An Oscar Color Rant

by Jason Ellis

Believe it or not, I’m of the opinion that Facebook can be a great place for discussion and, unfortunately, I can’t fit my thoughts into a witty two sentence status or five word meme.

When it comes to politics I tend to be the exact opposite of what one would term a conservative. I would definitely be labeled a “bleeding heart,” and one of the “crazy Bernie Sanders millennials.” However, there’s been a problem with liberals lately. We tend to be offended too easily and we tend to quickly accuse people without assessing situations. We are all fighting the good fight, however, we tend to not listen to each other without quickly determining there is only one right answer.

Which brings me to the current note of media lately – the Academy Awards. Now, for two years in a row the Oscars have been completely white washed and “it’s all the old white men and the Academy’s fault.” I don’t think it is. In fact, I’m very confident that the Academy is not to blame. This issue we see with the Oscar nominations is not an issue with the Academy; there’s a much bigger issue we are not addressing.

Allow me to try to give myself some credentials before I make my point. I’ve grown up loving the Oscars. I always make a point to see the movies and give my opinion. Granted, it’s just that – an opinion. There’s no right answer. So for the next few points I’m going to state opinions as facts, but realize it’s ultimately just my opinion.

Let’s start with 2012, the best movie of the year won – 12 Years a Slave. It got a lot of recognition, lots of awards and very deservingly won. That year there were people of color nominated.

Last year the best two movies got some good recognition – Birdman and Whiplash. Incredible directing and incredible performances and they got the recognition they absolutely deserved.
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I’m still catching up on this year, but so far the best movie, The Revenant, is getting the recognition it deserves. The movies that feature people of color were unfortunately not as good as the other contenders. Straight Outta Compton is an excellent movie. If you have watched the Oscars for even 4 years of your life you would know it’s not an Oscar movie. Creed was a delightful sequel to Rocky and Michael B. Jordan did wonderful – not an Oscar performance but still great. (I don’t think Stallone even deserves the nomination). From what I hear the only two actual realistic Oscar contenders would be Tangerine and Beasts of No Nation. Their lack of nomination is unfortunate but for different reasons. Beasts of No Nation was released on Netflix and the movie industry fears their capabilities. Tangerine was so low budget they didn’t even hand out screeners.

So, what’s my point in all of this? The issue is not the Academy. The issue is that “white” is the standard. Whiplash is based on a true story, but why couldn’t we take that story and cast a Black man as the drummer, or the teacher or both? Why couldn’t a black actor play Michael Keaton or Edward Norton’s role in Birdman? For some reason Hollywood has the impression that if a role doesn’t call for someone to be black, then they must be white. That’s why our only movies that have been successful in Oscar season with black ensembles are movies that have to do with race (The Help, 12 Years a Slave, Selma). People of all races should be able to be any character they want.

Progress isn’t expanding the amount of actors or movies considered for a category. Progress is casting Idris Elba as James Bond because there’s no reason for him to be white. Progress is casting a middle eastern man as Captain America because anyone can represent America. Progress is creating a show about Alexander Hamilton and the history of America and not casting one white person as a founding father.

There has to be a change in the way we think and the way Hollywood thinks. The best movies of the past two years had only white people in them. That is a damn shame. That shame lies on Hollywood and the studios – not the people voting for the best movies of the year.

I welcome your opinions. Also realize that I am a white dude and may not know what the hell I am talking about. But I do know movies.