"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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Oscars Aftermath : Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

Estimated Reading Time : 3 minutes 58 seconds

SOME RANDOM,  ENTIRELY INCOHERENT THOUGHTS ON THE OSCARS

Dear gentle reader…the unthinkable has happened. I was wrong about the Oscars. Unlike being wrong about the election or the war, being wrong about the Oscars is no trivial matter. My record for Oscar predictions is unimpeachable…until now. This year I took a major thrashing on my Oscar picks. I have brought great shame upon this esteemed website. 

Due to my egregious errors in Oscar picks, I have decided the only honorable thing to do is to step away from Oscar predictions in order to "spend more time with my family". My downfall and Oscar exile is a tragedy for a myriad of reasons, the most glaring being that the family I am "going to spend more time with" absolutely detest me. I feel for them.

Oscar night was a catastrophe for me…but the great question remains...did I win my Oscar pool? Let's not get ridiculous, of course I won my Oscar pool. I was horrendously wrong on many of my Oscar picks this year, but I still was better than the clueless fools I was competing against. So I am sort of like the tallest midget in my Oscar pool. 

As for the rest of Sunday night, it was a strange evening. I thought La La Land would go on a big run, but it just never happened. Hacksaw Ridge and Suicide Squad, which were, by a long shot, the two worst movies I saw this year, won Oscars. 

As I said in my Oscar post, this year was going to be tough to predict because of the new Academy members…this is not an excuse for my failure, only an explanation. I got Best Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Picture wrong. Calibrating these new members is going to be tough as they had no discernible pattern to their choices. It is too bad I will never predict the Oscars again because I am itching to try and figure these folks out. Alas, it is not meant to be.

AND THE WINNER IS.

And then there was the Best Picture announcement. The whole episode was bizarre, but what I was most alarmed by was not the error in awarding La La Land the award, but in Faye Dunaway's face. What the hell is going on there? Dunaway was once a great beauty, it bums me out that she feels the need to do…whatever she has done to her face…in order to "stay beautiful". I find it so disheartening when people cannot age gracefully. I realize that I am throwing stones from my glass mansion right now, as anyone who knows me knows that I have had numerous plastic surgeries. I've had my nose, cheeks, eyes, chin, calfs, thighs, buttocks, penis and scrotum done. I look like Frankenstein's taut, beautiful teenage son. Enough of my medical history though, what concerned me was what happened to Faye Dunaway's face. Disappointing. 

Another odd thing was Warren Beatty. Beatty is one of the all-time greats and is a real Hollywood icon. I admire Beatty as an actor a great deal. But Warren Beatty is turning 80 this month. As my friend Jiminy McCricket III reminded me, Warren Beatty's career started during the Eisenhower administration. I think it is time for Warren Beatty to find something else to do with his time. 

ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT AND IDENTITY

Many liberals are ecstatic over Moonlight's win because it is a "gay - Black" film and what that means in the broader context of the culture…but I would caution them to temper their excitement. Moonlight is, in one sense, the upstart, anti-establishment choice. La La Land was the old guard, the establishment choice. Moonlight winning Best Picture is a signal that the establishment is in some very deep shit.

This victory for Moonlight is like the groundhog seeing his shadow…we've got six more weeks (years), at least, of winter for the establishment. And like it or not, even though Trump is president, he is still the symbol of the anti-establishment. The media and Washington elite better understand very quickly what is happening in the collective unconscious. The anti-establishment wave is alive and well in the US, and the world, and will be for some time. It will be useful to keep an eye on the upcoming Dutch election and Geert Wilders, and the French election and Marine Le Pen as well. The Isaiah Wave Theory "Level 4 Rebellion Wave" looks like it isn't reducing to Level 3, but might be swelling to Level 5, and that is bad news for the status quo…just ask La La Land…and my Oscar picks.

