What does Beyoncé have to do to win an Oscar?
Be in a movie, I suppose. But Lemonade is a movie! It didn’t have a plot or narrative or a cohesive structure, but that never stopped the Oscars from recognizing Terrence Malick. When will America learn that Beyoncé has already earned all of the awards? She is just waiting for you to give them to her. #GiveBeyonceAnEGOT. And don’t start about her not having been on Broadway. Have you seen what she does on stage? She is Broadway. Give her the fucking EGOT!
Anyway, you are probably planning on, watching, have just watched, or didn’t watch and are commenting on the 89th Academy Awards, a 4-hour long Hollywood masturbation session that forces you to acknowledge that Jennifer Lawrence is somehow still several years younger than you. When will she catch up, god-damn it? I FEEL OLD!
Hollywood has a well-documented diversity problem. For instance, it has two Jessica Chastains and Amy Adamses, but almost no recognizable Chinese actors (John Cho is Korean). I mean, there are 3.8 million Chinese people in the United States and 1.4 billion in the world, and Matt Damon, a white Martian, is the star of The Great Wall? Hogwash.
Hollywood’s lack of diversity spurned numerous think pieces and hashtags during last year’s Academy Awards because quite literally every movie nominated was about white people doing white people things and every actor nominated was also white. So this year, with diversity on its mind, Hollywood has manufactured through rule changes a much more diverse field of nominees (diverse meaning specifically black diverse. Not Hispanic or Middle Easterner or Asian diverse, but more on that right now…).
The 2017 field has a record 6 black actors out of 20 acting nominations this year. That means 30% of the acting nominees come from a group that proportionately makes up around 13% of the total U.S. population. That percentage may or may not be acceptable, no one can tell anymore. But probably not, since groups like Hispanics make up 16% of the U.S. population, but have gotten only 3% of Oscar nominations since 2000. But, let’s not talk about that because it’s uncomfortable and maybe you think we shouldn't have racial quotas on artistic awards and diversity is diversity is diversity, right Hollywood? At least we can all agree that casting Scarlett Johansson in the Ghost in the Shell is messed up. She isn’t even a Martian!
The Plantain spoke (but not really, I made up the quote to emphasize a point) to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Dawn Hudson about this year’s award ceremony. “Sometimes, we might nominate four or five people who aren’t white. But six blacks in one year? That's unheard of! Plus Dev Patel is Indian, so we get to count him too! I think I can safely say that the diversity problem in our industry been solved. BY ME! #OscarsSoBlack this year, AM I RIGHT?”
But are these nominations indicative of a real change in the movie industry, or exploitative lip service done to shield Hollywood from criticism about its issues with systemic racism?
Many industry experts (i.e. white freelance bloggers in L.A. pretending to like jazz and hoping to make it in Hollywood) predict La La Land (a film about young white people in L.A. pretending to like jazz and hoping to make it in Hollywood) will sweep the awards and defeat films that tell more diverse stories like Moonlight (gay black people), Fences (old black people), Hidden Figures (women black people and Kevin Costner), Lion (Indian people, still counts); and Arrival (aliens, does not count).
We spoke with Oscar voters (mostly white people who live in L.A. that pretend to like jazz, but who have already made it in Hollywood) about why La La Land is the odds-on favorite to win.
“It just has that special something, you know? There's something about the movie that I find so relatable. Like I could have been one of the people in it,” said long time Academy Award member David Johnston, 77, who won an Oscar for editing All That Jazz in 1980 and therefore gets to vote on the Academy Awards for the rest of his life. “I just couldn’t relate to Moonlight.”
But how, short of replacing Janelle Monae with Adele in both Moonlight AND Hidden Figures (the girl killed it this year), can non-white filmmakers ensure that their art is relatable enough to gain votes from old tenured Oscar vote?
Artists have to make art that is true to them. This is especially true when nearly everything that comes out of Hollywood is an awful superhero movie, a remake, a sequel, or based on a comic book (sometimes all four: TMNT 2, Superman vs Batman, another fucking Spiderman movie for some reason). That this year’s nominees make up not only a diverse group of films, but also importantly all tell original stories, is impressive in our revenue-driven creative climate.
The truth is the Oscars have always been bullshit, and its winners are almost never representative of who has created the “Best Art,” whatever that means. Last year’s Best Picture winner was Spotlight. Not even the people who Spotlight was based on think, a year later, that Spotlight was a better movie than Room, or the Martian, or Mad Max. It just won because a bunch of old people in Calabasas thought it should win. It’s the same reason why Pulp Fiction lost to Forrest Gump or Goodfellas lost to Dances with Wolves or Home Alone, which you still watch twenty years later, was never even nominated for anything.
Time will demonstrate that Moonlight is a better, more important picture than La La Land. And that Lemonade is a better movie than both. The actual award is meaningless because the Oscar voters don't get to decide what movies are the best or the most culturally significant. We do.
By Daniel Jimenez and Milo