Griping at that 88th Academy Awards obscured the magnificent spectacle it was. The need to include more minorities, while important to admit and improve, shouldn’t distract us from the reason to celebrate marvelous movies.
That there is no proportional representation of blacks and other minorities is a problem in the midst of being admitted and addressed. It is an industry, like America, too slow to include and praise all of us. It lags and needs to be goaded, yes. But fixing entrenched racism isn’t its primary function. The arts both reflect and direct such social realities. Because they haven’t fixed racism doesn’t mean we shouldn’t participate and enjoy.
I’ll give top marks to whoever created the stage itself. Viewed from every angle, the stage provided backgrounds that were dynamically aesthetic without distracting from the foreground. Integrating the movement of presenters, awardees, and entertainers with camera angles for home viewers while presenting to the thousands there should itself receive some praise.
Chris Rock, as usual, was edgy without being offensive. The editing montage integrating black actors into familiar scenes popped the racial tension up front. Too bad too many viewers pulled away from their unease. Viewership was the third lowest ever, down to only 34 million.
Only 34 million? 34 million people got to witness the awkward admission of an aging, imbalanced academy beginning to address its own cultural poverty. Just as we now carry affection and admiration for early black entertainers such as Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, and Sammy Davis Jr., so do we eagerly welcome the likes of Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Jamie Fox, Denzel Washington, etc. What seemed alien and unusual becomes familiar and welcome.
The existing academy members should not be scorned because they’re white and old. These are the elders, the skilled artists of their profession casting votes for movies they admire. To ignore a good movie because whites made it or to pick a black movie because it is black-made are both racist rationales. As these older members are reminded of the lack of inclusion and as younger members replace them, there will be more balance.
I appreciate the movie-makers and the academy. Movies are a synthesis of all the arts and crafts. Thousands create little segments that flow into a single story. The actual stunt work in Mad Max, Fury Road, the felt cold realism in the Revenant, the dogged bravery in Spotlight – all of these thrill us. Are we so jaded, so passive and opinionated, as to not celebrate these awesome accomplishments because they don’t also fix a need we have?