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The Oscars’ new diversity rules are all well and good, but will they make any difference? | Steve Rose | Film

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Here’s a quiz for cinephiles: think of a movie that wouldn’t have won best picture under the Academy’s new representation and inclusion standards. Under the new regulations, which will come into effect for the 2025 Oscars, entries for best picture must satisfy two of four criteria to be eligible. The headline criterion is on-screen representation: at least one lead character in the movie must be from “an underrepresented racial or ethnic group”; at least 30% of the general ensemble cast must be from at least two underrepresented groups (women, racial, ethnic, LGBTQ+, or people with disabilities); or the movie’s subject must concern one of those groups.

What wouldn’t qualify on those criteria? Maybe the first world war movie Wings, the very first best picture winner, from 1927? Or other white, male-heavy war movies such as Patton (1970), Platoon (1986) or Braveheart (1995)? Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, which won in 1948? The French Connection? The King’s Speech? Or does a stammer count as a disability? Also bear in mind the new criteria wouldn’t weed out such questionable winners as Driving Miss Daisy, Crash, or last year’s Green Book.

Predictably, the backlash has already begun. The Academy’s announcement was greeted on its own website by comments including: “You ruined the Oscars. It’s no longer about a cinema as a genre of art. Now it’s totally about politics,” and “forced diversity lowers quality of the product”.

Movies have always had to tick some boxes, you could argue, in terms of animal cruelty, for example, or child labour. But given how US society is on perpetual standby for a new culture war, this could easily develop into a new front.

The real question, though, is whether these criteria will really change anything at all. Especially when you look at the other inclusion categories. On-screen representation is one of the four categories: “standard A”. The others call for similar representation behind the camera: in key crew members and department heads (standard B), in studios and distributors’ apprenticeship schemes (C), and for representation in marketing, publicity and distribution (D).

Rev.Al Sharpton



Rev Al Sharpton leads demonstrators at a rally to protest against a lack of diversity in the entertainment industry in 2016. Photograph: ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

These are easy hoops for most modern movies to jump through. Standard B, for example, covers 14 key positions. Some of those are still white and male-dominated, such as director and cinematographer; others are already mostly done by women. According to Women in Hollywood’s statistics for movies released in 2018, a total of 84% of costume designers were women, as were 83% of casting directors, 78% of hair department heads and 76% of makeup department heads. The overwhelming majority in each case were white women. So to tick box B, most movies would not have to change a thing. (Wings also would hang on to its 1927 Oscar, incidentally, since it was co-written by a woman: English screenwriter Hope Loring.) Categories C and D are not necessarily difficult to satisfy either: most major studios and films do already. So as long as you tick two of the other boxes, you could still theoretically submit an all-white, all-male remake of Birth of a Nation and qualify. Which would at least silence some of the culture warriors.

Still smarting from the #OscarSoWhite debacle five years ago, the Academy has been at pains to rebrand itself, at least cosmetically. The impression of the awards as being decided by a bunch of stale, pale, male Hollywood veterans was an increasingly bad look, and the drive to reposition the Academy as a global, 21st-century organisation has been under way for some time. Primarily this has taken the form of a membership shake-up – gently wheeling out the old white guys and welcoming in some diverse new blood. This year’s intake was 45% women, 36% underrepresented ethnic/racial communities, and 49% international, from 68 countries.

The Academy also recently announced plans for mandatory “unconscious bias training” for all Academy governors and staff – open to all 9,000 members, too. The new direction has already manifested itself with best picture winners such as Moonlight in 2016 and Parasite this year. But if movies like these can succeed without the inclusion standards, how much are the new rules needed?

A cynic might put the Academy’s makeover down to concern over its own image – Hollywood is no stranger to vanity, after all. But the commitment to drive structural change is surely sincere, even if it is constrained by the twin demands of respecting “tradition” and not getting ahead of the industry’s slow progress. So you could say the Academy is being seen to do something, but not too much.

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins parades the best picture statuette.



Moonlight director Barry Jenkins parades the best picture statuette. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The new inclusion standards were partly inspired by a similar initiative launched by the British Film Institute in 2014, which demanded that films meet certain diversity standards on race and gender inclusion to get BFI funding. The standards were later adopted by other British organisations including BBC Films, Film4 and Bafta. A report on the results of the initiative published this July, however, found that little progress had been made in discrimination against black, Asian and minority ethnic professionals, before or behind the camera. Non-white people still had fewer employment opportunities and were far less likely to be cast as main characters in films, and minority experiences were far less likely to feature.

Far from suggesting the BFI’s initiative was a failure, these findings prove how much they are needed. They are evidence that those structural inequalities exist, and that they are resistant to change. The word “underrepresented” is often glossed over as a meaningless descriptor when in fact it is a literal and accurate one.

