Hollywood So White

In Iron Man 3 The Mandarin, a traditionally Chinese character, was played by white Englishman Ben Kingsley (who also many years earlier played Gandhi in the movie of the same name).  Then in Doctor Strange Marvel replaced the traditionally Asian character The Ancient One with Tilda Swinton, another white person from the United Kingdom, although at least this time the replacement was a she so there was some form of minority representation.  Then, on Friday, March 31st, 2017, Ghost in the Shell was released with the main character of Major, a Japanese woman, being played by Scarlett Johansson.  These are just the most recent and most highly publicized instances of the whitewashing of Hollywood.  For other examples, we can go back to Mickey Rooney’s horribly caricatured portrayal of an Asian man in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Peter Sellers turn as a blacklisted Indian actor in The Party, nearly every portrayal of Charlie Chan by anyone in any type of media, and so on.   The list of Asian characters being played by white actors is a long one which goes back to Hollywood’s beginnings and seems to be an area in which Hollywood has had no improvement whatsoever despite the general public being very aware of the trend.

How racist is Hollywood, exactly?

There are a great many stereotypes associated with those who work in Hollywood, but one of the most prevalent and probably most true is that Hollywood is a bastion of liberalism along with everything that entails.  Sure, the Hollywood elites may be kind of kooky, a little unfocused and preachy, but they really care about social justice and taking care of the disadvantaged.  Just look at the Hollywood movies the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honor every year with awards.  If you’ve made a movie about someone socially disadvantaged (with bonus points if they are physically or mentally disadvantaged, too) and the topic is treated with any sort of maturity and empathy whatsoever then you are almost sure to be nominated for an award, and the same holds true doubly if you make a film about someone confronting and overcoming racial prejudice.  Driving Miss Daisy and Crash are two Best Picture winners that make nearly everyone raise their eyebrows in a salute to “what the hell was the Academy thinking?”, but there they are the holders of a golden statuette all the same.  So, you would think that Hollywood would have the most racially integrated workforce in all of the United States of America.  The reality is just the opposite.

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The data from the latest US Census in 2010 shows the United States has a racial makeup which is 64% White, 16% Hispanic, 12% Black, 5% Asian, and the remaining 3% including Indigenous Americans, mixed race, and the like.  The makeup of Hollywood however, does not correspond to these numbers.  If you are an actor, and you are male, then the numbers actually do line up fairly well, with the only group being seriously overrepresented being, of course, Whites and the only group underrepresented is Hispanics (from 2007-2014 of the 30,000 speaking roles portrayed in Hollywood 73.1% were White, 12.5% Black, 5.3% Asian, 4.9% Hispanic, and 4.2% Other).  However, if you work behind the scenes the statistics show a very different story.  Of the 355 people who directed a Hollywood movie in the year 2015, 5.3% were Hispanic, 5% were Black, 4% were Asian, and a mere 1% fall into that Other category, leaving 84.7% of Hollywood directors being White.

The director’s chair is actually one of the most well represented behind the scenes jobs in Hollywood jobs for minorities, too, even with those pathetic statistics.  While it’s much harder to find exact figures for racial breakdowns in jobs such as cinematographers, film editors, and the like, looking at the Academy Awards we can see that in its 89 year history only twice have black people been nominated for Best Cinematography, four times for Costume Design, twice for film editing, and so on.  Asians fare slightly better than their Black counterparts behind the scenes, though much worse for acting awards, and the pattern for Hispanics is very similar to that of Black filmmakers.

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This article is about racism but in my research, I found that sexism is an even more serious problem in Hollywood.  This chart is worth 1,000 or more words.

 Enough with numbers!  I come here to read words!

