Tag Archives: Oscars

I’m Disappointed In Lee Daniels.

MoNiqueLee

In 2010, with her hair adorned by gardenia to honor Hattie McDaniel, Mo’Nique won Best Supporting Actress for her gut-wrenching turn in Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire (they should teach that performance as a study in excellence). She went from being an outspoken comedienne to Nikki on The Parkers to an Oscar-winner for a role she was once unimaginable in. With the first line of her acceptance speech, she thanked the Academy “For showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics.” before an applauding crowd. If Lee Daniels is to be believed, that one sentence cost her deeply.

I’m not Lee Daniels’ parent or child,I don’t know him personally. Yet here I am, until recently happy for his unprecedented success with Empire, and now disappointed with his attitude towards Hollywood and Mo’Nique, a woman crucial to his breakthrough as a major power-player.

There has been lot of talk lately, due to a startling story in The Hollywood Reporter, in which Mo’Nique talked about how Daniels called her after her win and informed her that she’s being “Blackballed” by the industry. Meaning: She stepped out of line and she’ll be stepped on. Just like that, her sudden absence from the scene was explained. A whole new door that was opening up to her closed, and Daniels deserted her.

Tensions originally flared during what’s known as Oscar campaign season, which through unwritten law requires nominated actors to sit through luncheons, interviews, and meetings to ensure they have a win on their hands. They need to appease members of the Academy as well as people of the press. Even if you don’t win, you’ve managed decent publicity and good graces. In the wake of Mo’Nique’s THR story, Daniels has claimed that she made outrageous demands for said campaigning that weren’t consistent with how it’s done. He hasn’t outright stated what those demands were because “everyone knows”.

Her attitude upset the Academy members, the very lifeblood of the industry. But how? By voting for her to win despite her not playing by the given rules, A.M.P.A.S already proved they’re not as petty as Daniels is making them out to be. Now there may have been people who raised eyebrows, there always are in a self-congratulatory system. But especially after Daniels became only the second Black Oscar-nominated director for a film that got rave reviews, in what scenario could he be pressured by producers to drop Mo’Nique?

Even if someone asked him to dissociate himself from her for what she had said, his move to comply is self-serving to say the least. He did not stand up for her, the woman who along with Gabourey Sidibe and Mariah Carey elevated his film to a level perhaps other actors couldn’t have. Even today, with films that grossed over $100 million and a smash hit television series, Daniels won’t try to take her side, he won’t even work with her again.

Maybe he was scared of persecution before, he wanted to play his cards safe, but not anymore. He went as far uttering the words “reverse racism” to describe Mo’Nique’s behavior in this CNN sit-down:

This man isn’t afraid of being called a sell-out but to be labelled a loyal friend was too risky? Black media have had a go at him lately. There are stories of how he remorselessly plays an Uncle Tom to stay in the game. His work is being disparaged for perpetuating stereotypes. He’s being called out for almost being apologetic for his race, his kids have reportedly read The Dairy of Anne Frank countless times, but never Roots.

He is correct about one thing though, it’s not show but showBUSINESS. As a Black gay man trying to break into Hollywood, who really knows how many compromises and sacrifices came his way to make him who he is? But what will spring from this conformity? “We’re just giving the people what they want” is a proven lie that still gets told somehow. Spike Lee, Shonda Rhimes, Steve McQueen, Ava DuVernay, Dee Rees, and Andrew Dosunmu are telling stories untold in perspectives unseen and are still in business and with more praise and respect than him.

Maybe Lee Daniels was too scared before, but now he’s in a place where you can certainly speak up. He can at least try to have Mo’Nique’s back. He can try to rebuild bridges. And he can surely show that he’s not a puppet to some arm-twisting White hierarchy, he’s better than that.

P.S. Here’s all he needs to know about Reverse Racism:

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The Grammys And The People Have A Beyonce Problem.

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I think it’s been established at this point that award shows in general have a problem. The winners at the Emmys were disappointing, the nominees for the Oscars are disappointing. At the Grammys, ‘Music’s Biggest Night’, the nominees, winners, and performances have been consistently disappointing for some years now (which is really a far bigger issue about how messy the music industry is today).

The point is, different and original is either rarely recognized, or snubbed altogether. With the Grammys, which are as much a concert experience as they are an awards show, the demonstration of this becomes more explicit. While it’s great that they decided to close the show with a statement, they cheapened that move with obvious concern over image and popularity.

