Ladies and gentlemen, we have before us tonight the 88th annual Academy Awards. A year fraught with controversy, namely the #OscarsSoWhite scandal, everyone’s waiting to see what will happen. I have here for you my Oscar predictions, if only because participating is fun. But, on a more serious note, I do find great issue with the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominees, in terms of race and gender, predominantly in the major categories.
We’ve been talking about it to death. Some have even showcased the unwise words of celebrities such as Charlotte Rampling and Julie Delpie, intelligent women who made an unfortunate decision to say something stupid. Ultimately, though, this lack of representation is indicative of a larger issue. The culprits, I believe, are us; film critics and film journalists.
When the issue initially came to light with the announcement of the nominees, we were ultimately arguing over whether or not the Academy was being unfair. Of course they were. The Oscars are seldom truly based on merit. In the end, it’s often political. Bookies have a better shot at predicting the Oscars than critics, which is indicative on the formula behind the system.
But the system is fuelled by critics in so much as whichever films garner the most exposure often garner the most votes. Exposure is born of critics and journalists alike. In many ways, we dictate who deserves attention and who does not. We, ultimately, help dictate which films are worth recognizing, and this year, we failed as a communal whole to speak up for the diversity we claim to fight for.
We seem to be treading lightly, going for the obvious choices to either tear apart or champion. So few of us seem to be stirring things up, calling the sameness of the industry into question. Justine Smith published an article on Movie Mezzanine about this very problem, on the new Vanguard of directors. She highlighted a host of filmmakers from all over the world, male and female, all based on their merit while showcasing their difference. In the excellent piece, she quotes Critic Bilge Ebiri’s “snide yet on-point” tweet that states “Hollywood whiteness eats its own tail: Trade mags that featured almost all white ‘contenders’ criticize Oscars for lack of diversity.”
We, as writers, are living in a volatile environment, professionally. The ability to succeed – financially and creatively – is harder than it’s ever been, as the industry is collapsing around itself, imploding on the weight of its mistakes. The democratization of the internet has lead to the explosion of the blogosphere, and the collapse (gradual though it may be) of conventional media. But good writers still abound, with plenty to say. However, we find ourselves stuck, writing predominantly about what we want, but still finding ourselves having to pay some manner of lip service to a broken system.
We’ve become an industry that thrives on finger-wagging and placing blame. Did you hear what Amy Schumer did? Oh, Jennifer Lawrence was rude to a reporter! Charlotte Rampling’s racist! Michael Cane’s outdated! It’s enough, already. We’re no longer reporting. Instead, we’re feeding the same rumour mill I’m pretty sure we all detested in highschool. We’re behaving like children, and flushing the potential power of our industry down the toilet, while it’s already struggling to stay afloat. Along the way, we’re failing to do our job, which is our most fundamental responsibility as professionals.
Enough is enough. We have to start working together. We must start actually trying to affect change as opposed to feeding the monster machine that’s devouring our integrity. Despite the struggles facing the industry today, we find ourselves in the midst of a revolution.
Paid work is scarce, so we find ourselves catering to different institutions’ standards in order to make a livable wage doing what we do. Many, if not most of us have day jobs that pay the bills. The goal is to work towards writing full time so that the day job ceases to be necessary. But at what cost?
We have the freedom – financially unsupported though it may be – to write about literally what ever we want. The democratization of the internet has opened doors, and broken down barriers. It’s hurt the industry financially, but also provided a kind of freedom of speech and liberation of thought we all seem to desperately want. We sit here, before a plethora of open doors to dialogues on feminist discourse, racism, diversity in sexuality, and the representations of all these and more through cinema.
We have to try harder to represent the diverse factions of cinema. We have to spread the gospel of others who are already hard at work, and join them en masse. It’s not the only option for the coming year and beyond, but it’s certainly the most important one.
Below I have my pick for the Oscar wins for this evening because, as I said above, participating is fun. But before that, I give you a list of outstanding men and women championing the Other every day who deserve all of your attention.
Justine Smith with an eye for the erotic and a self-proclaimed “huge passion for films about sex”.
There are many more to name, but never enough time in a day. Explore these phenomenal writers and podcasters, and enjoy the wealth of information they all have to offer about areas still considered Other.
My 2016 Oscar Predictions
Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander
Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone
Best Actress: Brie Larson
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Director: Alejandro Iñáritu
Best Picture: The Revenant
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight
Best Animated Feature: Inside Out
Best Animated Short: Sanjay’s Super Team
Best Documentary Feature: Amy
Best Documentary Short: Claude Lanzman: Spectres of the Shoah
Best Cinematography: The Revenant
Best Costume Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Film Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul
Best Live Action Short: Shok
Best Makeup: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Original Score: The Hateful Eight
Best Original Song: Till It Happens To You
Best Production Design: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Sound Editing: The Revenant
Best Sound Mixing: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens