opinions are sacrosanct (“You can’t tell me what to like!”). Every year, it’s noticeable that the top 10 lists of women often contain more woman-directed films, blacks choose more blacks, LGBTQ choose more LGBTQ, etc. Some of that may be an attempt to redress the eternal imbalance, but it’s far more likely they chose the films that truly spoke to them (a form of favoritism that is less subconscious perhaps than that of the dominant culture). All voters have their biases, and I’d say there’s literally nothing that can change that, though continued changes in the demographic makeup of the Academy should eventually even the playing field if they’re extensive enough. Could still take generations though.

  14. YancySkancy says:

    By the way, anyone who thinks Greta Gerwig is some flighty newb who lacks cred should read her New Bev interview with Kim Morgan, linked on the home page. Fantastic stuff. I thought she knocked Little Women out of the park (my girlfriend didn’t like it, but after seeing a couple of other versions wants to revisit it). I still haven’t seen 1917 or Parasite, but her achievement is certainly no less worthy than the other nominees, IMO, so she probably would’ve made my ballot, if I had one.

  15. Bob Burns says:

    No one ever lost a dime of business by helping rich people avoid feelings of guilt.

  16. Stella's Boy says:

    Speaking of astonishing. Yikes defending Stephen King after universal condemnation of his comments. White, black, young, old, male, female. The only people defending King are Breitbart writers. And you can’t say leah is right and denounce Ava when they are making essentially the same argument re: gatekeepers, etc.

  17. Oscar Geek says:

    The problem with the Oscar system and the whole “we judge things on merit not demographics” is that it is like a cooking competition where the judges and previous winners have all been meat dishes. And so when vegetarian chefs begin to compete they are told that once these chefs produce meals that taste as good as and like meat dishes then they will be considered “best” and will win awards.

    Another issue as someone noted elsewhere is that the films that get director noms are not the type of films that women are selected to direct. With the exception of maybe Parasite, which of the other films that got director noms would have had women selected to direct them? The Academy in its “wisdom” has deemed that women’s acting performances are different enough that they should be in a separate category so why not create a women’s director category? Before anyone shrieks “second class” perhaps explain why it is ok for a Actress/Supporting Actress category… Or are people suggesting it wouldn’t be fair to have Meryl Streep compete against world class master craftsman Adam Sandler in a “Best Performance (Period)” category?

  18. amblinman says:

    “Is misogyny the only factor, Amblin? Really?”

    C’mon, Dave. The only factor? That’s a deflection from the point vs engaging in the point. How much misogny is acceptable? 20%? 11%? If I said “NO, it’s not the only factor” how in the world does that change the convo?

    King’s comments: the academy is overwhelmingly white. Nominees are/have been overwhelmingly white (and usually male). So by King’s standards, the majority of talent belongs to white peole? Yeah? We sure we agree with this? Of course we don’t, or we should not because it’s not true. But we make exceptions in virtually every instance to defend our own biases. Even white “allies” clench with this subject because no one wants to admit they have been/are racist.

  19. Oscar Geek says:

    amblinman – I think it would help the conversation or at least progress to acknowledge there is a difference between deliberate and inadvertent or uneducated bias. I freely admit to having been racist by the definition of the black community in the past for having done or thought things that I didn’t even realize may have been racist. And I don’t even mean believing in stereotypes which I never did.

    There is little for some people to gain if we don’t at least give them credit for not knowingly/willingly being racist. Having lived overseas for a time where I was the “minority” and encountering the treatment of being “other” I had my eyes rudely and widely opened and so now I do my part to educate my peers. One example – having a security guard ALWAYS demand my ID while watching her wave through majority population people. When I once forgot my ID I was denied entry. When I went to her supervisor, the guard’s defense – I kid you not – was “They all look alike to me.” Was I in the “wrong” for not having my ID as required. Absolutely. Fortunately the supervisor understood the bigger picture of selective enforcement based on my race not some objective standard of “was I following the rules or not.” Did I learn my lesson about how that happens in America and do I “get” the issue now in traffic stops etc.? Absolutely. Was I racist before for not getting that. Yes. Was it deliberate and intentional and bigoted. I like to think not.

  20. amblinman says:

    @Oscar Geek: Sure, but my point is that implicit bias can’t be dealt with without acknowledging it exists. Acknowledging it exists requires heavier lifting than “I think racism exists but this isn’t racist because…” when discussing actual *systemic racism*.

    This isn’t about giving people credit or accusing them of being klansmen. In fact, the biggest problem for white people is that they’re terrified of being accused of being Klansmen so as long as they’re not burning crosses or homes with black people in them, they insist they “don’t have a racist bone in their body.”

