Monday, February 01, 2016

Media: Boycott what?


An Oscar boycott?

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith called for one.

Natalie Stone and Hilary Lewis (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER) explained mid-month:

Jada Pinkett Smith took to Twitter on Saturday morning to share her thoughts on the lack of diversity among the 88th Academy Award nominees that were announced on Thursday.
In a series of three tweets, the actress, who appeared in 2015's Magic Mike XXL, shared her opinions on the lack of nonwhite nominees among Oscar contenders.
"At the Oscars ... people of color are always welcomed to give out awards ... even entertain," she posted in the first tweet.
"But we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating all together?" she questioned. 

"People can only treat us in the way in which we allow. With much respect in the midst of deep disappointment," Smith concluded. 

Some have attacked Jada, some have attacked her position/call.

Among the public, which will not be attending, there's been a variety of responses.

Our position?

"People can only treat us in the way in which we allow."


We support that statement.

The power of "no" means you have every right to refuse to go along with your own mistreatment.

That said, we're not really big on artistic boycotts and while we can, and do, support Jada's individual action, we don't support a boycott of the Academy Awards.

We'll explain why later in this piece, but for now, let's talk about a perception.

Jada is married to movie star Will Smith.

Will Smith's CONCUSSION was released December 25th.


In part to qualify for the Academy Awards -- the cut off date for this year's nominees was 12/31/15.

The film was a routine, by-the-numbers piece of well meaning drek that these days usually finds a home on Lifetime.

Audiences weren't interested in spending money to see a TV movie.  That's why the film only grossed 33.9 million in North America.  It's the latest in a series of bombs Will Smith has starred in -- his last hit was 2012's MEN IN BLACK III.

Will Smith is a movie star.

He's noted for selling tickets.

No one mistakes him for Marlon Brando or James Earl Jones.

Like Tom Cruise (another movie star), Smith is adequate in most roles.

He never digs deep.

There is no shocking talent on display in any of his roles, he merely delivers the same performance over and over.

He's a TV star still working as though he's in TV.

Mary Tyler Moore had to dig deep to get an Academy Award nomination for ORDINARY PEOPLE.

Being box office, Will has been nominated.  Or, when he was box office.

The days of the courtesy nominations ended when his career hit the snags of audience tiring of the same performer doing the same damn things (see the career of Burt Reynolds if you're unfamiliar with audiences growing bored with a well loved performer repeatedly playing the same role).

In CONCUSION, you had a box office flop, with struggling box office Will giving the same mediocre performance in a plodding piece better suited for basic cable.

He was never going to be nominated.

He also wasn't helped by his 'director' who also wrote the plodding screenplay.  Being a box office star (even a faded one) means you get to dictate certain terms to the studios.  One of Will Smith's demands should have been that CONCUSSION get a script doctor and a real director (one not widely by the Directors Guild and one with actual talent).

Here's another truth, Diana Ross probably deserved the Academy Award for LADY SINGS THE BLUES.

We would have given it to her.

It being an artistic competition, we can't say, "She deserved it!"

We have to say "probably" because this is not a sporting event, it's an artistic one and the lines are less clear cut.

Why didn't Diana win?

Race may have factored in.

But so did Berry Gordy.

Berry was told that advertising cinched the award and went on to overwhelm the entertainment community with one full page ad after another promoting Diana.

It was too much.

Wags sniffed he was trying to buy the Oscar.

Getting a nomination required more than acting in a film that's released during the qualifying period.

You have to campaign.

One of the shocking moments in the history of the Academy Awards was when Sally Kirkland received a Best Actress nomination for 1987's ANNA.

Along with real nominees like Cher (who won for MOONSTRUCK), Glenn Close, Holly Hunter and Meryl Streep, there was Kirkland.

How the hell did that happen?

The film made zero at the box office and made little narrative sense.

But Kirkland had a body of work -- small parts, yes -- and was known in the industry.  Most importantly, she had champions.  Two time Academy Award winner Shelley Winters spear-headed the campaign to get a nomination for Sally.  Among other things, Shelley hosted dinners to drum up support for Sally.

Because of her image in the industry as dedicated, hardworking and talented, because her performance in that (awful) film had received critical praise and because industry heavyweights like Shelley got behind her and because the company (Vestron) got behind her (and had money -- thanks to DIRTY DANCING -- to mount a real campaign), Sally got a nomination.

Some people are upset that the acting nominees are all Anglo White.

We're upset that the nominees do not include, for example, Lily Tomlin for Best Actress and Angela Bassett, Jane Fonda and Jennifer Hudson for Best Supporting Actress.  As respected actresses (Lily and Angela have been nominated before while Jennifer's won one Academy Award and Jane's won two) giving critically acclaimed performances with active campaigns for the award, we expected them to be nominated.

They were not.

We can see that possibly Angela and Jennifer cancelled one another out since they were in the same film.  But that wouldn't explain Jane and Lily not being nominated.

