Wow! Very cool that this is the 90th Oscar show. And very interesting that this year the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science was not given time to speak during the Oscars. That is usually the one speech I focus on and delve into when the topic of diversity is uttered from the Academy’s President Cheryl Boone Isaacs during the glam and glitz of the Oscar’s show. It is easy to explain if you were aware that last year she was released and John Bailey became the President. He did not make a speech on how wonderfully diverse the film industry is or make any speech at this year’s Oscar’s. And maybe because Mr. Bailey spent his career as a cinematographer and therefore he’s more comfortable being behind the camera?! Nonetheless, there was plenty for me to discuss as these self-appointed guardians of diversity and champions of giving voice to all – especially the marginalized in society and therefore given proof their humanitarian side is a huge part of who they are. And it appears that they were making up for the past couple of years where they had been criticized even from within with protests like, “Oscars So White” when no people of color were nominated for an Oscar in the top categories. But this year they did not need the Academy’s President to make a speech of the industry’s diversity because between the presenters and Oscar winners, they made sure they stated how diverse they are or how they want to be more diverse, more inclusive and that allows me to once again point out that which they so often ignore – the point of view from a person with a disAbility! And if you are new to this blog or my website, corresponding Facebook page, or other writings, this is very significant if you look at the demographics of our nation. People with a disAbility make up 19% (according to 2010 US Census) of the American population. That is far more that any single racial (Blacks or African-Americans – 13.3%, Hispanic or Latino – 17.8% [2010 US Census estimates for 2016]) or sexual identity (LGBT – 4.1% [according to Gallop poll for 2016]) minority.
Due to the fact that they spread the, “this industry is the forerunner in diversity and inclusion” throughout the show instead of one speech – I will have to spread out this blog posts into segments. This being the first – at the beginning of the show with a repeat host, Jimmy Kimmel.
After a Black and White old school newsreel style opening to somehow honor the 90th Oscar’s show Jimmy Kimmel steps out on the stage for his opening monologue. I will begin there. After typical Kimmel style jokes about what happened with last year’s mix up on who won the Best Picture Oscar award and how Oscar is now 90 years old, Kimmel then jokes and stumbles around the Harvey Weinstein scandal and his years of sexual harassment without saying sexual harassment at first. He mentions how the Academy expelled Harvey Weinstein and the only other person that the Academy expelled was an actor who shared screeners (copies of movies that are nominated for an award that year and given to Academy members to consider voting for. These are movies that are generally not available for home viewing (dvd, blu-ray) to the general public.) But then he gets to what needs to be said. Somewhat.
“But what happened with Harvey, and what’s happening all over, was long overdue. We can’t let bad behavior slide anymore. The world is watching us. We need to set an example and the truth is if we are successful here, if we can work together to stop sexual harassment in the workplace, if we can do that, women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.”
Really? “…every other place they go”? Suggesting, actually meaning that women are being sexually harassed everywhere else? That all men are just like Harvey Weinstein? That there are no decent men out there? Not funny. Full disclosure. I find Jimmy Kimmel only an occasionally, mildly funny comedian. And I have not included any of his political jabs at the President and Vice President here at the Oscars. I do not feel like it is the place. Although I guess he is playing to the audience. At least the audience there in the Dolby Theatre the Hollywood elite that is there either to present an award or in hopes to be winner of an Academy award.
But it does not play well with half the television viewers – or the potential viewers – as the viewership – the ratings have been drastically declining over the past couple years and it seems the only common thread is political jokes. That’s my thoughts.
Back to the show!
And the part I want to focus on is Kimmel’s statement, “We can’t let bad behavior slide anymore. The world is watching us. We need to set an example”. I have been saying that for the last two decades! The world is watching what Hollywood is producing and they do need to set an example. They need to stop excluding the nearly 20% of Americans – the largest minority in America – those with a disAbility. If they actually included characters with a disAbility – that is portrayed by actors with a disAbility, it would mean a lot to Americans and show the world that Hollywood is not excluding nor marginalizing the most under-represented minority! What’s wrong with that? By your own words, “the world is watching” and you “need to set an example.” By excluding of those with a disAbility – you are setting an example.
Mr. Kimmel then went on to talk about the supporters of the movements of “Me Too”, “Time’s Up” and “Never Again.” He states that, “Things are changing for the better.” And that, “it is [a] positive change.” This is very true and I am very happy for the positive change when it comes to those women and even girls who have to deal with sexual harassment or in some cases even worse. And we should not forget the men and boys that are also put in those situations. In Hollywood, I can point to male actors like Terry Crews how has revealed he has been a victim of sexual harassment and Corey Feldmen who as a child star was a victim of pedophilia. And the revelation last year of actor Kevin Spacey is gay and that there are at least 15 men and teen boys who have come forward alleging sexual harassment against him. And if these movements against sexual harassment can be a positive change for the better, having pulled the curtain open in Hollywood on this issue, I hope one day the same can be said for the forgotten minority in Hollywood. You know who I am talking about. And let me be very clear – I am not putting these two in the same category. I’m just saying maybe there is, or at the very least should be hope for the forgotten minority in Hollywood. Believe me when I say I know that from some actors and directors that it is in the upper tiers of Hollywood who want to keep the curtain closed on the issue of the exclusion of people with a disAbility in movies and television.