As a prelude to Common and John Legend performing Glory from Selma, Beyonce sang Ms. Mahalia Jackson’s Take My Hand, Precious Lord. The hymn was a favorite of Dr. King’s and is featured in the movie Selma too. A chorus of singers with hands raised as a tribute to Michael Brown stood behind Beyonce as she bellowed.

There’s one problem, in the film the song is performed by Ledisi, who also plays Ms. Jackson.

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For the (sadly) unaware, Ledisi is a nine-time Grammy nominee and a renowned name in Soul, Gospel, and R&B. Yet somehow, she’s not as much of a recognized name as Beyonce. That could have changed tonight had she sung the song. Apparently, both Common and John Legend admitted that it was Beyonce who approached them and pitched the idea. So, if she has the kind of clout to schedule and create performances for the freaking Grammys, especially where she seemed to want to pay homage to Selma, she definitely had the power to ask for Ledisi to do it.

Before you get defensive about the vocal prowess of ‘Queen Bey’, here’s Ledisi’s untouchable version to shut you up:

Beyonce could’ve done ANYTHING else, it’s not like they were going to have the Grammys and not have a nominated, popular artist perform. Plus she’s clearly in the position to pick and choose. It’s apparent that it wasn’t about highlighting the movement but about highlighting HER. As one of music’s most passive-aggressive attention-seekers, this was just an opportunity for her to have another “Look at me! I’m so great” while her psycho fans ate it out of her hands. Gospel is supposed to be devoid of vanity after all.

BONUS: This isn’t the first time an awards show chose Beyonce over lesser known artists to appease the viewership and maybe themselves. Remember Oscars 2005? Beyonce inexplicably performed 3 of the 5 nominated songs, including Vois sur ton chemin from Les Choristes, a song DESIGNED to be sung by a choral ensemble since the film is about a young children’s choir. Instead of having original vocalists, Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc perform their version, they got Beyonce backed by the American Boychoir. The botched French accent is not even the worst part:

To back up my attention-seeker accusation, I want you to pay close attention at 1:20. The kids get only a few seconds of the song to themselves and she decides to melisma over them, couldn’t even let them have their moment.

Oscar Nominations: What The Hell Guys?

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Before I unload my outrage, I want to maintain that Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the best president A.M.P.A.S has had since Frank Pierson. And based on ‘Dick Poop’, ‘Richard Link-Later’, and an embarrassed moment of silence after announcing the Best Director nominees, she was clearly as shaken as most of us by how The Academy voted this year.

Yeah, isn’t it? To be honest, I smelled disappointment beforehand. Antonio Sanchez’s score for Birdman was disqualified, a good number of impressive films didn’t make the Foreign Language shortlist, and Whiplash was deemed an adapted screenplay.

Then suddenly (like 3 days ago), everyone started falling in love with American Sniper despite it being laced with inaccuracies all over. But since it released wide rather late, it didn’t have to shield itself from accusations the way Selma did for two whole weeks. Deep down, I was scared Selma would pay the price for Sniper‘s upsurge. There was also some overlooking from all the Guilds, but even that didn’t matter.

Here’s an entire pile of shocking snubs in the wake of the nomination announcement:
Selma in most major categories: I called it months ago on this very blog, I said Ava DuVernay will find being nominated much harder than her male counterparts. But I still hoped to be dead wrong, and for a while it seemed that I would be, DuVernay would make history. Today, I hate that I predicted that and I’m amazed that despite her film being superior to three of the nominees (no names will be named), she’s the one who got left out. Moreover, David Oyelowo’s universally acclaimed performance was also ignored in favor of Bradley Cooper. Best Actor, a crowded race this year, was bound to yield some disappointment (Gyllenhaal and Spall also robbed), but Oyelowo was a lock till the last minute, his absence is inexplicable. Bradford Young is the future, his cinematography elevates any indie in quality, also not nominated.

Life Itself: Steve James, the man notoriously overlooked for Hoop Dreams 20 years ago, found himself in the same position with his latest documentary feature despite the acclaim. Roger Ebert would give this move Two Thumbs Down.