So, essentially what this means is that Asians are the only minority group in Hollywood where the ratio of those who work in Hollywood is near the same as the ratio of United States citizens.  That is assuming you’re male if you’re a woman all these stats get much, much worse, but from this point on that is going to be assumed for the rest of this article and I will put that factoid aside as a possible future article.  Another assumption I am going to make is that the ratio of those working in Hollywood being the same as the ratio of the racial makeup of U.S. citizens is a positive thing, and I recognize that this assumption is one which can definitely be argued against.  The only way we can be sure that Hollywood isn’t racially biased in its casting and hiring decisions is when no one even thinks of race as a factor, and while I am writing this article because I want that to be something we as a country and as a planet work toward, I am nowhere close to naive enough to think we are anywhere even remotely in the vicinity of reaching that ideal.

Ironically, while these statistics show that Hollywood does, in fact, have a serious problem with racism, its problems are not the ones that are largely publicized and being shouted about by the general public.  The “Oscars so White” cry of a couple years ago really isn’t true of actors as a general rule.  In fact, while Blacks make up 12.5% of the U.S. population, they have received 15% of the Academy Awards given out for acting.  Not a skew large enough that it shows favoritism, but we can definitely say that the Academy is not prejudiced against Black actors.  Behind the scenes, however, as was stated, it is a very different story.  African Americans are almost never nominated for directing, cinematography, and technical awards, let alone win them, but that wasn’t really what the “Oscars so White” cry was about, even though it probably should have been.  Hispanic and Asian people do fare far worse at the Oscars for acting awards and nominations than Black actors, do, but Asians fare far better behind the scenes while Latin Americans, once again, get screwed.

One thing that is somewhat misleading about these statistics, though, is that it doesn’t mention the quality of the roles.  Asians would seem to be treated perfectly fairly in every way in Hollywood, for instance, if you just look at the percentage of citizenship versus percentage working in the film industry, but when you look at movies headlined by Asians the numbers get far worse.  They are so bad, in fact, that the numbers can’t even be listed as a percentage.  In Hollywood’s history, looking at both film and television, there are only two or three years in which more than two films and television shows combined had an Asian lead actor.  So, while the percentage of Asians working in Hollywood aligns with the population, the high profile jobs don’t come even close.

And, then, there’s the fact that no matter which stats you look at, Latinos in Hollywood are just outright screwed.

Demonstrators March In National Day Of Action On Immigrant Rights

 Why does Hollywood hate so much?

Now we get to the purely speculative and opinion based part of this article as I have no real inside information to speak of, but I’ve been researching Hollywood for long enough that I can make some very educated guesses as to what is going on in the industry. Hollywood is one of the most liberal bastions in the United States.  Heck, even their conservatives are liberal when it comes to social issues, for the most part, so you would think that if there is anywhere in the entirety of the U.S.A. that would make sure races are fairly represented, it would be Hollywood.   But, Hollywood is still a business first and foremost, and their goal is to sell their product to as many as possible.  That means in the United States that they are catering to an audience which until very recently has been primarily white and male.  Sure, they have made niche films for minorities so they can be proud of themselves and give themselves a pat on the back every now and then, but the films which allow them to keep the doors open have primarily been aimed at the white male audience because that is the audience which has the money to pay for the movies.

That’s been the longtime assumption Hollywood executives have held, but recent trends have to make one wonder if those assumptions are close to reality or are just another form of racism couched in practicality.  As televisions get larger and less expensive with the same holding true for home theater sound systems, the internet allowing us to stream and outright steal films so we don’t have to pay theater prices and not even leave our homes, and as economic realities are making the middle class in the United States less able to afford family night’s out at the movie theater, Hollywood studios are having to make more and more of their income from the International Market.  This has meant changing who they cast and how they market their films.  The major stars don’t change much because they are still worldwide box office draws, but slowly casting has become more and more diverse for all but lead roles, and we’re finding that not only does it not change box office numbers much at all, it shows that films like Girls Trip with an almost entirely African American cast, and the four headliners women at that, can be one of the 10 biggest summer box office draws in the United States.  Not only is diversity not chasing away the customers, broadened representation is bringing in new ones.