    Of course the problem for poc as we try to give white folks credit for not knowing they’re being racist is that those folks must deal with the actual effects of racism while you and I get to talk about “the best person for the job winning”.

  21. Sam says:

    At the end of the day, it’s probably the old adage that “it’s about who you know” or in Oscar’s case, it’s about “who is your producer/distributor.” I gleamed this after looking at Barry Jenkins twitter feed. He ran his own mini-campaign for The Farewell which came up empty handed. I compared that to Jenkins’ own “Moonlight” whose producers included one William BRADley PITT.

  22. movieman says:

    Was I hallucinating this morning?
    I could have sworn that I read on IMDB that Wes Anderson’s upcoming Fox Searchlight movie (“The French Dispatch”) was actually two films. (There were even two separate running times listed.)
    Just checked again and there was no mention of it being split into two movies–or any run time(s) mentioned for that matter.
    Please tell me that I’m not losing my mind.

    “Dispatch”–in whatever form it exists–has to be considered an awardsy movie for next year’s sweepstakes, right?
    (Just get a load of that cast: holy moly!)

  23. Oscar Geek says:

    @amblinman Got it and totally agree. My broader point as well though was that while totally unfair and frustrating to have to do it, providing positive feedback helps get people more willing to engage in the hard work. I would explain to LGBT allies that if there is no acknowledgement of movement or progress with certain straight groups that they are indeed moving in the right direction they might (as many I have encountered) throw their hands up in the air and say “I can’t win so why should I bother?” (A cheap cop out for some and genuine frustration for others) Because, unfortunately every bit of progress or acknowledgement of the harm straight people caused would be met with LGBT people responding “But you still did/do this and what about this…”

    I always ask people do you want to be right or do you want things to change? Frankly, treating people like that almost like children with positive encouragement for baby steps results in more engagement and progress even though it is horrible/frustrating/irritating to have to be the “grown up” in explaining to people “here’s what generations of your ingrained racist (homophobic) system has done to my family and community you ignorant douche.” Telling it like it is may feel good and even be right but what is the goal? Again, that is my feeble attempt at explaining from a mildly remotely related experience without having walked in your shoes. An attempt at dialogue and being open to becoming better educated as I hope it comes across. ; ) What’s YOUR experience been in engaging in dialogue/education?

  24. palmtree says:

    Even if you dismiss the racial and gender biases in the Academy, it would be pretty hard to dismiss the fact that both the Best Actress and Best Actor categories all feature actors playing various entertainment industry types (director, actors, TV anchors, writers, comedians, etc.). In fact the only two who aren’t entertainment industry types are playing the Pope and a slave liberator. So while we want to believe that the thousands of little decisions aren’t in and of themselves biased, the results add up to what is called institutional bias.

    Now if you extrapolate that into racial and gender biases, it’s pretty damn hard to ignore that the best people are not winning, but are being marginalized by that same institutional bias. I mean, producers are out there trying to appeal to the Academy precisely because the producers know what biases Academy will fall for. Isn’t that why we have all these movies about famous Hollywood celebrities, because it sells to a crowd full of…famous Hollywood celebrities and their friends? So let’s not pretend these biases are accidents.

  25. leahnz says:

    in orchestral blind auditions, female musicians are instructed against wearing HEALS because the automatic prejudice against women as inferior is so deeply ingrained and double-standards so severe that even the sound of their SHOES striking the floor has to be neutralised in order to be judged fairly and not assumed ‘less than’ right out of the gate.
    and thus, women play in orchestras now in huge numbers. funny how the male gatekeeper judges were CONVINCED they were not sexist until blind auditions proved otherwise. all this dithering is nonsense. get real.

  26. leahnz says:

    crikey no edit function? (it was inevitable i bring up the orchestras, figured i might as well get it over with)

  27. palmtree says:

    Actually speaking of women and orchestras, one of the brightest spots in this year’s Oscars is the fact that a woman has a good chance of winning Best Film Score. It’s at least as rare as a woman being nominated for Best Director, and the gurus even have her as #1 (as I recall).

  28. Stella's Boy says:

    For the life of me I can’t remember Joker’s score at all. Good points though palmtree re: Oscar bait movies. We all know they have specific preferences so of course that kind of movie is going to continue to get made and then nominated and the cycle continues. I saw Uncut Gems this week. Blew me away. Left me feeling completely exhilarated (in a way that Joker and OUATIH definitely did not). Amazed by its controlled chaos and sustained tension and the performances. So, so good. But I’m not at all surprised it received no Oscar love.