The barriers to entry in the awards game are already high. Getting a feature film funded, made, distributed and exhibited in the right format, in the right place, at the right time to qualify for major awards is a huge challenge – and one that favours established practitioners. Playing fields don’t level themselves. Far from compromising art through “forced diversity”, removing barriers to entry for underrepresented people results in better movies, not worse ones. As with the UK’s film industry, the Academy’s new standards could be seen as small but significant steps in addressing a problem that will take a long time to correct.

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Recast “Gossip Girl” As A ’90s Teen Drama

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OK, hear me out…Paul Rudd as Dan Humphrey???

  1. Recast Serena van der Woodsen:

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  2. Recast Blair Waldorf:

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  3. Recast Dan Humphrey:

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  4. Recast Nate Archibald:

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  5. Recast Chuck Bass:

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  6. Recast Jenny Humphrey:

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  7. Recast Vanessa Abrams:

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  8. Finally, Recast Lily van der Woodsen:

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Who needs nightmares like George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky when there’s the news? | Film

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Post-apocalyptic sci-fi used to be cosy fun, like getting in from the freezing misery of a January day and snuggling down in the knowledge that, in another life, you’d still be out there shivering in torment. It’s meant to be a glimpse into a future that almost certainly won’t take place, a vision of someone else’s horrifying existence that makes us feel better about our own average lives.

And yet, watching the new trailer for George Clooney’s Oscar-bait sci-fi drama The Midnight Sky, it struck me that this is exactly the kind of movie that, in a pandemic-torn world struggling with rightwing populism and imminent environmental meltdown, is about as cosy as plunging into a bath full of ice and cut glass.

The film sees poor old George – in beardy, underplayed Syriana mode – struggling to get a message out to a group of astronauts that they might be better off staying up in space given that something terrible has happened back home. The promo hints at plenty of trudging through snow and probably some kind of heroic sacrifice, perhaps allowing the continuation of human civilisation beyond Earth’s borders. Though quite what future that would be, given that the planet appears to have suffered some kind of nuclear apocalypse, iwe don’t know.

Clooney has described the movie as a cross between Gravity and The Revenant, but it also recalls the hard-to-watch John Hillcoat drama The Road, with perhaps a hint of Snowpiercer. The only cheery thing about The Midnight Sky is the waggish musing in some parts that the white-bearded Clooney might be playing a sort-of real-life Santa, spreading joy and the gift of not dying a horrible death from radiation poisoning to the remnants of mankind from his dinky Arctic base. But this is not the rosy-cheeked little Saint Nick from Elf or the Santa Clause movies.

The trailer for The Midnight Sky arrives at the same time as news of potential reboots for two less sombre sci-fi stalwarts. Legendary Pictures wants to bring back Buck Rogers, an intriguing blend of space opera and post-apocalyptic sci-fi whose 1979 film (a TV pilot) and subsequent two-season run is fondly remembered by fans. Then there’s the long-mooted film version of Battlestar Galactica, which in its latest configuration has X-Men boss Simon Kinberg on board as writer-producer.

The latter also has elements of post-apocalyptic futurism. Although it is about humans who initially appear to have no connection to Earth, it is very much in the “mankind v machine uprising” mode. The 2004 TV reboot of Glen A Larson’s short-lived late 70s show, which arrived during the so-called war on terror, intelligently played on contemporary concerns about torture and mistreatment of enemy combatants. It asked smart questions about the nature of sentience and the soul, though flagged after a bravura first season.

How successful are new film reboots likely to be? Buck Rogers will face a struggle to balance its hard sci-fi and pulpy space thriller elements, and yet any saga that helped to popularise ray guns and cosmic space adventure ought to find its 21st-century audience. Battlestar Galactica seems better suited to TV than film, with its continuing search for a new home planet for the ragtag survivors of the machine apocalypse: no previous version has solved the puzzle of what happens once the humans have escaped their Cylon adversaries.

Kyle Chandler as Mitchell in The Midnight Sky.



Lost in space? Kyle Chandler as Mitchell in The Midnight Sky. Photograph: Philippe Antonello/Netflix/PA

In post-apocalyptic terms, these fantasies are surely the kind of movies that will warm the cockles as we hunker down for more lockdown with one hopeful eye on the US presidential election, amid the nagging fear that the world’s leading narcissist might do something really crazy if he loses this time. Films such as The Midnight Sky seem a little too chilling and close to home for comfort.

Yet one of the most popular movies on Netflix at the height of the first wave of Covid-19, was the 2011 pandemic thriller Contagion, which suggests confronting the horror of one’s realities can give a thrill. But give me a good ray gun and some swashbuckling cosmic heroism any day when we only have to turn on the news to feel truly terrified.


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Halloween Movies To Watch Based On Your Haunted House

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