Takashi Seda / Hulu, A24, Glenn Wilson / Warner Brothers, Joshua James Richards / 20th Century Studios
The past year of masks, closings and capacity restrictions was the 12th most catastrophic month in movie history. It was also a notable year for diversity at the Oscars.
Although this may sound strange, I suspect these two are related – the matter of the industry’s imperatives to satisfy cold hard criticism. As useful as the diversity part, it will take some work to make it permanent. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, has indicated willingness to do the work with inclusion criteria for Best Picture nominees. They will start implementing it in phases next year.
This year, they got lucky.
One thing you don’t want, if you’re in charge of the Oscars, is a hashtag – especially something like #OscarsSoWhite – as TV broadcast host Chris Rock admitted in 2016, when it went viral. He then said to applause, “It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means that this whole thing that isn’t black nominated has happened 71 at least again.”
The situation did not change much in the next few years. Last year’s Oscars were again among the least diverse in recent memory; He was only one out of 20 non-white candidates.
But this year, nine of the twenty – nearly half of the candidates – are not white.
Another TV broadcast, another hashtag: 2018 was the year of #OscarsSoMale, which was reinforced by Frances McDormand in her acceptance speech for Best Actress by requesting that “all the nominees in each category stand with me in this room tonight.”
Dozens of women stood as the crowd cheered but, once again, that had little effect at first. Last year, just as in 86 of the past 91 years, no female director has been appointed, although McDormand wrapped up that speech and urged her colleagues to insist on women behind the camera by adding a clause to their contracts called the “inclusion contestant.”
But McDormand took on her own advice and this year, what difference the pandemic is making. She produced as well as starred in it Bedouin, A movie based on a book by a woman, featuring the stories of quite a few women, written, edited and directed by Chloe Chow, who for the first time in Hollywood history is a woman competing with a second woman in the directing category.
As for the unprecedented number of actors of color among the nominees, it represented an impressive moment of appreciation.
There were nominations for a vibrant performance in the true stories of Famous African American Characters: Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, each nominated for Best Supporting Actor as, respectively, Black Panther Fred Hampton and the detective who prepared him for the assassination in Judah and the black Christ; Andra Day as Best Actress for the Role of Blues Legend Lady Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday; Leslie Odom, Jr., as Supporting Actor as Sam Cooke One night in Miami.
There were also nominations for acting fictional characters: the blues singer and trumpeter Bottom of what renny black Viola Davis won the late Chadwick Boseman nominations for Best Actress and Actor. Yoon Ye Jung earned a supporting actress nomination as a feisty grandmother in the threatThe story of Korean immigrants in Arkansas. Riz Ahmed became the first Muslim nominee for Best Actor to play a hard-of-hearing heavy metal drummer. The sound of metal.
All of the shows are amazing shows that, taken together, are a clear sign that this year is the year of inclusion for the Academy.
But not necessarily because Tinseltown has awakened the virtues of diversity. These are the films that studios have decided to open in the midst of the pandemic, a decision they were aware would have financial consequences.
Movies usually get an Academy Award nomination – an increase in ticket sales that in a typical year can run into several million dollars, and it gives the film a much greater range.
Last year’s Best Film Winner, parasite, Is an example. The film was shown in 300 theaters before being nominated. After the award, his show in the US has expanded to five times the number of theaters.
But this year, with cinemas mostly closed, and fans fickle about crowds, there’s no such throwback in the boxoffice. If you took all eight Best Film nominees, and pooled their winnings, the total would barely amount to $ 35 million worldwide. That would be an unimpressive number for just one candidate in a typical year.
In order to compete for an Oscar in 2020, the filmmaker had to make a near-Faustian bargain: Get out in the middle of the pandemic to get rewards, lose your shirt, or sell your soul for a bigger chest after the pandemic and miss your chance.
Several Oscars have decided to wait. A new version of the musical West Side Story, For example, a screenplay written by Pulitzer Prize-winning Tony Kushner, directed by Oscar-winning Steven Spielberg. Also the starry fashion saga The last duel from The wrestler Director Ridley Scott. And the French DispatchLatest weirdness from Wes Anderson, director The Grand Budapest Hotel.
All of these films were filmed, edited and ready in time to be considered for an Oscar, but their studios chose to wait. From a financial perspective, it’s easy to see why. Until two weeks ago, New York and Los Angeles – the two markets that make or break images of prestige – would not allow theaters to open.
Equally bad, theaters in other open venues had reduced attendance to no more than 25 percent of their capacity. That scared even the commercial crowd, from 007, to Marvel superheroes, to The Fast and the Furious crew.
If they weren’t prepared to put up with the crippling economy of movie theaters in the year of the pandemic, why should the Oscar nominees hope?
So when the filmmakers had the clout to say “Let’s wait” they did it. And who had this influence? It’s mostly male, mostly white stars, producers, and studio heads who have always had it
Who does not seem to have had this influence? Well, start with the woman who made it Bedouin And the Promising young woman. Or a low-budget indie Korean-American director, Under threat.
Or even well-connected people in the back Judah and the black Christ Who were the first all-black production team ever nominated for Best Picture. They said The Hollywood Reporter They originally thought their movie would do well, too Straight from ComptonThat earned $ 200 million globally.
The pandemic lowered that estimate, and Warner’s decision to broadcast all of his films the same day they hit theaters lowered him even further. The producers were left with no choice but to go ahead, and watch their movie stopped at Boxoffice. Instead of $ 200 Million, Judah and the black Christ It made less than $ 6 million.
It’s not easy to imagine Steven Spielberg being put into this position.
Is that another way of saying that the power and privilege of Hollywood is still mostly with white men? The ability to maximize the Boxoffice; The privilege of making event photos too expensive to be treated as a loss for streaming services.
Sure well. But while dollars matter, for filmmakers who have traditionally been marginalized, not all of them matter.
This epidemic year will go down in history as one that is not without blockbuster – not one superhero saga or one or one billion dollars or action adventures.
But it will also be remembered as a turning point in inclusion. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which produces the Oscars, has already made history by nominating the most diverse list of actors ever, as well as a record number of women. If the studios had thrown their weight behind the usual big-budget shows, it wouldn’t have happened.
By allowing less expensive and more socially conscious films to return to theaters, the studios have ended up – perhaps unwittingly – to defend the works that speak to the moment.
Next year, blockbuster movies will return, and with them, without a doubt, a lot of inequalities that seem to be linked to the money they generate. But in the meantime, the audience is celebrating artists whose recognition through prizes may be more valuable than dollars.