In addition, Moonlight is also a symbol of what the left is celebrating at the moment…and also what it isn't. Moonlight is identified as a "Black - gay" film…symbolic of even more of the identity politics that got the democrats into the political wilderness they are currently aimlessly wandering. Moonlight's victory reveals where liberal loyalties lie at this time.

If the Academy (and its new members) wanted to reward a great film based on merit alone and not identity politics, they could have…the best film in the best picture category wasn't La La Land or Moonlight, it was Hell or High Water…and it wasn't even close. And Hell or High Water is a very political and anti-establishment film to boot, just that its politics are of class and not race. It looks like Hollywood liberals are under the same spell as the democrats were in the election, choosing identity over class…a very big error as race divides and class unites. 

When seen in combination with the election of Tom Perez to head the DNC, and Nancy Pelosi in the House and the excruciatingly repugnant Chuck Schumer in the Senate…and you have the democrats embracing the establishment and status quo with all their might, and simply put,  this is not the time of the establishment. It just isn't. If it were the time of the establishment…La La Land would be Best Picture…and Hillary Clinton the president.

RACE AND THE OSCAR RACE

The new Academy members did what they were supposed to do…nominate and vote for Black actors, artists and films. The Academy brought these folks in, and jettisoned the old (White) guard, in order to counter the ludicrous #OscarsSoWhite nonsense that has no grounding in fact, only feeling

The problem with making nomination snubs or losing about race, is that when you win, it also becomes about race. The thought that many believe but no one will utter aloud is that Moonlight won because it is a Black film, not because it is the best film. That sucks…for cinema and for Moonlight, which deserves a considerably better fate. The same is true of Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis. Which isn't fair to them either as they are two fine actors, but that is the reality of what is being whispered about in private here in Hollywood.

Was Viola Davis better than Michelle Williams? In my opinion…no. Davis did have substantially more screen time than Williams, so that works to her benefit. But then the question becomes, was Mahershala Ali better than Jeff Bridges? Again, no…and by a mile. And in this scenario, Jeff Bridges had considerably more screen time than Ali, which undermines the case for Ali. So did Davis and Ali win because they were Black and Black actors needed to win this year? There is compelling evidence the answer is yes…which sucks for everyone involved, especially both Ali and Davis, who are unquestionably Oscar caliber actors. 

By crying racism when Black actors weren't nominated over the previous two years (who was supposed to be nominated those years? Will Smith? When Will Smith is your counter argument, I have bad news…you have lost the argument…badly), the Academy caved to pressure and put in members whose sole purpose was to vote for Black artists. By doing this, the awards then become watered down and less worthy, especially for the Black actors who were chosen this year. By crying foul in previous years when no foul was committed, the game got rigged and now nobody wins. It is a shitty thing, but it is what it is. 

WHEN YOU'RE A HAMMER, THE WHOLE WORLD LOOKS LIKE A NAIL

When you're a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail, and so it is with the cries of racism at the Academy Awards (or Grammys for that matter). Even when Moonlight won, it wasn't good enough. The Guardian had an article about how the Best Picture fiasco was a slap in the face to Moonlight, that was on par with having Hattie McDaniel sit in the back of the auditorium when she won for Gone with the Wind. Really? So even when Black artists or films win, it is still a sign of racism. A great example of this was a Washington Post article the day after the Grammy's, where the writer laments the racism of the Grammys. In the piece the writer says that Chance the Rapper, a Black artist, won the Best New Artist award, but even that was a sign of racism because the Recording Academy only voted for him because he put a charm offensive on the members. What the fuck? So no matter what, everything is racist. Hammer…meet nail.

THE NEVER ENDING SHRIEKS OF THE OUTRAGE MACHINE

Another thing to happen since the Oscars is the outcry from the usual suspects about Casey Affleck beating Denzel Washington for Best Actor. There have been many claims of racism and that Denzel was robbed. This is a joke. Denzel is one of the all-time greats…as evidenced by the two Oscars he has already won…but his work in Fences was not nearly as good as Affleck's. It just wasn't. And to claim racism is why Denzel lost is the absolute most asinine thing imaginable. If you are someone who thinks this…you are an imbecile. 

