Are Black Movies Suffering From Greater Diversity At The Oscars?

“I’m rooting for everybody black”– Issa Rae

The Oscars are being celebrated for greater diversity, but it has always been about who THEY feel are the best, brightest, most innovative and creative names in contemporary Hollywood over the last year. Like many black folk who appreciated the meticulous idiosyncrasies of “Get Out”, I too was hoping the film would run the table in each of the categories in which it was nominated.  

But, alas, we awaken to the fact that diversity in Hollywood isnt an exclusively Black thing, and never has been.

Jordan Peele at Oscars: A renaissance for black films

“Get Out” writer and director Jordan Peele, the 2018 Oscar winner for best original screenplay, says that its a renaissance for black films and filmmakers.

Even though Jordan Peele got blessed with the Oscar for Best Screenplay, the first for an individual with African ancestry and the first to be nominated for his directorial debut, it also became clear that, in celebrating diverse images, cultures and backgrounds in cinema, inevitably high-quality Black works will be overlooked in favor of works from other individuals struggling to have their works appreciated alongside those of the mainstream.

“Get Out” was in the same category as some incredible works; Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, The Post, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri and Call Me By Your Name.”  World War II, small town crime in the heartland, a gay love story, and a riveting drama about the 1st Amendment rights were among the nominated, with a love story called The Shape of Water winning the Oscar for Best Picture.  Addendum, a love story about a mute woman and a fish person, basically.  I cant front, The Shape of Water was aesthetically a great movie to look at, but it really was a beautifully shot dramatic version of the 1980’s film Splash.

Guillermo Del Toro also won Best Director for his work on “The Shape of Water” as well, another category in which he beat out Peele.  In doing so, Guillermo became only the third director of Mexican descent to ever win an Oscar for Best Director. Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman, The Revenant) and del Toro’s wins all came in the last four years. 

Do you wanna guess how many times an individual of African-American descent went on to win that prestigious honor?

Oh yeah, regarding the number of African-American directors who have won for Best Director, the tally isnt a tally at all because zero is the absence of a sum, and is also placeholder.

Nope, not Ava DuVernay, not John Singleton, not Lee Daniels, not Steve McQueen, not Barry Jenkins, not Spike Lee, not Jordan Peele. NOBODY black has ever been bestowed with this award.  However, I would like to give a major shoutout to T.J. Martin for winning Best Documentary Feature for Undefeated in 2012 and Ezra Edelman on his 2016 win in the same category for O.J.: Made in America.

O.J.: Made in America – Trailer

Trailer for the 30 for 30 – OJ: Made in America

This is not to poo-poo on the magnificent accomplishments and well-deserved accolades that are being showered upon the winners, it is to bring light to exactly what black creatives and their works are going up against, even in a Hollywood that seems to be on an irreversible path to greater inclusion and diversity. 

Jordan Peele became the first African-American to win an Oscar for Best Screenplay for “Get Out”, but you cant tell me Daniel Kaluuya wasnt acting his ass off in “Get Out”. Here are some of my initial thoughts about the offering from last year.

My initial review was written a day after the film was screened, with much of its content still fresh in my mind. It circulated around my consciousness like a distant dwarf planet, coming at me unexpectedly and from erratic angles. For example, I cant even get into the lone Asian guy at the auction party. I mean, I can, but I wont–maybe a little. Yes, theres some contemporary and historic dressing for that ass in the character; neo-colonialism standing adjacent to contemporary racism. Whoa!

  Its the movie that just keeps giving you more and more to talk about each time you view it. Culturally relevant, both contemporarily and historically, and representing countless views on the mechanics of Black autonomy of any kind relative to White supremacy in America, Get Out is The Shadow Leagues Movie of the Year for 2017.

“Mudbound”, which was up for Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Mary J. Blige) and Best Song, also Mary, didnt win a damn thing.  

Mudbound | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Struggling to survive, two families work the same land in the Mississippi Delta but live worlds apart. Directed by Dee Rees, Mudbound | A Netflix film, now streaming on Netflix.

For most of the world, opinions are disposable like used cotton swabs at a nail salon. For a select few, such as yours truly, we might be able to get paid for giving our opinion. But when it comes to the Academy Awards, the opinions of the committee are what matter most.  

According to the Los Angeles Times, 91 percent of voters for the Academy Awards were white, while 76 percent of the were male.  For me, an African-American male with east coast sensibilities, and an ancestral home in North Carolina, “Mudbound” was emotionally stirring, painful to watch. But it was beautifully shot, acted and very, very well written. In my mind, this film was indeed worthy of at least one win. However, Im not a voter.

Additionally, even though Im on my black thing right now, how come a film as funny as Lady Bird, about a high school senior and her mother, played by Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf respectively, get ZERO Academy love after five nominations?

An overwhelmingly older white male voter base would be my first guess. Meanwhile, “Lady Bird” won Best PictureComedy and Best ActressComedy at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards.  The Hollywood Foreign Press, which votes for the Golden Globes, is comprised of between 90 and 100 members from around 55 countries. And you can bet cash there are fewer than 10 black members in the HFPA. It wouldn’t shock me if there were none. Meanwhile, for some, diversity means giving white women some shine, and righteously so for all women. 

Variety would call the most recent Globbies The Year of the White Woman.

Get Out – In Theaters This February – Official Trailer

Get Out – In Theaters This February In Universal Pictures’ Get Out, a speculative thriller from Blumhouse (producers of The Visit, Insidious series and The Gift) and the mind of Jordan Peele, when a young African-American man visits his white girlfriend’s family estate, he becomes ensnared in a more sinister real reason for the invitation.

Indeed, we like to pretend that much of the world goes about making decisions in an informed, nonbiased manner. The sad fact is that many of us knowingly bring our prejudices along for the ride when accessing the creative offerings of others. According to several sites, some older Oscar voters didnt watch “Get Out”, and even admitted it!

In a Vulture interview with a diverse group of 14 new members from across the Academys branches, one new voter took the temperature of the larger voting pool.

I had multiple conversations with longtime Academy members who were like, That was not an Oscar film, said the new member. And Im like, Thats bullshit. Watch it. Honestly, a few of them had not even seen it and they were saying it, so dispelling that kind of thing has been super important.

As diversity, inclusion and representation are used as the battle cry to shakeup Hollywood, it is ever more important that those whore judging these works reflect society by including hues, genders and ideologies that represent the greater tapestry of the American viewing public. If it is absolutely necessary to see these works get the type of props that me, you and your Momma too, know damn well they deserve, then theres always the NAACP Image Awards, the ABBF Honors, the Trumpet Awards,  or at the AAFCA Awards.  

At least then we know race isnt playing a role in who gets what, when and how. And, at the end of the day, black people always win.  

So, if youre like me and cheer for black wins whenever possible, then the aforementioned shows are on and poppin.  But, if you want to see these works pitted against the best that the greater whole of the Hollywood creative community, in all of its prejudicial leanings and diversity absence, has to offer then you can go ahead and cry again next year when the next great black creative offering is snubbed. 

Me? I’m tired of getting my emotions in a bunch over what 20 years of experience in this game has taught me will continue to happen to black cultural works and offerings that are judged by the mainstream.

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