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David Poland

By David Poland

Hollywood Reporter Plays The Race Card

I think The Hollywood Reporter is going to an interesting place, but I find this muckraking crap.

Last year, we saw the second black director in history nominated… the first time there were two black men nominated for producing a BP nominee… the first black winner of a screenplay Oscar… black nominees in three of the four acting categories, including a winner, and a second woman of color in Supporting Actress… and not only a nearly all-black cast film nominated for Best Picture, but two films that invoke ethnic racism as their central themes, not to mention The Blind Side.

And what have you done for us lately?

In this case, the racism belongs to The Hollywood Reporter.

Besides assuming that For Colored Girls… will not make it… besides suggesting that the only color that isn’t “white” is black… there is a kind of stunning ghettoization of black Hollywood that someone is even out there counting, especially at this point in the season.

And is there any reason for it… aside from trying to get attention for the trade-cum-tabloid?

If For Colored Girls… got 5 nominations, what would it mean? Was Dreamgirls not getting in a show of racism? Was Precious getting in a defense of the Academy against accusations of racism?

Do we all understand that these questions demean the films and filmmakers who aspire to Oscar gold?

And for the record, I do think there is a racial element in The Academy. The group is vastly white and significantly jewish… and as a jew, I can tell you that I feel that many of ours feel like blacks are a step behind us on the food chain. So I am not uninterested in the discussion of race and The Academy. But let’s get more serious about the conversation. How racist were we, in the media, for beating the drum endlessly about Kathryn Bigelow being potentially the first woman to win while virtually ignoring the story of the first potential black person to win Best Director… and he was only the second black nominated while Kathryn was #4 for the women? Some feel that The Blind Side being nominated was a show of racial pandering. Etc, etc, etc.

But here we are, counting potential black nominees in September. Oy.

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18 Responses to “Hollywood Reporter Plays The Race Card”

  1. Triple Option says:

    I’m not sure if your 2nd paragraph helps or hurts your argument. If there are all these firsts and seconds sort of unique occurrences, it could just as easily be viewed as a matter of chance as opposed to there being any sort of significant change to landscape or perception of films by people of color. Even the two films that you referred to for dealing w/ethnic racism use steroided smurfs and shrimp, not actual real people.

    I’m not advocating a quota or profess to know some magical number that would suffice everyone’s interest but I don’t think you can fault someone for counting if the number is only going to be zero, one or two. I won’t argue that the article couldn’t have brought up some other (more telling?) questions but to not call such things to attention would be the equivalent to ignoring the issue all together. How many articles were written about “the Obama effect” on Hollywood? Suddenly, anything on TV or in movies that featured a person of color was part of a “new multi-cultural” America. There was backlash over what kind of secret ideology was being forced on the masses.

    To me the most telling paragraph from the article was John Singleton’s quote about Tyler Perry being the only African American to currently have an ongoing concern w/a studio. I honestly don’t mean to diminish Singleton here when I point out the irony of the piece is that the one asked to comment on the issue was a Brother whose showpiece was nearly 20 years ago. He or other artists or filmmakers of color aren’t getting calls to discuss 3D technology, convergence, or any other vital issue of the day for the industry besides being a professional spokesperson for his race. And without getting into fact-checking, if Tyler is the only African American “holding it down” at a studio, we still all know Massuh still ain’t covering medical for his peeps.

    I’ll agree you can’t call out every film that has a person of color involved like it’s Haley’s comet. There are at least two possibilities for what could be considered from the article. 1) That people of color are not readily involved in Oscar-contending work. Which could spawn its own series of questions as to why. Or, 2), the films by and including people of color are oft overlooked or considered second rate from an Academy body who lacks diversity.

    I don’t think a simple tally sheet come autumn each year really addresses the matter. Are studios going to call a person of color to write or direct that vanity project for their top grossing Caucasian star if race is not part of the subject line? Will they get the call to work in front or behind the camera on the big summer tent pole if his name’s not Will Smith? Can someone fail or have couple of near misses and still get a shot for box office redemption w/out it being a regulatory concession to the EEOC?