People are also horrified that Affleck, who they claim is a sexual predator, won the award. The virtue signaling has been turned up to 11. The same people decrying Affleck's win are the same people who were so stupid to believe that Marlon Brando actually anally raped Maria Shneider on film, during the shooting of Last Tango in Paris. Do these people believe anything? Yes, they do. 

This Affleck kerfluffle, just like the Brando uproar, is nothing more than people aching to be outraged, so they search far and wide for reasons. Brando didn't anally rape anyone on film, but logic and reason are the first casualties when the Outrage Machine gets fired up. And so it is with Affleck. Affleck was accused…not convicted…of sexually harassing two women. Not raping them, or assaulting them…harassing. And since he was accused…that makes it so. Maybe it did happen, I don't know, I wasn't there…but when you look at the facts of the case, it is….questionable. 

Race rears its head in regards to the Affleck harassment story as well. People claim that Affleck can get away with anything, where a Black actor can't , and they use Nate Parker, star and director of this years Birth of a Nation, as proof. Parker was charged with rape while he was in college. He was acquitted of the charge. So the Outrage Contingent says Parker was screwed over by the Academy because he is Black, and Affleck gets the nomination and win because he is White. The idiocy never ends. 

Affleck and Parker's cases are very different, as harassment and rape are two very different things. Affleck has always denied he harassed anyone, while Parker admitted to having sex with the woman, along with his roommate, but said it was consensual. Add to that the fact that the young woman in question in Parker's case committed suicide, and you can see how much more serious the Parker situation was. Also…and this is the biggest difference…Nate Parker is not a good actor. His performance in Birth of a Nation was not anywhere close to Oscar worthy. Also…Nate Parker was an asshole when asked about his personal history doing press for his film. He handled the entire thing horrendously from a public relations stand point. Now…Casey Affleck may very well be a gigantic, sexually harassing asshole…but he can act…considerably better than Nate Parker…and he has proven it over many years of superb work, which include an Oscar nomination years ago. 

But none of that matters to the Outrage Gang. All they see is racism and misogyny lurking behind every corner. The Outrage Machine is exhausting, and it is never ending. These dipshits, who believe every single thing and every single accusation, are the worst of the worst. They should be ignored and shunned at every opportunity. Eventually they will cannibalize their own, and the world will be a better place when they vanish from it. 

Who am I to rant? I am such an idiot I got three of my Oscar picks wrong. I am not worthy of an opinion, so I should shut my racist, misogynist mouth. The Outrage Machine will be happy to see me go. The public square is all theirs now.

I will now exit the stage and spend the rest of my days with my most unfortunate family. God help them.

 

 

©2017

 

 

Oscars and Grammys Racism : Perception or Reality?

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 17 seconds

It is understandable, with the ugly history of discrimination against them, that Black artists would feel awards shows disregard them solely because of their race…but is that perception accurate?

On Sunday February 9th, 2017, Adele won the Grammy for Best Album over Beyonce, and ever since there have been cries of racism in the media against the Recording Academy. The next morning both the New York Times and the Washington Post had articles decrying the award's racism and making claims of #GrammysSoWhite.  

The New York Times opined, "The Grammys’ race problem is so pernicious that some white winners have chosen contrition over exuberance". 

The Washington Post wrote of the Grammys dispute, "Somehow, lots of listeners are fine with shrugging this off. Some balk at taking a nice Sunday evening television show and making it about race. (Counterpoint: It would be irresponsible not to.)" 

This Grammy controversy, combined with the #OscarsSoWhite uproar last year over the absence of Black actors nominated for Oscars, certainly gives the impression that both the music and film industries have serious racial issues. But do the Grammys and Oscars actually have a "pernicious" race problem? A closer look at the relationship between the Grammys, Oscars and race, is warranted to find out whether these charges are factual and substantial, or emotional and scurrilous.

