An insider joins the debate, quoting a reader:
A qualified film not receiving “enough” nominations is no reflection of the quality of the film. Instead, it’s simply a failure of the film’s PR hacks’ effectiveness at marketing directly to the Academy voters. It’s not the film’s fault, nor is it the Academy’s fault; it’s the film’s publicists’ fault. In the case of Selma, I’ve seen more publicity for Paddington.
I’ll call bullshit on that one. To say Paramount’s failure to get a screener to guild members on time is the reason for Selma‘s failure to nominate director Ava Duvernay is condescending to those members that vote on said nomination. As a Producers Guild member, almost every member I know sees it as their responsibility to see all the major potential nominees and they take that responsibility seriously. Aside from screeners, you’ll notice at the bottom of your local paper advertisements for the prestige films a notice that guild members are accepted free at all the major multiplexes. Combine that with the screenings the studios hold before and after a film’s release in not only New York and L.A., but also San Francisco, Atlanta and Chicago, there are plenty of opportunities for guild members to see all of the pictures. Being in the Academy especially is a big honor (besides being an organization that’s very difficult to join) and Academy members treat the nominations period like the High Holidays.
And it may just be that Duvernay’s lack of a nomination has nothing to do with the color of skin but rather the fact that Selma is, frankly, a good but not great movie.
While her approach is refreshingly unsentimental in its portrait of not only King but other heroes of the Civil Rights movement, from a nominating standpoint, historically the Academy likes movies that make the heart ache. Selma‘s exacting and serviceable portrayal of the political minefield Dr. King and his fellow activists had to wade through didn’t strike that nerve – at least among the Academy folks I saw the movie with. Of course, one can say, well then, by that logic Steven Spielberg shouldn’t have gotten a nomination for Lincoln. But the latter film had an artistry that Duvernay lacked.
Of course, that’s just my opinion – but apparently a lot of other guild members agree with me. But Duvernay can take heart that Christopher Nolan was also snubbed as Best Director and I guarantee we’ll still be talking about Interstellar ten years from now. But that’s the Oscars for ya.
Two cents from another reader:
What’s intriguing about this snub is that Selma is exactly the type of movie the academy generally loves. It’s historical, ostensibly a biopic, liberal, and most crucially, “important.” It’s an issue-driven film.
My main take away from the nominations is that four of the films – Boyhood, Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Whiplash – are all quirky, independent, character-driven films. Basically, they are movies that don’t usually get a lot of love from the Academy. Think about it: Richard Linklater – Linklater! – is the front runner for best director. For film buffs (er, snobs) like myself, that is a huge thing.
I am with your reader who wonders why the only “people of color” who seem to matter when people are counting heads (or faces, as it were) are African-Americans, not Hispanic or Asian artists. (I also agree that the first issue is who is writing, directing, and starring in the movies, which necessarily determines the pool of potential nominees.) Last year, people were up in arms that Saturday Night Live didn’t have any black women (but did have two black men), but no one seems to mind that the only Hispanic cast member in recent memory is Horatio Sanz (and I can’t think of another one in its 40-year history). And I don’t think they’ve ever had an Asian cast member, unlike the Daily Show. (Asian-Americans have become a significant force in the comedy world – Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Aasif Mandvi, not to mention Margaret Cho – yet they are nowhere on SNL.)
The show “ER” had a similar track with Hispanic characters. I watched the show for its entire run and can recall one Hispanic doctor – John Leguizamo, whose character was an irresponsible drug user who crashed and burned. In contrast, there were many, many African-American doctors, including one of the main characters in the original cast. (And plenty of Hispanic nurses and patients.) They also reflected a diverse population in other ways – several gay or lesbian doctors and one with a physical disability.
In short, it’s time for people to realize that we are not just a country of black and white people, that we are a multicultural country with many different nationalities and ethnic groups, and that any discussion of diversity needs to look beyond these two categories.
Update from another reader:
I have to call bullshit on your “insider” calling bullshit. My partner is a member of the Academy and STILL hasn’t received his screener of Selma … and neither have many people he’s talked to. We were invited to a screening for Academy members in LA that took place on the Sunday night before Christmas. Since it was my partner’s first day off in many months and we had relatives coming in town the next day, we declined to attend, assuming a screener would arrive in the mail any day. It’s true that members can watch the films at most theaters for free, but the time between Selma‘s release and the nominations was a very small window during the holidays. If Al Sharpton wants to have an “emergency meeting” in Hollywood about the supposed snub, perhaps he should start with the marketing department at Paramount. They clearly failed to do their job.