by G. Brown
Oscar hype is fully underway with most studios already have submitted their bids for the 2016 coveted awards. But there are a few late stragglers to the party, like Disney’s latest installment to the “Star Wars” franchise”Rogue One” which hits U.S. theaters this week. Still, most of the heavy weights opened well ahead of the December 31st Oscar deadline and its fair to say that many of the titles creating the most buzz were not exactly fan favorites. The usual suspects are topping the list of ‘most likely to win’ including Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” starring Tom Hanks who proved again that he can still bank at the box office bringing in about $200 million
It’s almost like the more obscure and un-relatable a movie is, the greater the chances the Academy will call it ‘sensational, amazing, pure art and worthy of an Oscar’.
That’s kinda the way actor Samuel L. Jackson sees it. Recently while at an International Film Festival in Dubai, Jackson said, “The movies they [The Academy] choose to say are amazing and great, you know– “Manchester by the Sea”, oh my god, you must see it, it’s an amazing film! But, ehh, I guess it is–to somebody.”
Jackson goes on to note that the movie he cited as an example—“Manchester by the Sea” doesn’t exactly appeal to minority audiences, doesn’t star any minority actors and isn’t directed by a minority. Jackson said, “It’s not an inclusive film, you know what I mean? There are all these ‘Oscar bait’ movies…”It’s another one of those, ‘Oh my God, life is so wonderful, take time to sniff the roses.”
Jackson isn’t just using race as a dividing line and lumped Will Smith’s “Collateral Beauty” in the ‘Oscar bait’ category as well, but his beef is with the industry as a whole which he slams for being too political and hypocritical; “My politics are my politics…I don’t use my politics onscreen. I use my voice as who I am.”
Jackson’s point is well taken…think about it. How many of last year’s Oscar nominated “Best Picture” movies did you see– “The Revenant”– “The Big Short”–“Room” or the winning film “Spotlight”? Many of these movies are paired with big name actors and directors and sappy, tear-jerking stories. No disrespect to any of the actors,directors or movies who have won or been nominated, but Jackson’s right. There’s a formula that usually means A-List actor + tear jerking real life story of survival + beautiful cinematography of rustic mountains and purple mountain majesty = WINNER. Instead of producing films to win over audiences, many Oscar worthy movies only aim to appeal to the Academy members. As we saw with last year’s #OscarSoWhite movement, a lot Black film makers aren’t playing politics and cooking up films by the win formula, so they get ignored. Jackson has been in over 100 movies and only nominated once for an Oscar–you get better odds at the race track.
Some applause for Jackson on calling out the whole Oscar game. After the recent presidential race, many people are wondering if the whole system really is rigged. If that’s rigged, then why can’t the system used to choose who gets an Oscar and who doesn’t be rigged as well?
We’ll see if films like “Fences” starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, Ava DuVernay’s doc “The 13th” about how race relations play out in the U.S. prison system and the critically acclaimed indie film “Moonlight” manage to get even a nomination before we decide if it’s time to dust off the OscarSoWhite hashtag.