Monday, January 4, 2016

Award Show Season Thoughts

Seeing as I have plenty of time on my hands this year, one thing I really wanted to do is start watching more movies. I hate the feeling of watching the Oscars every year and not recognizing any of the titles - I guess it's like some weird kind of FOMO, like I'm not "in the know" about all these stellar movies that I should be seeing. As I've watched some movies from the list of predicted Oscar contenders, I can't help but think I'm not actually missing out at all. Let me explain.

So far, I've seen Spotlight, Steve Jobs, and The Big Short, all of which are meant to be taking home the Oscar in top categories. I've read reviews on each of them, and none of the critiques point out their major flaws: these movies cast no actors of color whatsoever AND they each fail the Bechdel test miserably. The lack of POC and women in these films seriously prohibit me from connecting with them on any kind of meaningful level, so how can I ever agree that they should win best picture of the year? Sure, they each have other merits, but how can I be expected to get over this glaring oversight? Or maybe not a glaring oversight, but rather deliberate exclusion.

The cast of "Spotlight"

You can surely argue that the three movies I mentioned above are based on true stories, for which no POC or women play active roles in the real-life version of the narrative. Even so, film writers, producers, and directors take creative liberties all the time - would it seriously hinder the story if a main character was written as black or Latino or Asian & not white? Female, not male? I don't think so. In fact, I think it would enhance not only the storyline, but rather the perception of minorities in public consciousness in general. It would open the story up to a broader range of audiences.

A still from "The Big Short"

I feel like, in this respect, the film industry is really lagging behind television. With critically-renown TV shows like How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, Orange is the New Black, more women from diverse walks of life are getting the screen-time they deserve. And they frickin' own it. The actresses playing these roles compelling, talented, and awesomely qualified. Why is it so hard for the film industry to follow suit?

As Viola Davis said in her Emmy acceptance speech last year, "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there" - same applies to Oscars. She means that if complex roles for women aren't written into the script, they won't be nominated. Conversely I would argue that if TV shows/films with great, intriguing female characters aren't awarded, they won't be written. It's pretty symbiotic. And of course with this thought comes the obvious follow-up argument that women and POC need to play active roles in all aspects of the industry, not just in terms of acting. I mean in writing, producing, directing, and even holding spots on the Academy board.

That said, I know I have lots of work to do in terms of what's left to watch. I definitely want to watch Carol, Creed, Joy, Mad Max, and a couple more, so hopefully those will make me change my mind a little.

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