  29. amblinman says:

    Am I a terrible movie person because I will now NOT go to a theater to see Uncut Gems because I found out it will be streaming on Netflix as of Jan 31?

    Netflix is the death of theatrical. IT’S ALL RIGHT THERE, DAVID POLAND.

  30. YancySkancy says:

    Stella’s Boy: “Speaking of astonishing. Yikes defending Stephen King after universal condemnation of his comments. White, black, young, old, male, female. The only people defending King are Breitbart writers. And you can’t say leah is right and denounce Ava when they are making essentially the same argument re: gatekeepers, etc.”

    Did I miss something in King’s comments? I thought he said he voted based on his opinion of the merits of the contenders. I didn’t see him say anything about only voting for white males or refusing to vote for women or POC. If he did, then I stand corrected and condemn him along with supposedly everyone else (though I thought his response to the criticism was thoughtful). Even so, I still fail to see what is “ignorant” about voting one’s subjective preferences on an Oscar ballot, especially since I assume that’s how Ava DuVernay and most other voters do it too. I understand and agree with arguments about cultural and institutional bias, but in practical terms I don’t see how one can tell voters to vote other than their actual opinions for awards that are supposed to reflect a consensus of the year’s “best.” Of course plenty of people vote for other reasons (friendship, politics, to promote the Academy’s “prestige”), but surely the mandate can only be “vote your opinion” for any awards competition to make any sense. The only other option I see is to scotch the subjective vote altogether and have a jury choose the awards to ensure balance and diversity, even if the results no longer reflect the consensus opinion of the organization. Or, of course, continue to add more women and POC to the membership rolls and wait.

  31. YancySkancy says:

    amblinman: I don’t know where you live, but it’s my understanding that Uncut Gems will only be on Netflix outside the U.S. on January 31st, then in the U.S. sometime in March. That’s what I saw somewhere anyway.

  32. amblinman says:

    “I always ask people do you want to be right or do you want things to change? Frankly, treating people like that almost like children with positive encouragement for baby steps results in more engagement and progress even though it is horrible/frustrating/irritating to have to be the “grown up” in explaining to people “here’s what generations of your ingrained racist (homophobic) system has done to my family and community you ignorant douche.” Telling it like it is may feel good and even be right but what is the goal? Again, that is my feeble attempt at explaining from a mildly remotely related experience without having walked in your shoes. An attempt at dialogue and being open to becoming better educated as I hope it comes across. ; ) What’s YOUR experience been in engaging in dialogue/education?”

    My dude this is all awesome. And of course you’re right. However: I am a recovering conservative republican. I am telling you: you are not educating anyone. They don’t care. I remember folks like you trying to have convos with me. My own change came from introspection and discovering my own empathy (also Sarah Palin. That was probably the final straw for me in terms of voting GOP, my beliefs started shifting years following). Try having a conversation with someone wearing a MAGA hat regarding virtually anything. Your position takes place in a world in which conservatives come to these discussions in good faith. Take it from me: we have *never* entertained progressive wants in good faith.

    My own take is that the left is much too earnest and soft headed for its own good at times. Yes, you have to call a douche a douche. Yes, it must become publicly consequential to hold positions that are informed by an ism. Education takes place with kids, get them young. If you’re an adult still clinging to your isms? You get no quarter from me. Zero.

  33. YancySkancy says:

    “Try having a conversation with someone wearing a MAGA hat regarding virtually anything.”

    People with hardline views merely entrench when confronted with opposing views, especially if any nuanced reasoning is required. They will quickly brush off any good point, no matter how inarguable, and once it becomes clear that they can’t convincingly refute you, the ad hominems start and that’s that.

  34. leahnz says:

    “I didn’t see him say anything about only voting for white males or refusing to vote for women or POC…”

    there it is.
    you’re certainly consistent, yancy. this is considered arguing in nuanced good faith? because if this is your litmus test, that a white dude (living in a bubble of immense systemic advantage) is required to say this, *out loud*, otherwise criticism is unwarranted, then i suggest the problem is not with king’s critics.
    when you provide this kind of cover, set the bar this high, it says a great deal about all this as a just a comfy rhetorical excersise to you and who you identify with in the status quo (hint: it’s clearly not marginalised people with the deck stacked against them fighting for equal opportunity, which can be – guess what? – rather humiliating and exhausting). for a great many people it’s real life, not blathering online to show how middle-of-the-road you are.
    what’s that douglas quote, “power concedes nothing”. ain’t that the truth

  35. palmtree says:

    Yancy, Stephen King didn’t say vote for what you think is best. In fact his Tweet didn’t even mention voting. What he Tweeted was:

    “…I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”

    And that is an ignorant statement, because not considering diversity in art is exactly the ignorant approach to art-making that got us here. It’s only in consideration of biases that people are now making decisions towards inclusion and diversity.

