This week it was announced that, in honour of Chadwick Boseman’s death, his film 42 would be released in cinemas again. As cynical as I might be about the move, it is a wonderful way to celebrate his work as an actor. It was also a great excuse for me to watch it for this review. I have to be honest, I’m no fan of sports movies. Well, aside from The Mighty Ducks, Little Giants and Space Jam. It’s mostly because I don’t really care about sports. I can think of thousands of things that I’d rather be doing than sitting down and watching people kick/throw/hit a ball around a pitch. It’s not so surprising that one of those things isn’t sitting down and watching a formulaic film about people kicking/throwing/hitting a ball around a pitch. And I don’t know anything about baseball. It’s just complicated rounders. However, it felt like the right thing to do.
Do you remember all of the Oscar nonsense this year? When a bunch of white filmmakers said something to the tune of “race shouldn’t be a factor and it should be based on quality”. Well, that whole image of the best films/actors/directors/etc being rewarded goes up in flames when you consider Selma. When discussing the recent Black Lives Matter protests, actor David Oyelowo spoke out about the way the Oscars turned their backs on Ava DuVernay’s film. For anyone that missed it, Selma came out around the time that Eric Garner was murdered. When the cast wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to the premier, the Academy didn’t like it one bit. They went so far as to say to the studio and producers ‘We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.’ So, Selma, a film that had received critical acclaim, was shunned for speaking out against police brutality. A film about the civil rights movement, one of the defining political movements in American history, was criticised for being too political. The Academy spat out its dummy and ignored the story of Black people standing up for their rights. And people wonder why #Oscarssowhite trended all over social media?
When Hamilton first came to the stage in 2015, I was adamant that I wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon. I mean, everyone was banging on about this musical and how amazing it was. How different and inspiring. It didn’t help that my interest in American history is basically non-existent. But, for whatever reason, I stubbornly avoided it. Until one day when I decided to listen to the soundtrack. I don’t know why I decided it was the day but I was on my way to a job interview. I wasn’t really paying attention on the way there but I was hooked by the time I got home. I couldn’t stop listening to it and I’ve not been able to stop since. Most of my top songs on Spotify for 2019 were from Hamilton. My top artist for last year was Hamilton. It’s become my go-to album and works for any mood. When I’m tired, sad, happy, bored, or just facing a long day of work. Hamilton would always be the perfect thing to sort me out. So, when it was announced that the West End run in 2019 was being lengthened, I knew I had to get tickets. Seeing it live was one of the best theatre experiences I’ve ever had. And I’ve had some great ones.
Over the last few days, we’ve seen a few films being made free to stream in the US. These included Selma and Just Mercy. Both films should help educate people about the role of race in their society. It’s a great thing to do because there will be plenty of people who won’t have previously had access to them. Of course, Hollywood films that depict the difficulties faced by black people in America are all well and good but it’s facts that are needed in this fight. Which is why Netflix’s decision to make Ava DuVarney’s documentary 13th free to non-subscribers is so important. There’s a reason that it has appeared on so many lists of ways you can educate yourself. It’s a great place to start if you’re the type who is unconvinced by the idea that society has been engineered to make black lives difficult. If you go in with an open mind, it’ll definitely have the power to shock you.
I don’t often like to admit it but I was wrong. I had no faith in the Academy to give Bong Joon Ho and his basically flawless film the recognition they deserve. But, at the 2020 Oscars, Parasite became the biggest success of the night. It genuinely couldn’t happen to a nicer person. 1917 is a technically brilliant film but, in terms of narrative, it doesn’t exactly break new ground. Parasite did everything and it did it well. It brought together so many ideas and genres without ever getting overwhelmed. Bon Joon Ho is one of the greatest filmmakers of our time and I’m chuffed the Academy actually saw it too. But let’s not look back too long. After my massive Oscars week viewing, I am now a few weeks ahead with the films I need to review. I thought about doing them this week just to get them out of the way but, honestly, I need a break. So, get ready for my next few Tuesday posts to be a little behind the times.
I know you’re probably getting sick of me banging on about diversity at the Oscars by now but I’m tired of hearing people say “it’s about quality, not diversity”. Yeah, in an ideal world. This isn’t an ideal world. What the people using that argument are either stubbornly, naively, or purposefully not seeing is that the system is weighted against diverse entries. The voting system is a joke. The first round lets all members of the Academy vote for whichever eligible films they want in their related categories. You don’t have to have seen all of the films. We know that a lot of members are quite traditional (see Martin Scorsese and his hatred of comic book movies) and have specific ideas of what should and shouldn’t be eligible (see Steven Spielberg’s comments on Netflix). How many of those eligible to vote will have bothered to go out and watch Hustlers to see that J Lo gave a much better performance than Scar Jo did in Jojo? We also know that Hollywood champions films that will make money and they don’t think films with diverse casts or storylines will make money. Then there are the smaller film companies who can’t afford to put on a huge campaign for their films/stars. They are blown out of the water by the bigger film studios who can shove their big-name stars in front of everyone. Look at Brad Pitt’s Oscars campaign this year. Flawless. Even down to his photos with ex-wife Jennifer Aniston. He’ll have had a great deal of backing. Smaller movies, less well-known actors won’t get that opportunity. Therefore, they don’t grab attention in the same way. The system is weighted towards a certain type of films and those films are, typically, not diverse. Those films don’t typically have female directors. So, stop saying it’s only about quality. Until we have a system that sees every film get a fair chance, diversity needs to be discussed.