Hopefully, I’m not giving Hollywood too much credit and based on recent evidence like the ever-diversifying line up of The Avengers films, the aforementioned Girls Trip, the wide release of films like Get Out, and the tentpole action film Black Panther having a nearly entirely black cast when it’s not even a “black issues” film I don’t think I am.  With Coco having the biggest box office in Mexican history, Black Panther about to shatter the February box office records set by Deadpool (that is my prediction, and I don’t think I’m stepping out too far on a limb in making it), and the attention so many movies with diverse casts but without niche subject matter are getting that I believe Hollywood may finally get over its fear and start representing a more diverse audience in its films.

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But, that just addresses the problems with actors.  What can be done behind the scenes?

That, I honestly have no answer to.  I imagine Hollywood’s racism in the crews as opposed to the casts of its film comes in large part from a bit of nepotism, a bit of centuries of racism making the education needed to get these jobs out of the reach and attention of way too many minorities, and a bit of good old-fashioned “I’d prefer to hire white but Asians are okay, too” racism.  That’s a problem that unfortunately will probably have to be resolved in the same way our national racism problem will be solved, which is “I don’t know for sure, but education and protest seem like good places to start”.

To Sum Up

Hollywood is absolutely racist, but arguably not in the ways that are getting the most attention.  Whitewashing doesn’t seem like a big deal outside of the United States and it can avoid studios making bad racial stereotypes in their films, but it does take away choice parts from minority actors.  Black men are well represented at the Oscars, and in their roles in films in general, but their roles in genre films have been hard to come by until recently and black women do not enjoy the representation their male counterparts do.  Aside from leading roles, Asian men are represented proportionally to their overall population in the United States.

However, if you are Hispanic, you are woefully underrepresented in every single way in Hollywood circles, Black men have nearly no representation behind the scenes, White guys get 64% of the good leading roles, and if you are a woman of any race then none of this applies to you and you are woefully underrepresented in every way, too.  So, yeah, Hollywood is racist and it’s even more sexist.

But, recent events show that things may be changing.  I hope so, and I really look forward to seeing what that change can bring.  But, if I’m wrong, it’s up to us to show Hollywood what we want in a film.  When they release a cast made up of minorities, make sure you get out there and see it to send a message, and when they pull another live-action The Last Airbender and cast what should be a cast full of minorities as almost entirely white, send them a message by staying home.  Even if unlike The Last Airbender that movie happens to be good.

 

2017 Oscar Predictions and Preferences

It’s that time of year.  The end of this week brings us the 89th annual Academy Awards ceremony.  Here is my list of the nominees followed in each category by which film I think should win, and which performance the Academy will choose.  Use this list for your own Oscar Pool and you can either look like a genius or get to blame your stupid picks on me.  It’s pretty much a win-win for you.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Arrival 

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

Moonlight

Who do I think should win the Academy Award?  This is the category Arrival should get its win for.  Arrival is an amazing film, but the fact that it was nominated for 8 categories, none of those categories being Best Actress, was a little shocking.  The reason Arrival is so fantastic is because of its oh so smart script and Amy Adams’ amazing performance.

Who will get the Oscar? All 5 picks are strong contenders, and all solid nominees, but I think this is one on which the Academy will agree with me, and we’ll see Eric Heisserer get a golden statue for his astounding screenplay for Arrival.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

Who should get the award?  Hell or High Water was a perfectly paced film which has appeal for nearly every audience.  It has strong characterization and contemporary themes explored intelligently and empathically.  Taylor Sheridan has given us a film which could be the voice of an entire generation.

Who will win the Oscar?  Hell or High Water could win here, because I don’t think it will win anything else and the Academy will want to recognize it.  However, I think the winner will be Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea.  Hollywood voters have short memories and they relate more to the tribulations of the working class in New England than of those in west Texas.landscape-1485268166-oscars-2017-noms

Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Who should win the prize?  First let me say what a pleasant surprise it is to see Kubo and the Two Strings in this category.  It neither will nor should win, but I’m quite tickled to see it acknowledged.  This is a battle between The Jungle Book and Rogue One in my opinion, and between the two I’d like to see The Jungle Book take home the award.  The entire film was pretty much a half naked kid surrounded by seamless visual effects from start to finish.