    Maybe the article hits the panic button too soon but there is a substantial population who without this sort of “muckraking” may feel marginalized in its absence.

  2. Bob Burns says:

    The systemic racism of the film/TV scene as a whole is so pervasive that it’s beyond silly to reduce it down to the awards.

    Look around at the grassroots level, for example, just an example. Look at the indie screenings and film festivals. Who’s making 99% of those films? What’s the audience?

    OK, it’s not Jim Crow segregation…. so what is it?

    This is not about the unchecked bad personal instincts of individuals. Trivializing racism is, well….. you fill in the blank.

  3. Keil Shults says:

    Is it just me or does it seem like winning an Oscar almost always tends to be a turning point (for the worse) in the film careers of African-Americans?

  4. Gregg Kilday says:

    Hi, David…I’m surprised that before you launched into one of your trademark lectures, you did not give the piece a more careful reading.

    1.) The piece began with a simple empirical observation: As we were drawing up our lists of potential Oscar contenders in the major categories, particularly acting, we were struck by the absence of black candidates this year. To say, barring a good showing from Colored Girls (more on that in a minute), this will be the first time in a decade when there could be no black nominees in the major categories is a simple fact.

    Actually, you yourself made a parallel observation about the racial make-up of an upcoming Oscar race when you wrote on Oct. 12, 2006, “This may be the blackest year ever going into the Oscar season. (And when I write “black,” I mean people of a color that happens to be not Caucasian or Hispanic.) Dreamgirls is in the lead with Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, etc. in play…plus star turns by Will Smith…Forest Whitaker…b…Yet, most of the other movies in play have no significant characters that are played by black actors. Hmmm…”

    Now, aside from the fact that our piece came two weeks earlier in the calendar than your 2006 observation, how is our basic observation different in kind than yours? Especially, since the article goes on to mention sometime-Oscar players like Will Smith who don’t have a film in play this year. And also mentions the eventual 2006 nominees, which also included “Babel,” as one of the most diverse in Oscar history.

    2) We don’t assume “Colored Girls” will not make it. We cite the film, which has not screened yet, as a “one of the few remaining question marks.” And note elsewhere in the piece that one or two films can change the complexion of the race.

    3) The article doesn’t assume “the only color that isn’t ‘white’ is black.” Yes, it focuses on blacks, but notes right at the start “there are virtually no minorities in any of the major categories among the early lists of awards hopefuls.” If there were, we would have happily mentioned them. And later in the article, we cite SAG’s most recent statistics for ‘non-Caucasian’ casting, which includes blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc.

    4) For the record — and I realize you don’t quite make this charge — we don’t accuse the Academy of racism. In fact, we note Academy’s efforts to diversify its membership ranks. While the media in general often equates the Oscars with Hollywood, the Oscars, as I know you well know, only deals with a subset of studio and indie films and is at the mercy of whatever films are released in a given year.

    5) There is a larger, ongoing discussion to be had here about the scarcity of the kind of minority-themed films and/or films with Oscar ambitions that employ prominent black and minority talent. Even in the best years, there are only three or four of those types of movies in the mix. The article we wrote begins to touch on a few of the reasons, but by no means is meant to be a comprehensive analysis of the larger issue.

    But right now I’d better get back to my racist muck-raking. I’ll shut up so you, as is your habit, can have the last word.

  5. David Poland says:

    I guess the difference between what I wrote inside a column in 2006 and what you guys made into a story in 2010 is that I’m pretty sure that no objective person could see a headline like, “Whitest Oscars in 10 years?,” as anything less than an intentional provocation.

    “There is a larger, ongoing discussion to be had here about the scarcity of the kind of minority-themed films and/or films with Oscar ambitions that employ prominent black and minority talent.”

    Absolutely. And there is always a conversation to be had about the issue of product aimed at minorities, product made by minorities, and product consumed by minorities. A serious conversation. And your headline – which may or may nor have been written by you – is not, in my opinion, serious. It is, again, a provocation in a sensitive area.