But the reality is sometimes people just don't get nominated.

Another truth?

Some material isn't Academy worthy.

STRAIGHT OUT OF COMPTON received mixed reviews.  More damaging to it is the fact that it celebrates a period of homophobia and misogyny.

We're real sorry that in your rush to promote that film, you're too vapid to grasp that a film like that is never going to be nominated by the Academy Awards which are supposed to recognize excellence.

The vapid includes some reviewers who got called out after the film was released for their rah-rah reviews over a film that avoided the realities of its subjects.

Ten or twenty years ago, the film might have gotten a nomination -- though none of the performances.  But STRAIGHT OUT OF COMPTON is as offensive as D.W. Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION.

Which is why, facing a s**t storm of criticism after the film was released, Dr. Dre rushed out an apology for the women he'd beaten, etc.  He realizes the climate has changed and he hopes -- he hopes like hell -- that a few token words can leave his 'beat' empire unaffected.

We find it interesting that there's a boycott called for an artistic competition but no one's calling for a boycott of Beats by Dre due to his history of abusing women.

We also find it interesting that the SAG Awards are being presented as 'diverse.'

Winners included Queen Latifah (for an HBO tele-film), Viola Davis (for a TV series), Uzo Aduba (for a Netflix series) and Idris Elba for a film.

Only Idris could have been nominated for an Academy Award for those performances.

And we'd argue he should have been.

Possibly if the 'Will Smith/Tom Cruise' slot hadn't be filled (box office actor who's not really a strong actor) hadn't gone to Matt Damon this year, Idris could have been nominated?


Equally true, BEASTS OF NO NATION made even less money than ANNA (it didn't break one million) and was quickly shown on Netflix -- an outlet that film executives are still unsure of in terms of what it means for the future. (It should also be noted that Bleecker Street put their emphasis on promoting Bryan Cranston for an Academy Award for TRUMBO -- and succeeded -- but didn't mount a similar high profile campaign for Idris.)

There are a number of reasons why someone gets a nomination or doesn't.

An Academy Awards nomination.

What bothers us about this topic is that it's simplistic and fails to address real issues in terms of awards.

Real issues?

Tracee Ellis Ross.

How did she not get an Emmy nomination last year for BLACKISH?

''Wait, wait, Ava and C.I., you were talking about 'probably' with regards to her mother Diana Ross but now you're not offering qualifiers."

No, we're not.

May 25th, we noted:

If there's any justice in the world of entertainment, September will find Tracee Ellis Ross winning the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.  As Dr. Rainbow Johnson on Black-ish, Tracee's delivered a powerful performance and found laughs that others would have easily missed.
Bow is a full-bodied person who comes to life each Wednesday night on ABC and Tracee efforts and accomplishments argue for the Emmy.  If she were to win, she'd be first woman of color to win the award for lead role in a comedy.  As we've previously noted, Jackee Harry (227) was the first African-American actress to win the Emmy in comedy -- for supporting actress -- and the only other actress of color to win an Emmy in comedy is America Ferrera who won for playing the title role in Ugly Betty
[CORRECTION: Isabel Sanford won in 1981 for The Jeffersons.]

September 28th, we offered:

This month has demonstrated, for instance, that African-American women cannot be funny.
Or, at least,  not in the eyes of the Emmys anyway.
Only days ago, Anglo White actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her fourth Best Actress in a Comedy Emmy for VEEP which is in its fourth season.
So one actress has given the best comedic performance four years in a row?
Tracee Ellis Ross, star of BLACKISH, can't even get nominated.
But Julia can win four Emmys for playing the same character in the same series four years in a row?
This isn't a competition, it's a Ku Klux Klan convention.

And that's why we drop the probably.

Meryl Streep is a great actress.  RICKI AND THE FLASH was released in time to qualify for this year's Academy Awards but she was not nominated for the film.

Yet somehow you want to argue that Julia Louis-Dreyfus not only deserved four nominations for playing the same role but also deserved four Emmys for it as well?

Or that Edie Falco deserved six nominations (and one win) for NURSE JACKIE even though Edie herself argues the series was not a sitcom?

The Emmy voters and judges clearly do not believe that African-American actresses are capable of comedy.

You can see that with the fact that only one African-American woman has ever won for best supporting actress (Jackee) and one for best actress (Isabel Sanford).

And the Best Actress category has been all White Anglo for the last seven presentations.

There's a reason the ratings for the broadcast of the Emmy awards drops each year -- it's the same predictable awards being handed out to the same people who, if you're lucky, at least are wearing something different.

And there's a reason to call out The Emmys.

Doing so now could have an actual effect for 2016.

Some have argued Jada's argument is all about Will not getting nominated.

If, indeed, that is the case, that's all the more reason for Jada to join our call.

If Will Smith doesn't get a hit real soon, he'll probably be headed back to TV.  She'd be planning for the future if she'd shine a light on the issue of race and The Emmys.

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