Who will win?  The fact that The Jungle Book is essentially an animated film, just with hyperrealistic animation and a non-animated progtagonist, could hurt its chances.  I am going to go with Rogue One and The Jungle Book splitting a lot of votes, allowing Doctor Strange to get this one, even though it doesn’t deserve it due to its less than stellar effects in its finale.

Production Design

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Passengers

Who would get the award of only Shaun was voting?  This is a rough choice between La La Land and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I would have to give the award to La La Land.  While the loved how atmospheric Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was, primarily due to its set design, La La Land perfectly captured the mood of every scene with its use of color, motion, and scale.

Who will win the Academy Award?  This is another case where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will agree with me.  Expect this to be one of quite a few wins for La La Land.

Music (Original Song)

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls; Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster

“City Of Stars” from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story; Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana; Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Who should win the Oscar according to Shaun?  This category is really just “Which song from La La Land will win the Oscar?  I personally think “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” is the best song of the year, since it is beautiful, haunting, and perfectly captures both the moods and themes of the movie like no other song this year has.

But, who will win the Oscar?  I think the odds on favorite is “City of Stars” from La La Land, however, the two La La Land songs could pull the infamous split vote and hand the Oscar to “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana.  Still, put a gun to my head and I’m saying “City of Stars” from La La Land will get the win.

Music (Original Score)

Jackie

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Passengers

Who should win the Academy Award?  La La Land.  Duh.

Who will win the award?  See above.  This is the most obvious award of the night.maxresdefault2

Makeup and Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad

Who should win the award?  I have to give this one to Suicide Squad and wonder at the fact that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them wasn’t nominated.

Who will the Academy give the Oscar to?  Suicide Squad is actually going to win and deserve an Oscar.  Who woulda thunk?

Film Editing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

Who does Shaun want to give the award to?  This is another very strong category, and in any given year any of these 5 could be deserving.  I have to give this one to Moonlight, however, as this is a case where the visual story telling has to work perfectly with the screenplay in order to give the film its powerful emotional impact. Joi McMillion is the first African American woman ever nominated for film editing, and I think she should also be the first to win it.

Who will win the Oscar?  This is going to be a tight race, and this is one of those categories in which I really could see the final vote tallies, but I predict that Tom Cross for La La Land is going to get the Academy Award.

Directing

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

Who should go home with a golden person named Oscar?  This really is a battle between Moonlight and La La Land.  I personally give the nod to Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight by the slimmest of margins because while La La Land is slightly more technically proficient, Moonlight has more depth, emotion, and meaning behind it, and that all comes from the film’s total package and not just the script.

Who will the Academy actually send the Oscar home with?  However, La La Land‘s director Damien Chazelle will be the one who goes home a winner. Moonlight, for all its depth, can be slow and dour at times while La La Land is thougtful and has technical  merit while still being upbeat, and that’s what the Academy wants to see right now.landscape-1485872024-elle-oscar-predictions-2017

Costume Design

Allied

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

Who should win the Oscar?  I probably shouldn’t be even making a stab at predicting this one, as of the categories I am attempting to predict, this is the one I know the least about.  It really just comes down to what I like, and in this case the one I like the most is La La Land.  The costumes are vibrant, have both a modern and late forties, early fifties style to them at the same time, and perfectly fit the characters they are assigned to.

But, who will win?  The Academy loves period pieces, and they especially love biopics.  I predict that this one will go to Jackie.

Cinematography

Arrival

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

Who does Shaun want to win?  Another very stacked category, with Arrival being the only one of the five I don’t really feel belongs here.  I have to give the award to Moonlight, though, as it has not only the best cinematography of this year, but possibly the best cinematography of the decade.  The last film I saw shot this well was Children of Men.

