Monday, February 23, 2015
The Oscars and That Selma Movie
Something bothered me about the “Glory” Oscar last night. I stumbled upon the performance and award when I turned for news. There was the replica of the bridge and folks sangin' Glory! With John Legend doing his gospel thing. It was a spectacle and I mean that in the best sense of the word. So I saw that Legend and Common won an Oscar for best song. Well OK. Look, Gospelly stuff is generally not my thing. The song is decent but honestly I've heard better. I suppose in the subjective world that is movie award shows one can say it was best. But knowing that for example Mo' Betta Blues had IMO far better music, I would say standards have come down some. But even then, I don't even think that is the case. See I think this was a clear example of award via white guilt. Prior to this I was under the impression that the movie Selma had been totally ignored by the Academy. That was my fault. The actual problem some people had was that the director and main character wasn't nominated for an award. The basis of this anger was that since both of them were black and made a film about a person who black people love to death, it should have been nominated. By not nominating it for best director or actor was a snub and insult to all black people. Really. Look, I'm old enough to remember when Denzel Washington did Malcolm X and didn't win shit for it. He was nominated but didn't win. And as far as I'm concerned the lengths to which Washington went to portray Malcolm through his various stages was far more of a stretch than playing King in one phase of his. And certainly, IMO, the effort gone into 23 years a slave also trumps Selma. But that's my particular bias. But it seemed to me that the whole “controversy” was a non controversy made to attract attention and I think that it was a bad reflection on all involved. For example, after all the charges of racism made about the non-nomination, imagine if Glory had not won. Would it have been accepted as a matter of merit or would it have been yet another claim of racism? And since Glory won, can we honestly say it was given because of merit or because the Academy didn't want to deal with charges of racism....again? And when the audience gave Legend and Common that standing O. What were they to do? Imagine a room full of mostly non-black people staying seated and applauding politely after the show. What then? “White Crowd Barely Responds to Oscar Winning Song. Racism!” There was an ony one way to win situation. You don't applaud the black folk on stage you are a racist. Were there folks who truly were moved by the performance? Sure. But can you imagine what would happen if one of those folks did a Kanye and were like, yeah, I don't know...I think so and so (white) was better. Lastly, let me comment on the little speech Legend made, in particular his commentary about how many black people are in prison relative to slavery. Firstly if you want to make such a comparison you could say that there are also more white people in Prison than were ever under indentured servitude (slavery with an out clause). The point being that historically, given, you know, the population growth, you would expect more [pick a category] people now than then. Secondly, I don't get why folks think that pointing out the prison statistics is something to applaud when the fact of the matter is that black folks who are in prison are there largely because they have voluntarily committed crimes that get you locked up. And also contrary to popular opinion, it is not because of drug laws like the crack cocaine laws. Nope. It is because of assaults, robberies and murders that black persons, mostly males commit 7x more than whites on a national level and has high as 22x that of whites in certain locations such as Los Angeles. Of course had someone pointed that out they would be called 'racist” if white and a “sellout” if they are black. But of course nobody is going to challenge Common or Legend on the reasons for the high incarceration rates. And that's the problem. Nobody wants to challenge black folks when we say dumb and unsupportive shit. And because we go unchallenged we do not get to grow as a group. Oh and it is significant that Legend didn't point out that since that march there are more black people in the middle class than there was during slavery. More black people with college degrees than during slavery. More black representatives and, oh yeah, that black president. But see none of that would get keep the guilt trip going so all of that goes unsaid. But back to the movie and non-nomination. I understand that Interstellar was the studios expected nominee and that fell through and so they went with Selma. Here's the thing to me, though Interstellar had some serious story flaws. I found that far more interesting than a movie about Selma. One reason was that it looked to the future rather than the past which in the case of Selma has been covered in many, many documentaries some of which I have watched (and I've also been there). Secondly the entire concept of space-time and relativity is hard to portray in a movie in a time compressed format without boring people to tears. So to me, that was a better effort. Does that make the events of Selma less important than they were? No. It means that IMO a movie about it has to do more than trade on guilt and emotion to get an award. That is some tiring thing. Seriously, another black director made another movie about black folks being mistreated by white folks and wants an award for it. Now had ol' girl came up with and did Interstellar THAT would have been different. Or, I don't know a movie about Dubois, Fredrick Douglas, Garvey, Turner. You know folks other than King. Then perhaps we can trade on originality rather than guilt. It was Carter G Woodson, father of Black History Month that said that the Negro needed to delve into his own history and his own mythos' and createnew works. Here's a quick result of a search for movies on Dr. King. Here is a search for movies on Fredrick Douglass. Can we do something else now please?