    I have a problem with shouting “fire” in a crowded room and then saying, “Well, we later told the reader that we only really saw a spark and there was plenty of time for a safe exit and to stay calm.”

    Your on the web, man. I have been threatened twice with lawsuits by Crazy Nikki Finke based on 140 character tweets in the last few months. I love paragraph 7, but we live in shallow reading times.

    It is rare, Gregg, that I have launched into one of my “trademark lectures” about something you have written. I have not found you to be provocateur over the years. And your employer does seem to be barreling in that direction… a move that I see as likely to save an ailing business. So perhaps that context was a part of my reaction.

    But after seeing the headline for a couple of days and finally clicking on it after seeing it in a third or fourth place, I have to say, I found it shocking. There are also just two female directors – both longshots – in play. There is only one foreign language film in contention for Best Picture. A very small group of pictures overall with female leads up for BP. Only one film speaks to the gay experience. Etc, etc, etc. You can parse the season in 100 ways. But “whitest year in 10 years?” Really?

    I don’t think you are a racist. I don’t think you are a muckraker by trade. I don’t think you need to shut up. But I do think this was a muckraking piece, backing up into racist by way of isolating black filmmaking as some kind of problem area for the awards season.

    Frankly, if it weren’t for Don Murphy turning it into armageddon, one word from anyone about the Transformers thing in that silly survey would have made me feel terrible and I would have been earnestly apologizing. I cross the asshole line, by my own standards, at least once a month. We all misstep. And that’s what I think you did with this.

    And you don’t.

    I’m glad you said your piece, even if we still disagree about whether the piece should have run.

  6. Don Murphy says:

    So again, for the record- “I am not sorry that I made fun of the fact that a poor woman was put into a coma over an accident that occurred. I still think it was fucking knee slapping hilarious. I’ll make comments about Don needing better meds because he doesn’t get “my humor”. Don needs meds. Nikki’s crazy. Gregg is a racist corporate whore. Jeff Wells is a doody head. The only person that knows which films are profitable is me, David Kingo Poland. The only person who still understands journalistic ethics is me, David Kingo Poland. The only person who can predict the Oscars correctly is, yup, me, David Kingo Poland. [raises voice to Norma Desmond level] All of you typers out there in the dark- it is a new day dawning. My site with its meager ads is the only one true site. Follow my lead. Follow my guidance. And boy am I fucking funny- have you heard the one about Sally Menke and her pooch…?”

    You have the nerve to call ME, someone who works for a living pathetic?

    David Kingo Poland is fucking a joke. And a bad one at that.

  7. IOv3 says:

    Don, again, where the fuck were you like FIVE YEARS AGO? Seriously, you are bitching at the man about shit he has been doing for years. That damn poll about the Segway guy was not even the first time he did a dark poll like that, he did it before about someone else who died, and people called him out like crazy. This is just who he fucking is and if it bugs you that fucking much, welcome to the party? It just seems weird to give shit to a guy whose been this way for as long as this blog has existed.

    Oh yeah, unlike every other site out there, at least David is his own guy. Bitch at him all you want but all of those other sites have sugar daddies. All David has is David and he has made a career out of it. That’s pretty impressive given that he’s not even the most famous critic/reviewer/business commentator out there yet, the dude still keeps this site up and could afford an upgrade!

  8. David Poland says:

    You know, Don, you are the only person I have ever read or heard who suggested that there was anything to joke about in Sally Menke’s passing. And you continue to repeat it as though I hadn’t addressed it on the blog. You are disgusting.

    And as expected, you’re showing your obsession with my conversation with you about the cost of the first Transformers film… years ago… as though I continued to write about it. I have, in fact, shown you the respect of not writing about it again… even if others in a position to know still insist you were wrong.

    I have never said that I alone know anything.

    We all work for a living. Not all of us have time to be stalkers.

    Finally, I never called Gregg Kilday racist or a corporate whore. I don’t write about Wells. And Nikki is undeniable out of her mind, in a high functioning way, of course.