To continue on with the show, Kimmel’s monologue then transitions to,
“This is a night for positivity and our plan is to shine a light on a group of outstanding and inspiring films, each and every one of which got crushed by “Black Panther” this weekend. Which, that’s — that’s okay. The success of “Black Panther” is one of many positive stories this year. Especially for African-Americans and Bob Iger. “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman” are — were massive hits, which is almost miraculous because I remember a time when the major studios didn’t believe a woman or a minority could open a superhero movie. And the reason I remember that time was because it was March of last year.”
And I can remember when the major studios didn’t believe that a person with a disAbility can self-represent in any movie. Oh, wait, they still don’t believe we can represent ourselves in the creative roles as screenwriters, film directors, or actors. And if it could happen so quickly – then again I say there is hope for us in the forgotten minority.
And this is where it gets really good. Here Mr. Kimmel goes on to say:
“This year we have a lot to celebrate. Ceilings have been shattered. Ceilings in screenwriting. We have our first ever female nominee for cinematography, Rachel Morrison, which is historic. So many of tonight’s nominees are making history, and, in fact, if you are a nominee tonight who is not making history – shame on you.
Greta Gerwig is the first woman to be nominated for director in eight years. And that is important. Only 11% of movies are directed by women. And that is nuts. We still have a very long way to go in that department, and a very long way to go in equal pay.
There is so much I want to pick apart in these few sentences! First, the ceilings! It is fantastic that women are getting the recognition for outstanding work in the creative roles of screenwriting, film directing and cinematography! And later we will speak of the creative role of acting! Second, I like that Mr. Kimmel used a percentage! “Only 11% of movies are directed by women.” I’ve already mentioned that nearly 20% of Americans have a disAbility. That is 1 in 5 and there is at least one person with a disAbility in 25% of American households. But where are we in movies and television? “The Ruderman White Paper on Employment of Actors with Disabilities in Television”, cited the research from GLADD that included performers with a disAbility is titled, “Where Are We On TV” showed that on television, characters during the 2015-2016 season found that only 0.9% of those scripted television characters have a disAbility. And that only 5% of those 0.9% characters are portrayed by performers with a disAbility. And for films, I have to go back to the Screen Actors Guild’s paper, “The Employment of PERFORMERS WITH DISABILITIES in the Entertainment Industry” that was first commissioned to be studied in 2003 and the results published in 2005 found that less than 2% of all performers, in television and film, displayed a disAbility, and less than 0.5% had speaking roles. Pretty pathetic numbers for 20% of Americans.
Lastly, Mr. Kimmel was light heartedly saying that in these days, during these the 90th Oscar’s that if you’re “not making history – shame on you.” But I am more serious in the statement as it applies to those with a disAbility. Come on Hollywood – allowing those with a disAbility to represent themselves as screenwriters, film directors, and actors in mainstream entertainment would be making history. And if you’re not – shame on you!
Continuing on with the diversity and it being recognized by the Academy, Mr. Kimmel then states:
In the meantime, triple congratulations are in order for the kid from Comedy Central, Jordan Peele, who had a huge success with his movie, “Get Out.” Jordan is only the third person in 90 years to be nominated for directing, writing and best picture for his debut film.
That is a huge accomplishment. And if you did not know or watched these Oscar’s it is worth noting that Mr. Peele is an African-American! And he is not a “kid”! He is 39 years old.
He had a hit sketch comedy show on Comedy Central. Even though he was a known name in Hollywood, it is still inspirational to think that someone like myself, a paraplegic filmmaker could make history by producing my own movie that featured a paraplegic actor in the starring role of one of my screenplays that I would director – let alone to be nominated for directing, writing and best picture for my debut film! I would just be grateful to be afforded the opportunity to make my film with a paraplegic actor in the starring role.
Mr. Kimmel continues:
“Timothée [Chalamet] is the star of a small but powerful story called “Call Me by Your Name,” which did not make a lot of money. In fact, of the nine best picture nominees, only two of them made more than $100 million.”
Mr. Kimmel was obviously talking about Domestic box-office receipts because with the added International box-office had others over $100 million. But it is encouraging that smaller films are making a difference and getting the recognition from the Academy. Because for any movie that is self-represented by people with a disAbility it is going to be a small film! I know because I have been at this for a long time and still have not found the investors that want to risk it for a film that is nearly unprecedented in yours truly being the paraplegic writer and director who is insisting on hiring an actor who is a paraplegic to portray my paraplegic character. But once that ceiling is broken who knows what will happen?!
And finally in Mr. Kimmel’s opening monologue he brings up the following:
“if you do win an Oscar tonight, we want you to give a speech. We want you to say whatever you feel needs to be said. Speak from the heart. We want passion. You have an opportunity and a platform to remind millions of people about important things like equal rights and equal treatment.”
And as I will point out in the next segments, later in the show there were some that spoke about “Equal rights and equal treatment” and that is awesome and it could be even more awesome. Hollywood you are an industry and a group of individuals who preach the equal treatment of everyone. You say that diversity is important. That everyone needs to be equally represented. So why do accept the traditions of exclusions of people with a disAbility? The exclusion of the forgotten minority? The exclusion of 20% of your fellow Americans? We don’t even need equal representation – how about 2% representation? We do not even need to be in the starring roles. How about supporting roles? Are you really the guardians of diversity and champions that give a voice to all – especially the marginalized in society and really have the compassion and heart you project to the world?
Stay tuned for ”Oscar’s 90th – Segment 2 – Let’s Dream” – coming up or in the case of the blog treatment it is literally coming up – as it will be the next blog entry right above this one!!!