Sunday Night Rant: Oscars WTF?

THE FAREWELL, from left: LU Hong, ZHAO Shuzhen, Awkwafina, 2019. © A24 /courtesy Everett Collection

Having learned precious little since 2015, the Academy Awards again staggers with its myopia.

In the seven years we’ve been at this gig, I can’t remember a year in which I cared less to see the roster of Oscar nominees. I know I may be a little late to the party; most people have come to the (correct) conclusion that the Academy is a very small revolving door allowing only the same five or six nominees in year after year. At least the last couple years you had some actual decent movies to consider while rolling your eyes at pap like A Star is Born or La La Land.

It’s got me hopping mad, I tell you!

#OscarsSoWhite…and Male. And Old. Still.

The most immediately glaring fact about this year’s nominees is how lily white they are. One person of color was nominated in an acting category out of twenty spots. Bong Joon-Ho is the only non-white person up for best director; the category has no female nominees. The average age for best supporting actor is 71.

Sunday Night Rant: Oscars WTF?
You think digital de-aging is a coincidence? Please, old white men never go quietly.

This lack of diversity is especially galling since this was a banner year for women and non-white folks. The list of appalling snubs is so loaded, they should all get together and put on a separate award show: “Actually Good Movies…Not Made by Old, White Men.” It’d probably kill the actual Oscars in the ratings department.

The Snubs.

So, here’s my list of snubbed movies proving that people other than old, white men were killing it this year:

  • Atlantics – This foreign film from Senegal could have been the first Senegalese film to get an Oscar nod, and the first female director of color to get a nod for Mati Diop, who made a gorgeously meditative film.
Seriously, it;s on Netflix, go check it out.
  • Dolemite is My Name – Eddie Murphy gets mugged on the best actor list, as he poured himself into this role. Also, Da’vine Joy Randolph and Wesley Snipes both knocked it out of the park in supporting roles.
  • Us – Lupita. Give her the statue. She killed it (literally!) in a dual role. I guess she’ll have to wait till the next time she plays a slave to get the Academy’s attention. I’m on the fence about Jordan Peele for directing, the movie did have some uneven spots.
  • The Farewell – Who don’t you nominate for this film? Sure, it came out early in the year, but it dominated. Lulu Wang for director and screenplay, Awkwafina for best actress, Zhoa Shuzen for best supporting actress. It only got a nod for score. Were you watching this with your eyes open, Academy?
Sunday Night Rant: Oscars WTF?
The face of Oscar watching parties in 2020.
  • Honey Boy – Alma Har’el could easily have earned a nod for her direction here. Oh, and give my boy Shia a nod for screenplay, eh?
  • Hustlers – I didn’t see it, but groundswell support for J. Lo for supporting actress was legit.
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco – I loved this movie to pieces. Jimmi Fails was a revelation in his breakout, starring role, and Danny Glover and Mike Epps all had fantastic supporting roles.
  • Booksmart – Olivia Wilde’s coming of age comedy was ten million, billion times better than Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, but no love for any of the ladies who made this film.

That’s just off the top of my head, mostly from what I watched this year. There’s a ton of other deserving folks out there. People seem to really be behind Gerwig’s Little Women, Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire was constantly talked about, and Marielle Heller did strong work on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Apparently Little Women directed itself, Tom Hanks directed himself, and the only foreign film anyone saw was The Parasite.

True story, Oscar voters got to keep that bar over their eyes for every other foreign film.

…And Now We See the Bottleneck.

This year’s Oscars boasts 62 female nominees…just not in any of the major categories (NOT specifically for women.) Most of the nods were in crew categories. Alongside the list above, you can see that the log jam at the studio level, at least, is starting to break. More women and people of color are getting behind the camera and doing fantastic stuff. With all of the streams to get your movie to market (Netflix, cough, Netflix) we’re starting to finally pry the dead, old hands off the levers.

Oscar Voters in the major categories are just not having it.

Yeah. It was probably an innocent mistake that two, old white actors gave Moonlight‘s Oscar to the incredibly white La La Land…

The major categories get voted on by just people in that field. Actors vote for best actor, directors for best director. Now you see why generations of patriarchy dies so hard. All these old, white people are still gate-keeping like a champ. How else do you explain how The Irishman, with its grotesque CG and “Standard Scorcese Plot” cleaned up, yet The Farewell got shafted?

Hell, Star Wars got more nods than The Farewell, and I don’t think anyone thought that was an excellent movie.

Yup. It’s not a rant till I finish by crapping on Star Wars.

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  1. Oscars 2020: Postmortem.

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