Sunday, January 24, 2016

everything to lose

Opening shot of The Revenant: Hugh Glass and his Native American wife and child. That's one white guy, and two people of colour. Suck it, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Or, you know, watch the rest of the movie, which focuses quite a bit on the white guys. Plus, that wife and kid are soon dead. But, that sort of anecdotal evidence is all the rage among the... Whatever you would call the anti-#OscarsSoWhite crowd. Republicans?

There's a list going around among the crazy conservative groups I follow on Facebook, a list of something like 56 people of colour who have won Oscars in the past 16 or so years. I went after the list on Facebook with some math pointing out that 56 out of 1840(-ish) nominations--

And that thought got interrupted by the opening battle sequence in The Revenant. If Inarritu wins the Oscar, this is why. Not the somewhat gimmicky thing of only using natural light so his shooting time per day was reduced but a sequence like this, dozens of actors and extras, practical special effects as well as visual effects, a moving camera that is right in there with (primarily) Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) but also drifts away with a horse and rider, follows different bits of the action, then floats up and away to come down in a nice hidden cut to the same location later. Awesome stuff.

Anyway, I calculated the number of nominations (approximately) in 16 years, and 56 wins is only about 2% of that total. But, I was too quick with my math. Because, of course, a) there are 24 categories, not 23, b) there were other people of colour nominated that didn't win, c) I should have calculated 56 out of the total number of wins, not nominations. 384 wins. That brings the 56 wins up to about 15% of the wins, which is... better. But, still not representative of America or the world. The United States is approximately 63% white right now. There's still a gap. But, I inadvertently exaggerated that gap because I was rushed, because I was pissed off because posting this list of people of colour who have won sounded to me like someone insisting he's not racist because he's got one black friend. Like my own use of the opening scene of The Revenant above.

Because I care about more than just the appearances, more than just the acting or directing categories, I at least appreciated that this list delved into other categories. Of course, they had to delve into other categories to make a list that seemed significant.

See, here's the thing. There are people of colour nominated for Oscars this year. This is not the SAG awards or the DGA; we should be looking beyond actors. (Looking at that visible side of things, not to mention the Best Picture category, is important, of course, because most people don't notice the other stuff and are bored by the Oscar telecast every year. Me, I like all the categories... even if Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are a little hard to differentiate.

And then there's a beat attack and I'm drawn to the screen again.

The obvious example: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of The Revenant.

Then there's Alé Abreu, director of Animated Feature nominee Boy & the World is Brazilian (not sure if he'd identify as Hispanic or Latino, but he's not white). The makers of When Marnie Was There (another Animated Feature nominee) are Japanese. (The voice cast of those films are also from their respective countries and are (presumably; I haven't checked the entire list) not white. They aren't nominated, of course, but I have a feeling that if Straight Outta Compton had gotten a nomination for Best Picture, the #OscarsSoWhite noise wouldn't be so loud.)

Ciro Guerra, who directed Foreign Language Film nominee Embrace of the Serpent is Columbian. You might think it's unfair to pull out the Foreign Language nominees, but they also include white folk; A War is Danish, Mustang is French and Turkish. Son of Saul is Hungarian. We don't always consider Arabs white. Naji Abu Nowar, director of Theeb, is an Arab.

Nominated for The Danish Girl, costume designer Paco Delgado is Spanish. Nominated for Original Song, Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, AKA The Weeknd, is Canadian but ethnically Ethiopian.

Asif Kapadia, director of Documentary Feature nominee Amy is ethnically Indian. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, director of Documentary Short nominee A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, is Pakistani. The makers of Animated Short nominee Bear Story are from Chile.The director of Sanjay's Super Team is Indian.

One hundred twenty one nominations this year. At least nine, by my shallow count--

(Shallow, because I was basically profiling nominees by name or film to decide if I'd search for information on them. Didn't have time tonight to research every single nominee, unfortunately. And, I cannot count the Mexicans central to documentary Cartel Land or the Indonesian people (I'm not sure of their more specific ethnicities) in The Look of Silence because the primary filmmakers seem to be white. I also cannot count What Happened, Miss Simone? because, despite its subject, it's filmmakers were white also.)

--are not white. That isn't great--only about 7% of the nominations (and even less of the nominees, since many of the nominations involve multiple people). It is better than zero.

Oscar remains very white.

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