  9. movieman says:

    Will “Colored Girls” even be screened prior to opening day? If so, that’ll make it a first in the annals of Tyler Perry joints.
    Considering the disregard–if not downright scorn–Perry has displayed towards film critics in the past, it’s kind of ironic that he’s now banking on them to give “CG” the big Oscar-y push he (and I’m assuming Lionsgate) think it deserves.
    Finally saw the “CG” trailer the other day, and it looks less like a filmed play (thank ***) than a typical, albeit more high-toned, Tyler flick. “Color” me curious, if still unconvinced.

  10. Don Murphy says:

    No David- you make jokes about accidental deaths David Kingo Poland. I would never even consider that. EVER. I guess I should just do what Iov3 suggests and accept that you are a joke. A buffoonish windbag.

    And no, I don’t refer only to TF. There are dozens of movies that you refer to their costs based on NOTHING.

    An please elaborate how you work for a living. I’d love to know.

  11. Joe Leydon says:

    Movieman: “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” was press screened. Incidentally, Tyler Perry doesn’t refer to his movies as “joints.” Spike Lee does. Which I assume you know. You may have been trying to make a joke, but it wouldn’t require much of a leap of imagination for someone to read at least a smidgen of racism into your wisecrack.

  12. movieman says:

    No racism implied/intended, Joe; I certainly didn’t intend it to read that way.
    And no Perry flick has ever been screened here in NE Ohio–not even a Thursday-nite-before-the-Friday-opening promo. So if Perry & LG gives “Colored Girls” the full bells-and-whistles approach (including, gasp, an actual daytime press screening), I will be highly amused.
    Of course I know that it’s Spike and not Perry who refers to his films as “joints.” I Just was having some fun at Oscar-hungry Madea’s expense.

  13. great scott says:

    Considering the disregard-if not downright scorn-film critics have displayed toward Perry films in the past, it’s kind of understandable that he would be reluctant to let them have an early look.

  14. movieman says:

    …which would kind of blow the whole “trolling for Oscars” thing, wouldn’t it?
    If I’m not mistaken, “CG” was originally slated for a wide January release, with no plans for a platform, “awards-style launch” prior to that.
    It sounds to me that Perry wants to hop into bed with the same folks he disdained while building his multi-media Atlanta empire. Guess he now wants some respectability to go along with his vast fortune.

  15. David Poland says:

    Perry has been pushing Lionsgate to work harded to “cross his movies over” since early in the relationship. He has felt that they were less Urban Niche than the studio has.

    Given that and after Precious’ successful crossover last year, this move just makes sense.

    I don’t know what the screening strategy will be, but clearly, an early Nov release date means that the film will be available to The Academy, SAG, and everyone else well before voting starts. The DVD will be in mailboxes before Thansgiving. Etc.

  16. movieman says:

    Perry’s films ARE “urban niche.” That’s surely why $60-million seems to be the ceiling on most of his films until now.
    And I’m not sure just how successful a “crossover” “Precious” really was, Dave. Lionsgate fumbled their release of that film big time by platforming it to death. “Precious” could–and should–have done a lot better than it actually did.

  17. David Poland says:

    I think they got every dime and more out of Precious… just as I feel Vantage got every dime and more out of Babel.

    $100 million grossing race pictures need Sandy Bullock hugging someone black or Clint throwing “gooks” off of his lawn.

    (And for the record, I like The Blind Side a lot… and don’t think that Eastwood is racist, though I thought race in that film was handled ham-fistedly.)

  18. movieman says:

    While I don’t think “Precious” could have ever reached “Blind Side” or even “Gran Torino” numbers (few films do), stalling out at just under $50-million–less than a typical Tyler Perry pic–conceivably left another $20-$25 million on the table.
    As far as Paramount Vantage goes, “Babel” and “There WIll Be Blood” both did about as well as anyone could have expected. “Into the Wild,” on the other hand, was a classic instance of a film seemingly willed into obsolescence by its distributer (Vantage again). Maybe Paramount proper should have handled the marketing/ad campaign and determined the screen count (i.e., how wide and how fast).

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