Another Monday, another post-awards show morning, another day of waking up and asking myself if I really just saw what I thought I saw. Because there’s absolutely no way that I really saw Billy Crystal in blackface on national television the night before.
And for all I know, maybe I didn’t. No one’s talking about it. It didn’t seem to have made any morning news show headlines. I didn’t hear Kelly Ripa and Neil Patrick Harris mention it and I missed seeing what the women of The View had to say, but given Whoopi’s track record with the hot topics of the day I’m guessing I wouldn’t have been impressed.
Oh, but wait, a quick dive into the comments section at Jezebel (why do I do this to myself?) confirms that I did not, in fact, dream up what I saw last night. Not only did it happen, but it seems to have already been rationalised by the general public. You see, blackface is apparently no longer offensive, especially if it’s not being done to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. We’re in post-racial America! These things no longer carry the weight they once did. There’s no need to analyse it to death. It was just a sketch!
Foolishness like this is making it really hard for me to get my fill of pretty red-carpet dresses.
That study by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed (or confirmed) that the Oscars electorate is 77 percent male and nearly 100 percent white, gives us the only context in which Billy Crystal’s return as the show’s host could possibly be explained. Otherwise, he couldn’t have been more of a creative anachronist if he’d showed up cosplaying Tyrion Lannister. Continue reading →
With apologies to fans of Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, et al., by far the most pleasant surprise of this week’s Academy Awards nominee announcements was seeing Demián Bichir get nominated for Best Actor–alongside “conventional” choices like George Clooney and Brad Pitt–for his role as an undocumented single father in A Better Life.
As Colorlines noted, Bichir’s nomination was one of several nods for Latinos in this year’s Oscar race: cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, also from Mexico, was nominated for Best Cinematography for Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life; Bérénice Bejo, a native of Argentina, earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her turn in the The Artist; Brazilian Sérgio Mendes was nominated for Best Song for “Real in Rio,” his collaboration with Siedah Garrett, of “Man In The Mirror” fame, from the animated film Rio.
But a look at some relevant figures further illustrates how painfully rare Bichir’s accomplishment is.
2: The number of Mexican-born nominees for Best Actor, with Bichir joining Anthony Quinn, who was nominated on two separate occasions, for Wild Is The Wind (1957) and Zorba The Greek (1964).
2: The number of white actors nominated for this category for playing Latino characters (Marlon Brando, 1952, Viva Zapata! and Spencer Tracy, 1958, The Old Man and the Sea).
47: The number of years between Quinn’s nomination for Zorba and Bichir’s nomination.
61: The number of years since a Latino actor born outside of Mexico and the United States was nominated for Best Actor; José Ferrer (born in Puerto Rico in 1912, before it became a U.S. territory) earned the honor in 1950 for Cyrano De Bergerac.
1: The number of:
Latino actors (going into this year’s ceremony) to win Best Actor, with Ferrer taking the Oscar home.
Latino actors born in the U.S. to be nominated for the category (Edward James Olmos, 1988, Stand and Deliver.)
Latinas in Oscars history to win the Best Actress award (Rita Moreno, 1961, West Side Story.)
Mexican-born actresses ever nominated in that category (Salma Hayek, 2002, Frida.)
0: The number of Latina actresses born in the U.S. to be nominated for Best Actress.
It was almost enough to make you say, F-ck The Muppets.
No sooner did Eddie Murphy give up his shot at hosting the Academy Awards in a heart-warming display of solidarity with Bro – I mean, Brett – Ratner than an online campaign recommending Kermit The Frog and friends get the job pick up some steam.
The Muppets hosting The Oscars? The most interesting part of that pairing would be figuring out which half should feel more insulted.
But at least Muppets fans are coming at this from a place of honest – if at times overbearing (wokka wokka!) – enthusiasm. It’s been more disappointing to scan around other sites and seethe samebasicwishlist of prospective replacements:
Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast didn’t do much to challenge Idris Elba’s recent assertion that the Oscars “aren’t designed for us.” But there were a couple of bright spots for PoCs during the show, and one in particular had a massive award haul – but probably not the kind he was looking for. Details, and some feel-good music, are under the cut.
No doubt the Oscars’ overlooking of black industry players this year will come in for sharp criticism, accompanied by hand-wringing and amorphous pledges to do better. Yet the ensuing platitudes are likely to omit a very important detail: with a few notable exceptions, 2010 was a figurative wasteland for black cinema.
By no means should this imply that quality black films do not exist — plenty do, and the industry is replete with examples of excellent movies with black actors and directors at the helm. The principal problem is that for every emotional Eve’s Bayou or Precious, there’s a proportionately farcical Soul Plane or a Lottery Ticket. In short, much of what is considered marketable fare in Hollywood skews toward the comedic or romantic variety with an urban (and often buffoonish) flavor. While many laudable and noteworthy independent black films (such as the little-seen Night Catches Us) do get made, they often debut to minuscule audiences, virtually non-existent industry buzz and sharply limited distribution. Many have talented yet unknown actors and directors that lack name recognition and track record that brings in audiences. Suffice to say, most well-made black movies are hard-pressed to find financial success and mainstream accolades.
It’s not difficult to fathom why. A thoughtful 2009 New York Timesarticle accurately detailed the state of contemporary black cinema and what continues to hamper its development. Despite the commercial and critical successes of Mr. Washington, Ms. Berry and especially Will Smith — all of whom have enjoyed a variety of roles that steadfastly defy stereotyping — Hollywood continues to view black moviegoers through a woefully circumscribed prism. To them, black movies are less mainstream products than they are niche. And let’s be frank: the overwhelming majority of black consumers give them ample reason for doing so.