  36. palmtree says:

    Ugh, no editing function….

    To be fair, I think King was talking about nominating people for awards, so yes, context does count. But still, his ambiguous phrasing leaves the door wide open to interpreting it as agreeing with bigots. He’s a writer, and he should know about that.

  37. leahnz says:

    re: the above, just to insert it’s not just the ‘diversity’ part of his comment, but also importantly WHO are the current arbiters of ‘quality’? who has power as the tastemakers? and therein lies the rub

  38. Pete B. says:

    So if you’re a voter and you think (for the sake of example) The Lighthouse is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but everyone else is favoring Little Women, you’re supposed to NOT nominate the film about 2 white guys directed by a white guy, and instead vote for what you feel is an inferior film? Just because it’s about women and directed by a woman? I think that’s what King was trying to convey.
    (And for the record, I find King to be a raging asshole, but that’s beside the point.)

  39. Stella's Boy says:

    Ah yes classic neoliberalism. I don’t see color and the best always wins! We don’t have a diversity problem and there’s no need to worry about diversity. Let the free market decide. The free market is perfect and should be trusted absolutely. We let the free market work unencumbered and the best will always rise to the top and win out. If it just so happens that the best are continuously and always white and male, well, that’s just the free market deciding and the free market is never wrong. But worry not because the free market does not see gender or color, only the best! If you truly believe that, I have a great deal on a bridge in Alaska.

  40. YancySkancy says:

    leah, quoting me: “I didn’t see him say anything about only voting for white males or refusing to vote for women or POC…”

    leah: “there it is.
    you’re certainly consistent, yancy. this is considered arguing in nuanced good faith? because if this is your litmus test, that a white dude (living in a bubble of immense systemic advantage) is required to say this, *out loud*, otherwise criticism is unwarranted, then i suggest the problem is not with king’s critics.
    when you provide this kind of cover, set the bar this high, it says a great deal about all this as a just a comfy rhetorical excersise to you and who you identify with in the status quo (hint: it’s clearly not marginalised people with the deck stacked against them fighting for equal opportunity, which can be – guess what? – rather humiliating and exhausting). for a great many people it’s real life, not blathering online to show how middle-of-the-road you are.
    what’s that douglas quote, “power concedes nothing”. ain’t that the truth”

    I love how you cherry-pick one small point in my longish post and extrapolate all this “knowledge” about me. I only dropped that fact in to be thorough about what was said and how it was interpreted. I certainly didn’t say King was “required” to say anything. I only meant that Du Vernay and others also seemed to be extrapolating a lot from what he DID say. “I don’t consider diversity” does not translate to “I don’t vote for women or POC.” It simply doesn’t. It literally means he votes for what he thinks is best, REGARDLESS of the gender/race/etc. of the contenders. Do you think Ava Du Vernay votes differently? Maybe she does, I don’t know. Maybe she votes for women and POC even she honestly prefers the work of male creators in a category. But I guarantee if you suggested to her that should vote other than her honest opinion, she would not take it kindly. My main point was that the entire point of the Oscars is for the Academy membership to vote their preferences of what they consider the year’s best. I realize that they don’t all do that — some vote politically, some vote for friends, some pass the ballot to their children or spouse or maid. But the mandate is to vote for what YOU think is best. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, this means that white males will be more likely to vote for films that appeal to the cultural biases of white males, and repeat this phrase by replacing “white” with “black,” “female,” “gay,” etc. But I’m honestly confused as to what you would change in practical terms here. Because I’m speaking to the macro — how the awards are actually decided. Of course we can encourage white male voters to see more films by women and POC and urge them to work harder to relate to those films and give them fair consideration. But you can’t make them do it, you can’t make them like the films, you can’t make them choose such films over others that spoke to them more or that they simply found superior even after weighing all the factors. Can you? Acknowledging these facts (at least they look like facts to me) isn’t an appeal to keep the status quo; it isn’t arguing against equal opportunity; it isn’t a failure to identify with marginalized people. It’s an attempt to identify the actual problem, which has to be done before meaningful fixes can be implemented, if indeed meaningful fixes are possible. My hunch, as I stated before, is that the only true fix is a continuation of the steps the Academy has been taking to diversify their membership. If others have suggested fixes, I’d love to hear them, or if you think it’s entirely unfixable, let’s hear that too. That would be far more constructive than the leaps of logic you’re making about my character. But this is the way it always is here. Attempts to approach these things from all sides in at least a semi-objective manner are seen as “apologies” for the most objectionable side.

