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Friday, January 16, 2015

It's Time to Disrupt the Norm: An Open Letter to Hollywood, Critics and Cinema Lovers

(Left to right) Belle director Amma Asante, The Babadook star Essie Davis
and Top Five actress Rosario Dawson

Guys, I'm tired. I'm tired of elitist critics who only acknowledge their own virtually uniform opinion. I'm tired of Hollywood institutions like the Academy Awards almost strictly honoring dramas, and ignoring all the rich genre contributions we have right now. I'm tired of cinema lovers only supporting films they've been told to support (from institutions like the Oscars), and failing to seek out other other less popular films of equal or greater quality. I'm just...tired. Further, I am tired of having to say/write this all the time.

As I stated in the post about my writing process last year,  I started this blog because I didn't hear my voice anywhere else online. I consider myself as a minority critic simply because I get the impression that just because my opinion doesn't echo the chorus of critical thinkers online and beyond, it isn't valid. But you know what? Screw that impression. Because I know for a fact that there are many people who share the same unpopular opinion, but too many are too intimidated to express it because of the backlash they might receive (or they they express it and it falls on deaf ears). Imagine that; too scared to simply voice an opinion, especially on social media which is essentially the dumping ground of all kinds of opinions (unsolicited or not). While I respect people's decisions to remain mum about certain films, or coddle their response to certain films, I'm just not wired that way. I'm not wired to mute myself, or diminish my own voice. Seriously, eff that.

That's said, let's just get this out of the way first: I'm not interested in the fact that Selma wasn't nominated for best director during Thursday morning's announcements. As I've written before, I just don't think the film as a whole, nor its direction, is particularly extraordinary. But I am disappointed that David Oyelowo didn't receive a nomination, and neither did cinematographer Bradford Young or costumer designer Ruth E. Carter. Yet Bradley Cooper gets a nomination for American Sniper, despite completely butchering that southern (?) accent in the trailer, and Steve Carell, whose performance, while great, is clearly supporting? Seriously, what is that?

Since we're on the subject of undeserving nominations, I'd like to reiterate that Felicity Jones and Reese Witherspoon have somehow eclipsed Gugu Mbatha-Raw's far superior performance in Belle (though Laura Dern's awesome nomination for Wild almost makes up for it. Almost).

And while we're having an honest discussion, I need to understand why the Academy consistently chooses to celebrate the typical depressing downer film. I mean, this is a year in which we also had A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and The Babadook, for crying out loud. Must we always focus our attention on the oppressively serious biopic, drama and historical epic? While I love The Imitation Game, Boyhood, Ida (which is grossly underrated) and Foxcatcher, I am glad that films like Gone Girl and Birdman have been so well received. But let's not forget that Interstellar happened this past year, as well as the previously mentioned horror films, which were both written and directed by women, by the way. They just get no love? And Chris Rock's Top Five either? Listen, if you can nominate any of the Before films (Before Midnight, Before Sunset, etc), you can go ahead and nominate Top Five. That won't kill you.

One more thing: that Meryl Streep nomination for Into the Woods? Like, for serious? LOLOLOL I laugh at that. Oh and you must watch the amazing (and now Oscar-nominated) short, The Phone Call. It's just that good.

I need to get one more thing off my chest before I let you go. This last part is for for the cinema lovers who get all riled up whenever the elitist awards committees overlook films they think are deserving. Know this: 1) yes, screener availability does matter (if committees aren't sent a screener in time for their deadlines, it's mighty difficult to draw an opinion about a film), and 2) Support films and genres you feel passionately about. That second part is really important. That means going beyond the films that are provided to you in trailers and TV commercials, and keeping up with your favorite filmmakers, doing an Internet search on genres you're interested in, and generally staying informed. I'm burdened by the amount of dramatic epics in which characters of color are victims when they're not balanced with an equally amazing fiction narrative, like Mother of George or The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete. And for crying out loud, can we get more quirky dramedies with characters of color on the big screen? As we do, can we support them, please? We need to remind Hollywood that there is an audience for these films, and they won't care unless we show them the money. So don't just talk about these films; buy tickets and watch them in theaters too. We need to be more aggressive about that.

As a matter of fact, we need to be more supportive of diverse opinion, diverse narratives and styles, and diverse filmmakers, After numerous conversations online and beyond, I've come to the realization that too many are complacent with the status quo of Hollywood, happy to consume and/or complain about the films Hollywood is shoving down our throats and not exploring what else is out there, and how they can influence the vote. The Academy doesn't only have to get heat about snubbing films like Selma, which so many of you love, but make them also feel uncomfortable about not recognizing several films helmed by minority and women filmmakers. That's when s--t really gets turned upside down. Suffocate them with more than one film that deserves their attention. They can't ignore all of them. Not anymore.


Brittani Burnham said...

Excellent post. It makes me wonder if some studios don't send out screeners, if they would consider VOD another approach? That's a good way to watch small films that don't come to your areas.

I used to be able to relate on worrying whether or not your opinion about something was too different from everyone else. When I first started my blog, Avatar was one of the films that came out, and as I was typing my review, I was trying to focus more on the visual effects, the only thing I liked about the film so I could try to remain positive like everyone else. I hit enter, posted it, then almost immediately edited it back to my real opinion about how fucking terrible that movie is. Now I don't care if my opinion matches anyone else's. But I did at first.

I do wish the Academy would throw more love at Gone Girl or Nightcrawler, or love at all towards films like Snowpiercer or God Help The Girl. I wish they would have strictly 10 Best Picture nominations to choose from so more films get noticed. I know some thing that will cause movies to get nominated that don't deserve it, but I don't believe that's true if they look hard enough.

Sorry I just wrote a novel in your comments. lol

Anonymous said...

GURL, love this! The reason we take to the blogs is to air out OUR opinions, and you are so right...the rut that the critics groups and top tier awards groups get into is just awful...and the films they chose to embrace needs to be rethought. This expanded BP field was supposed to help genre films that the actual PEOPLE love to get embraced, and while I'm all about merit (so don't nominate something simply because it did well at the box office, because so did Transformers), I do think that the box a lot of these groups get stuck in is just wrong.

Like, while I kind of hated Boyhood and Ida, I'd be less pressed about their wins if they didn't win EVERYTHING. Like, there is no way in hell that every single person who votes for any award ever (and I keep track on the blog, so I know that there are about 70 of them) thinks that Boyhood is the best film of the year. way.

Ashlee Blackwell said...

All of this!

Dell said...

Great post. I've nothing to add.

Marvin said...

I should've expected this. So good, ma'am!

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