A good place to start the investigation is to see if Black artists are under-represented in awards in relation to their population percentage. According to the U.S. Census, African-Americans make up 12.6% of the U.S. population. A review of the amount of Grammy and Oscar nominations and wins for Black artists over the last thirty years (1988 – 2017) will indicate whether they are under-represented or not. 

The four most prestigious categories for the Grammys are Best Album, Record of the year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. Over the last thirty years in the Best Album category, 37% (56) of nominees were Black artists and they won 23% of the awards. 

In the Record of the Year category, Black artists scored 36% (54) of the nominations and won 20% (6) of the awards. 

In the Song of the Year category, Black artists have 28% (42) of the nominations and prevailed for 23% (7) of the awards. 

And the in the Best New Artist category, there have been Black nominees 32.6% (49) of the time, who triumphed for 40% (12) of the Best New Artist awards. 

It is obvious upon review of the data that over the last 30 years Black artists are, in fact, substantially over-represented at the Grammys in relation to their percentage of the U.S. population.

In regards to this years supposed racial controversy, Beyonce has won a total of 22 Grammys (one in the big four categories) throughout her stellar career, which is 8th most all-time. Of the top four popular music Grammy winners in history, three are Black artists, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Beyonce, with Alyson Krause being the only White artist on that list. It seems to me, that if the Grammys have a “pernicious” race problem, they sure have a funny way of showing it. 

The statistics regarding the Academy Awards for Black artists over the last 30 years (1988 – 2017) are quite illuminating as well. In the Best Actor category, Black actors have received 10.6%(16) of the nominations and won 10% (3) of the awards.

The Best Supporting Actor award has had 8% (12) of its nominees be Black actors and they have taken home the golden statue 10% (3) of the time.

Black actresses have been nominated for 9.3% (14) of the Best Supporting Actress awards and have won 16.6% (5) of the time.

Lastly, the Best Actress category has had Black nominees 4% (6) of the time and only Halle Berry has won the award, which amounts to 3.3% of the awards.

At first glance it would seem that, unlike the Grammys, the Oscars definitely have a race problem as in all but one category, Best Supporting Actress wins (16.6%), do Black artists equal or surpass their U.S. population percentage. But looking more deeply at the numbers reveals that this alleged race issue is more illusion than reality.

If you expand the parameters of the debate beyond the borders of the U.S., and I think it is fair to do so since Hollywood draws the overwhelming majority of their acting talent from the U.S, U.K., Canada, Ireland and Australia, also known as the Anglosphere - all the major countries that speak English as their first language, then the supposed inequality among nominations and wins for Black actors all but disappears.  If you combine the populations of the Anglosphere nations, their Black citizens make up 9% of that general population.

According to the 9% Black population percentage in the Anglosphere, Black actors are over-represented in Best Actor nominations (10.6%) and wins (10%), Best Supporting Actress nominations (9.3%) and wins (16.6%), and in wins for Best Supporting Actor (10%). It does still show slight under-representation in the Best Supporting Actor nominations (8%) and massive under-representation in the Best Actress category in both wins (3.3%) and nominations (4%).

In addition, if the Black actors nominated this year win, then the data is even more compelling against the Oscars alleged race problem. If Denzel Washington wins Best Actor, and as expected, Marshehala Ali wins Best Supporting Actor, then the Black actor win rate over the last thirty years in those two categories becomes 13.3%, which is not only higher than the Black population percentage of the Anglosphere (9%), but also of the U.S. (12.6%). If the heavy favorite Viola Davis wins Best Supporting Actress, the win rate for Black actresses in that category will swell to 20%, more than double the Anglosphere’s Black population percentage (9%) and considerably more than the U.S. percentage (12.6%). If Ruth Negga wins Best Actress, which would be a huge upset, then the win rate for Black Actresses in that category would grow to a still lackluster 6.6%.

