Opinion piece by Eddie on 24/01/2020
As has become the case in the last few years, the recently announced field of Oscar nominees competing in this February’s Academy Awards have been overshadowed by outcry’s from across the globe, bemoaning the fact that diversity amongst the nominees is too slight too appease the now unspoken about rule that the Academy voters must try their utmost to get a broad range of cultures, genders and voices onto the biggest stage for film, seemingly no matter the cost of the art represented.
Now in theory, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, in fact it’s a great thing that film lovers should be exposed to a cross section of art from voices of all shapes, sizes and colors but what is starting too grate, is the fact that even in a year such as this, where the Academy, has believe it or not, got many of the categories right, critics and outspoken voices are never going to be appeased no matter what merits the films in the spotlight are responsible for.
Soon after the nominations were announced, famed author and Academy member Stephen King tweeted about his experiences and how he chooses to vote in the Awards.
Met with much publicity and harassment, many have overlooked what point King was making and the fact that, sorry to say, his right.
What King is saying in my mind, is that it shouldn’t matter who is making what, it’s about the product and in the case of this year’s nominees, they were voted for for a reason and are all deserving of their appearances in the Awards.
Do we want to get to a point where deserving products are overlooked because a category needs a women in there or that a person of color is needed to ensure quotas? It would be amazing if one day all nominees in the Best Director category were women or all actors in an acting category where non-Caucasian but it must not come at the cost of overlooking the deserving pieces of art that these high profile awards can shine a light on.
While people applaud critics having a go at this years Best Director field, filled with how dare they, an all-men group, let’s just take time to appreciate where these men have come from and what cultures and diverse backgrounds they represent.
Martin Scorsese – a catholic Italian-American whose grandparents immigrated from Italy.
Sam Mendes – born in England to a Jewish mother and a father who was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago as a Roman Catholic.
Todd Phillip’s – born to a family of Jewish background in New York City.
Quentin Tarantino – raised in Knoxville Tennessee, Tarantino’s parents decent stems from Italy and Ireland.
Bong Joon-ho – born and raised in South Korea, Jong-ho has been a prolific Korean filmmaker as well as a director of English language features.
While it would’ve been great to see a Greta Gerwig here or a Lulu Wang, these 5 nominees, these 5 men, all deserve their places in this particular field, there’s no agenda here, its just as King stated, when it comes to art it’s about “quality” and to vote in any other way would be in fact wrong.
The other important point to consider in this issue plaguing awards and taking up far too much time in the media, is the fact that the common movie goer doesn’t really care who directed what or where someone is from or what they stand for, they are watching movies for entertainment and valuing each product on those merits.
People I know don’t only go to films only directed by white men or only directed by women, they just want good films, they just want to be entertained and for many voters I am sure they are much the same when they sit back and appreciate a film that has resonated with them.
Movies are an important part of world culture, a powerful way for stories and voices to be heard in ways in which they never would otherwise but this whole diversity issue needs to be carefully considered as it threatens to get out of hand and overshadow the very pieces of worthy art that the whole outcry proposes to address.
How do you feel about this year’s Oscars? Outraged or content? Let me know in the comments below!
Anonymous Guest Contribution:
A bit unusual, but below is an extract from some feedback on this issue I received in the lead up to this post, I believe it was worth adding as further food for thought on the issue.
“It’s not that women aren’t getting the opportunity to make films, it’s just that no films made by women other than Greta Gerwig were better than the 9 films that got nominated by the academy in the Best Picture field.
I will concede that in the case of JoJo Rabbit this is hard to believe, but before you lament a lack of diversity, first you need to categorically choose which of the other nine films are not worthy of being celebrated in this manner.”
“Martin Scorsese can’t change the fact that he’s an elderly white male of Italian heritage. What he can do, is make incredible, classic films that have been proven to stand the test of time… if The Irishman cleans up at the Oscars, it is a decision that can be justified wholeheartedly.”
“I wonder how the argument would go in retrospect… if The Matrix was nominated for Best Picture, is that demonstrating more of a lack of diversity than if Jupiter Ascending was nominated, because in 1999 the Wachowski’s were brothers, and in 2015 they were sisters? The fact that just a year earlier in 1999 Shakespeare in Love won the award proves that the Academy is often stupid with their decisions, but not racist, sexist or guilty of any other intolerances that the ignorant hordes race to label them.”
“The Academy Awards recognize achievements in movie making, and Stephen King is more qualified than you to offer his opinion on the cinematic year that was. So, please respect his views on a subject matter that is not intended to shape the world, but rather offer some of us a bit of an escape from its drudgeries.”