    Stella’s Boy: Individual Oscar voters are not “the free market.” Many of them have the bias you’re talking about, but again — what’s the practical solution in terms of Oscar voting? If the answer is “White men should vote for diverse nominees regardless of their actual opinion of the work” then let’s just admit that and say it out loud, shall we? If that’s NOT the answer, it would be nice is one of you who are so incensed about this would offer a solution that could actually work rather than insulting someone who’s trying to think this thing through in good faith (whether I’m succeeding or not).

  41. YancySkancy says:

    Can’t edit, but meant “micro” above, not “macro.”

  42. amblinman says:

    @Pete what you and a few others aren’t considering is that the choice to like “Lighthouse” over “Little Women” is usually made prior to either film being screened by the hypothetical individual you’re talking about if they’ve been raised in our country.

  43. YancySkancy says:

    PeteB: “So if you’re a voter and you think (for the sake of example) The Lighthouse is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but everyone else is favoring Little Women, you’re supposed to NOT nominate the film about 2 white guys directed by a white guy, and instead vote for what you feel is an inferior film? Just because it’s about women and directed by a woman?”

    amblinman: “@Pete what you and a few others aren’t considering is that the choice to like “Lighthouse” over “Little Women” is usually made prior to either film being screened by the hypothetical individual you’re talking about if they’ve been raised in our country.”

    So, amblinman, I agree with the sentiment behind your reply, but it doesn’t answer Pete’s question. Is your answer “Yes, that hypothetical voter should vote for Little Women, regardless of their actual preference?” Or, is it “No, everyone should vote their honest opinion, but (fill in the blank).”

  44. Hcat says:

    Been reluctant to enter the conversation because I really don’t have a handle on the solution other than

    A) The more diversity in the academy would likely result in more diverse nominees but more importantly
    B) The more diversity in the films and filmmakers that are given the opportunity will result in more diverse nominees. Look at the budgets Women and POC are given to work with and the marketing push they receive. Its not a case like mentioned above of Lighthouse vs. Little Women, its Little Women against Everything. How many of these best picture contenders have very limited or practically no female roles. Not that I don’t think Ford or 1917 shouldn’t be made, but can you imagine a studio dropping 90 million on a film where men get 10% of the dialogue? Once the studios start taking diversity seriously and giving chances to anyone other than white male filmmakers for their ‘important’ films, than the academy will likely fall in line.

    However,

    I don’t see how it can be denied that there is not a bias in what gets recognized. An argument that gets tossed around a lot is that most Best Actor nominees have a film in best picture contention while the Best Actress nominations will not and that is reflective of the Academy not consistently valuing stories that center on women. How does a movie like 127 Hours get a BP and lead actor nom while a similar size and quality film like Wild end up with just a Lead nom? How is there only one or two BP noms a year for that are top billed by women (and even many of those are two handers like Philenoma and Marriage Story)? Either the fewer and far between films that have a female protagonist are inherently inferior or there is a bias in what stories are considered Oscar worthy.

Leave a Comment

MCN Commentary & Analysis See All

The News Curated by Ray Pride See All

"Remember that every time a man commits a violent act it only takes one or two steps to figure out how it’s a woman’s fault, and that these dance steps are widely known and practiced and quite a bit of fun," writes Rebecca Solnit. "There are things men do that are the fault of women who are too sexy, and other things men do that are the fault of women who are not sexy enough, but women only come in those two flavors: not enough, too much, and it is the fate of heterosexual men to endure this affliction. Wives are responsible for their husbands, especially if their husbands are supremely powerful and terrifying figures leading double lives and accountable to no one. But women are now also in the workforce, where they have so many opportunities to be responsible for other men as well."

January 16, 2020

Vanity Fair

“If I’d stayed in Hollywood, I don’t think I’d have a career right now. I don’t think I’d have my voice. So I’m happy that I chose that, to come through basically 10 years of slugging it out in New Zealand. By the time I made Thor: Ragnarok, I was still sleeping on my friend’s couch here in L.A., and by then I was very sure of who I was and very confident in the stories I wanted to tell and how to tell them."
Taiki Waititi Rumored For Post-"Mandalorian: Star Wars Outing

Vanity Fair | January 16, 2020

The New York Times

Google Joins Monoliths Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, With Trillion-Dollar Market Cap

The New York Times | January 16, 2020

“I felt like my film had been studied in semiotics class and they had been given the task of ‘Remake this.' Nothing was left untaken.”
Authorship Claims By Director of 2013 Sundance Feature Against Shyamalan's Apple Series "The Servant"

January 16, 2020

The Video Section See All

The Podcast Section See All