The #OscarsSoWhite argument also makes claims of racial inequality against Black artists in casting, but those charges ring just as hollow when you look at the data. According to the Screen Actors Guild, Black actors make up 12% of their members, just below the African-American population percentage (12.6%). A study by the Annenberg Center shows that from 2007 to 2013 (the last year of the study) Black actors were cast in films at a rate of 12.6%, identical to their U.S. population rate. A Screen Actors Guild study from 2008 (most recent year available), reports that Black actors are cast in 14.8% of all film and television roles, including 13.2% of lead roles and 16% of supporting roles.

What these studies and the historical data prove is that Black artists are not under-represented at the Grammys and Oscars, or on film and tv, but in many cases over-represented in relation to their population percentage. So why does the perception of racism in these entertainment fields persist? I believe the biggest reason is a failure to put aside emotional arguments and to put the statistical data into the proper demographic context.

A case in point was when The Economist magazine did a study last year and found that Black actors were cast in 9% of “top roles” in films since 2000. The Economist used this evidence to conclude that Black actors are under-represented due to the 9% “top role” number being below the 12.6% U.S. population percentage of African-Americans. What The Economist failed to take into account was the broader population of the Anglosphere, which would put this 9% “top role” number right in line with the Black population percentage in major English speaking countries.

Another example of this sort of analytical blindness was on display this week in The Guardian where a writer was horrified to learn that Black artists had only won 10 Best Album Grammys since 1959. When you put the fact of “only” 10 Black artists winning Best Album over 58 years into demographic context, you discover that means that Black artists won 17.2% of the Best Album awards over that time, which is considerably more than their percentage of the population in the U.S.

Simply put, Black artists are thriving in show business. As an example, the Forbes 2014 list of the ten most powerful people in entertainment had Beyonce in the number one spot and African-Americans in seven of the top ten positions.

These knee-jerk cries of racism after awards snubs are emotionally-driven, and undermine more substantial claims of discrimination in regards to significant topics like police brutality, incarceration rates, economic opportunity and healthcare quality. These scurrilous accusations of award show prejudice make a mockery of the struggle against the scourge of racial inequality and injustice. There’s no accounting for taste, but to chalk up awards losses by Black artists to racial animus is a cheap way to avoid artistic responsibility and ignore demographic reality.

Previously published on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at RT.

©2017

Beasts of No Nation : A Review

****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****

MY RATING : SEE IT!!

Beasts of No Nation is the story of a young boy who struggles to survive in his West African homeland as civil war ravages the country. The film is shot, written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, and is based upon Uzodinma Iweala's novel of the same name. The film stars Abraham Atta as the young boy Agu, and Idris Elba as "Commandant", a leader of a group of rebel fighters.

Beasts of No Nation is unquestionably one of the best films of the year. It is a devastating portrait of the making, and life, of a child soldier in a vicious and brutal war. Director Fukunaga masterfully gives the viewer the palpable sense of fear that thrives amidst the chaos and disorder of a country coming apart at the seams. It is out of this fertile intense fear that ruthless child soldiers are born, and atrocities committed. Fukunaga deftly shows Agu's transformation from a frightened little boy wretched from his loving family and alone in the world, to being a young man thrown in with a 'new warrior family', who frightens his world.

Beasts of No Nation has drawn comparisons to Apocalypse Now, and rightfully so. While it is not as great as that iconic classic, it certainly illustrates the same maniacal senselessness of fighting in a war with no meaning, no purpose and no end. At its mythic core, the film is really about a world absent of the feminine energy, or Anima. When Agu's mother must leave the war zone, Agu is left behind to emotionally fend for himself as a boy among the men. He knows this is the beginning of his perilous hero's journey from boyhood to manhood. When a boy evolves he needs both the Anima (feminine) and the Animus (masculine) to shape and form him during this delicate developmental period. Without the symmetrical push-pull tension of feminine vs. masculine, no psychological balance and harmony can be created. Not to mix animal metaphors, but when the Mama bear is not there to protect and nurture her cubs, then they must run with the ruthless wolves. With the wolves of men, no quarter is asked and none is given. Men can teach a boy how to be a man, but they cannot teach him how to be human. Beasts of No Nation shows what happens when the fragile Yin and Yang of masculine/feminine is knocked out of balance. As the film teaches us, when the Anima vanishes and the Animus is left to reign alone, violence, sadism, madness and rape prosper.