Benoit Delhomme: If there’s one fantastic thing about The Theory Of Everything, it’s the breathtaking cinematography. But since Academy voters almost never honor groundbreaking camerawork and lighting (because DP’s should only be people who can shoot vistas of mountains and trees) and thanks to the Reserved For Roger Deakins Spot, younger virtuosos like Delhomme and Young don’t get their due.

Gillian Flynn: The only female scribe with a realistic chance of a screenplay nomination for Gone Girl, was missing from the final list of nominees, a revelation that belied months of Oscar buzz. Flynn used to be a film critic for Entertainment Weekly, could this be a vendetta against her by the voters?

Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione: They were supposed to win Film Editing for Birdman, not even nominated. It feels like a cruel joke, except that it isn’t.

Force Majeure: Another apparent lock (in Foreign Language Film) was somehow not in the final five, even though the race seemed down to it and Ida (both films are spectacular btw).

To be completely fair, it isn’t a total letdown, here are some of the pleasant surprises:

Beyond The Lights, the poignant yet little-promoted drama by Gina Prince-Bythewood got some love in Best Original Song with Grateful, a Diane Warren pseudo-ballad. Although, Fly Before You Fall made a far better candidate.

Marion Cotillard landed a Best Actress nod for her phenomenal work in Deux Jours, Une Nuit, and it’s pretty well-deserved. But must say, it’s hard not to feel bad for Jennifer Aniston after the tireless campaigning she did with Cake.

And FINALLY, Wes Anderson got some deserved nominations beyond his staple screenplay nod for The Grand Budapest Hotel, one of my favs this year and one of his best works.

2013 was pretty disappointing in terms of the snubs too, culminating with a horrible ceremony hosted by Seth MacFarlane (We Saw Your Boobs anyone?). But after last year’s wonderful turn, I was hoping things were looking up but clearly, this was a backlash year. Here’s hoping better for 2016.

From The Hollywood Reporter- “What Happens to All These Women After They Direct Their First Film?”

Emmy and Oscar nominated director Leslie Linka Glatter wrote this piece in THR describing the double standards most female directors face even today, irrespective of talent. A good read.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/homeland-director-what-happens-all-754654

Olive Kitteridge: Can We Give Lisa Cholodenko An Award Already???

Olive Kitteridge

If you’re anything like me, you were disappointed when Lisa Cholodenko’s was snubbed out of a Directing Oscar nomination for The Kids Are All Right in 2011 (In the same year, Debra Granik was shut out for Winter’s Bone and that upset me equally)The film did land Best Picture and Original Screenplay nods, as well as recognition for its stars, but Cholodenko was so crucial to the film being made the way it was, it just didn’t feel right to silence her auteur-like voice.

Not to make anyone an unnecessary villain, but on the other hand, there’s this cultish admiration for David Fincher. I never got The Social Network, nor did I get the praise heaped upon it. He got nominated but neither Cholodenko nor Granik got that honor. It will most likely happen again this awards season when he becomes a shoo-in for Gone Girl but Ava DuVernay will be a long shot for Selma despite the rave reviews. It’s equally noteworthy that post Kathryn Bigelow’s 2010 win for The Hurt Locker, no woman has been nominated, not even Bigelow again for the acclaimed Zero Dark Thirty.

Cut to today. A significant change in the TV landscape has been the revival of the miniseries(or ‘limited series’ or ‘event series’ based on what works for your brand). The Emmys went back to splitting the miniseries and TV movie categories this year, simply because the number of such programming is increasing vastly. Whether it’s based on the success of similar British formats or the anthology nature of American Horror Story, people are finding themselves invested in smaller episodic runs.

The tide is high, and riding the wave soon will be Olive Kitteridge, an adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-winning novel. Much like Top Of The Lake and Fargo, it’s set in a mellow coastal town with interconnected stories. Starring Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, John Gallagher Jr., Rosemarie DeWitt, Zoe Kazan,and Bill Murray, it premieres this November on HBO. Helmed by? None other than Lisa Cholodenko herself. It’s her first major attempt since Kids and based on the previews and hype, it’s set to be a great viewing experience.

Given what happened this year, the Emmys have their own wrongs to right, a dubious voting system that seems – arguably- broken. As a result, an oligopoly of winners just keeps on winning. The miniseries category is luckily immune to this disadvantage. I for one can’t wait for Olive Kitteridge, it will air in four parts over the span of two weeks. HBO struck miniseries gold with Angels In America and John Adams, this could be headed in the same direction.