It will be a good thing if the rising anger over the "white-out" among this year's Oscar nominations leads to actual changes and greater diversity in academy membership. But I believe Spike Lee and others calling for a boycott of next month's show should be aiming at a bigger target.
The lack of well-financed, properly-marketed and high-achieving movies with filmmakers and actors of color is not the fault of academy members or even of all those white folks in charge of the industry. The culprit is good old capitalism.
Heads of studios won't make it to the end of their three-year contracts if they aren't maximizing profits, and while every movie is an inherent risk, reducing risk where possible is one key to their success. It should be obvious that committing millions of dollars to projects with narrow audiences is riskier than committing the money to those with a demographically broader appeal.
This sucks but it's the nature of the beast and that's the beast that Lee and the others should be targeting. Of course, Oscar is an easier target to hit, and the pressure being put on host Chris Rock and producer Reginald Hudlin to defect the show is having an impact — on the Academy Awards brand.
I repeat, it's not the fault of the academy members that they are mostly white, mostly old and mostly interested in movies and subjects they can personally relate to. They may appreciate the craftsmanship and performances of "Straight Outta Compton," but the hip-hop culture/industry is as alien to them as frogs falling from heaven.
Tom O'Neil has suggested an immediate affirmative action increase of 50% in academy membership, and I second it. But what would that larger body have achieved this year? Is "Straight Outta Compton" a better movie than one of the eight that made the cut? And what other 2015 movie fits the description of a white-out victim?
Elsewhere, I imagine Will Smith ("Concussion") came very close to making the Best Actor ballot and almost certainly would have with an expanded voter bloc. And perhaps Michael B. Jordan from "Creed." But it wasn't a great year for diversity on the screen.
Lee has made a terrible mistake by deciding not to attend next month's ceremonies where he was to be featured as part of this year's honorary recipients. Those acceptance speeches (taped in November at a separate event) offer the world a chance to hear his grievances. Instead, he gets a few days' worth of media attention and a few other people to board the boycott wagon. (Jesus, there's even doughboy Michael Moore trying to climb on.)
So, yes, increase the size and diversity of the academy, but if they're going to be making better decisions, they'll need better content to consider.
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