Does the Academy agree with Shaun?  In this case, I think they will.  I predict James Laxton will be walking home with an well deserved Oscar for his work on Moonlight.

Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

Who does Shaun want to see get an Oscar?  If I were to judge these films exactly as I were to judge any other film, I would give the edge to Zootopia.  But, film animation is a different art, and the precision, beauty, and love put into Kubo and the Two Strings made for an experience not like any other animated film of this year.  Laika deserves its first Oscar win for Kubo and the Two Strings.

What does the Academy think should win?  Kubo and the Two Strings could win based on what I said above plus the fact that every film Laika has made is excellent and it has never won an Oscar.  However, Zootopia deals with contemporary issues regarding racism, and deals with them well.  Add to that the fact that it was a more accessible story and Disney is going to get yet another Oscar to put on its collective mantle.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis, Fences

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Who should win the Oscar according to Shaun?  First, why is Viola Davis in the supporting role category?  Because her role wasn’t quite as large as Denzel Washington’s?  And, I’m not even sure that’s entirely true, it could actually be larger than his.  That being the case, she deserves this award for her heart-rending performance in Fences, and that’s saying something as every single one of these actresses was the emotional core of their respective movie, and Michelle Williams had the best single scene of the year in Manchester by the Sea.

Who will go home with a new really expensive knick-knack?  The Academy will absolutely agree with me.  This one is nearly as much a no brainer as the Original Music (Score) Award.  Michelle Williams could sneak in and take it, but I would be at least mildly shocked.oscar-nominees

Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Who should win the Academy Award?  Of all the stacked categories in the Awards this year, this is the closest of all.  I would be happy with any of these five performances winning, but since I am being forced by me to pick one, I have to go with Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals.  He was riveting, mysterious, a bit sinister, and was easily the best part of this film, which was pretty darn good in every way.

Who will win the prize?  This is Mahershala Ali’s award to lose.  The Academy wants to make up for the Whitest Oscars debacle of last year, and Mahershala gave three excellent (and one so-so) performances this year, even if two of those performances were for Netflix series.  And, that’s not to take anything away from what he did this year.  As I said, all five of these performances were amazing, these facts just put him over the top.

Actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Ruth Negga, Loving

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Who does Shaun want to win?  Isabelle Huppert gave not only the best of these performances this year, but the best performance of any actor in any category.  Her portrayal of a rich, powerful, possibly sociopathic rape victim was brave, powerful, and unlike any performance I had ever seen before and is the reason to see Elle.

Who will win the Academy Award?  Hollywood never awards foreign films nor actors, though, and Elle isn’t even in English.  Emma Stone gets this award for her excellent turn in La La Land.

Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

The Oscar in Shaun World goes to?  This category is really a battle between Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington, and I have to give the edge to Casey Affleck.  His performance here is incredibly insightful, I’d even use the word wise, in his understanding of how a person reacts to tragedy.  Manchester by the Sea takes this award.

The Oscar in the real world goes to?  The Academy will agree with me on this one.  Casey will be the first Affleck to win an Oscar for acting.  Who woulda’ thunk?shutterstock_153625988

Best Picture

Arrival 

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

Who would Shaun give the big award to?  My three favorite films of the year were La La Land, Moonlight, and Hell or High Water.  All three of these films were masterpieces in their own right, but the one I give the slight edge to is La La Land.  While I didn’t feel it was the best in many specific areas, as a whole it worked incredibly well while remaining accessible to all audiences and with a strong emotional and intellectual core.

What movie will the Academy give the granddaddy of awards to?  The Academy gives this to La La Land, of that I have little doubt.  It is possible Moonlight could sneak in and grab this one, but the smart money goes to Damien Chazelle’s golden child.

Categories I did not comment on due to lack of knowledge of the subject or not seeing the majority of the films:  Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Short Film (Animated), Short Film (Live Action), Foreign Language Film, Documentary (Feature), Documentary (Short Subject)