I've been off and on the radio all week, including this morning, talking about the Oscars and the boycotts by Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee. So I haven't had the energy to really post about it here, My opinion, in brief, is that a boycott is an ineffective tool in this case, at least by those who weren't going to be part of the show anyway. Now, if host Chris Rock gives in to the demands going around today that he should boycott, then the Academy has a major problem on their hands. As it stands now, this is the annual #OscarsSoWhite P.R. mess that they are probably used to be now. It happened last year, too, when they screwed over Selma director Ava Duvernay and star David Oyelowo.
So it means something when Oyelowo comes out and speaks about the Academy's lack of diversity, especially at the King Legacy Awards where Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs was being honored. Oof. But that's what Oyelowo did, as usual he was eloquent, forceful, and powerful with what he had to say on the matter.
“The Academy has a problem. It’s a problem that needs to be solved. A year ago, I did a film called 'Selma,' and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then. We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors and actresses of color to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable.”
That Oyelowo met with Boone last year to talk about this very issue is why I and many others haven't gotten too excited about her statement issued yesterday in which she promised to take "drastic steps" to address the lack of diversity. Nothing happened then, why should we expect it to now?
Oyelowo continued by pointing out how far the nation has come, and yet the Academy has yet to reflect any of it...
“This institution doesn’t reflect its president and it doesn’t reflect this room.I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation.”
But I think his most powerful points were saved for those who think the Oscars are meaningless, anyway. This is something I've heard every day since the nominations, usually by people who don't really follow movies to begin with, but by a few who do. Oyelowo has a reason why the awards matter...
“The reason why the Oscars are so important is because it is the zenith, it is the epitome, it is the height of celebration of artistic endeavor within the filmmaking community. We grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into that august establishment, because it is the height of excellence. I would like to walk away and say it doesn’t matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in."
He added with what could be perceived as a threat, wrapped in hopefulness that Boone can turn things around...
"The Academy is an institution [for] which they all say radical and timely change cannot happen quickly. It better happen quickly. The law of this country can change in a matter of months. It better come on. The Oscars [take place] on February 28. Cheryl needs us to pray that by that date change is going to come. We need to pray for Cheryl, we need to support Cheryl, we need to love Cheryl. We cannot afford to get bitter, we cannot afford to get negative. But we must make our voices heard."
The message there is that if the Academy doesn't start reflecting the world around them it will eventually become irrelevant. [THR]