Writer/Director Cary Joji Fukunaga was also cinematographer on the film and he paints with a powerful and intricate touch. His camera movements and use of color are exquisite and give the film a distinct visual style. To be fair, I read a bit about a charge of "photographic plagiarism" on Fukunaga's part involving stealing a still photographers approach to shooting child soldiers under the influence of drugs. If the charge, which I take to be a very serious one, is true, it is a damning one. There is a thin line between paying homage to another visual artist, and downright theft, but when that line is crossed it is a deplorable act. Fukunaga is obviously an enormous storytelling and visual talent, I certainly hope he chooses to fall back on his own ideas and not borrow or out right steal from any other artists in the future.

As for the acting, Abraham Atta is an absolute powerhouse as Agu. He makes the transition from being a typical little boy who pesters his brother and is afraid to be away from his mother, to being a cold blooded killer, seamlessly and effortlessly. There is not a single false note from him in the entire film. He is a genuinely grounded, charming and dynamic screen presence. Atta is a Ghanaian born actor, and I really hope he is able to continue to work and grow as an actor in the years to come as he is a natural.

 

Idris Elba gives a staggering performance as "Commandant". Elba is one of the best actors working in film and television today. He can do drama and comedy, he can play the leading man or the villain. In Beasts of No Nation he plays a complex and charismatic leader of a rag-tag band of soldiers fighting government troops in a civil war. Elba's Commandante has an undeniable magnetism that lures both the viewer and Agu under his spell. Commandante is both bully and best friend, a father figure and a foe to Agu and the viewer alike. Without an appealing and forceful actor like Elba playing the role of Commandante, the narrative of the film would fall apart, as Agu's transformation would not be unbelievable for the audience if they themselves don't simultaneously fall under the Commandante's hypnotic allure right along with Agu. 

The rest of the cast are all Ghanaian born actors who do tremendous work. The entire cast is spot-on in their work and completely committed, bringing a chilling sense of realism to the picture. Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye as the mute child warrior Stryka is particularly fantastic. His character never says a word but conveys more than words ever could. Quaye carries a world and war weariness on his face that says more than any dialogue. Just a look from Quaye's Stryka can break your heart, or stop it, depending on his intentions. Quaye, like Atta, is a vibrant screen presence and an actor of undeniable intrigue. 

There has been a lot of talk about Beasts of No Nation and Elba, in particular, being snubbed by the Academy Awards because the film is a "black' film and Elba a black actor. I have written previously my thoughts on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, so I won't go into great detail here. I will say this, Beasts of No Nation deserves to be nominated for Best Picture, Elba, and maybe even Quaye for Best Supporting Actor and Abraham Atta for Best Actor. The fact that they weren't nominated has nothing to do with race, it has to do with the film industry. Beasts of No Nation was distributed by Netflix, which made the film available immediately on it's online service. Netflix also skirted some distribution agreements with theaters and therefore only released the film into theatres in very limited areas for a short time. The Academy views Beasts of No Nation as a tv movie since it went online at the same time it went into theaters. This is why it was overlooked by the Academy.

Regardless of all that, the film deserves to be seen and admired. Fukunaga deserved a Best  Director nomination as well, but was overlooked right along with the film, Elba, Quaye and Atta. Race was not why that occurred. Right or wrong, the business is why it occurred.

In conclusion, Beasts of No Nation is a spectacular film. I saw it as a SAG dvd screener and desperately wish I could have seen it on the big screen. It is a visually dazzling, dramatically compelling and emotionally potent film. The acting, directing, writing and cinematography are all top notch and nearly flawless. I highly recommend you take the time and watch Beasts of No Nation, as it is most definitely worth your time and attention. 

©2016