A&E » Film

White privilege and the silver screen



The Academy Awards (a.k.a. The Oscars) are still a month away but there's a lot of talk right now about their diversity issues, namely that this is the second year in a row where all 20 people nominated for an acting award are white — that's 40 performances considered noteworthy and not a single person of colour recognized.

That sucks enough that big-time media outlets like Variety, Salon.com, the New York Times and Pique are talking about it and the entertainment socialsphere is abuzz with celebrity talk of a boycott and trending hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite and #MakeAMovieWhiter.

The problem is, of course, larger than the academy — Hollywood is still trying hard to determine whether or not to give women a fair shake in their glitzy movie business let alone blacks, hispanics, Asians, LGBTs, and others. As Ice Cube commented, "You can't boycott something you were never invited to in the first place," but the truth is, the problem is also larger than Hollywood.

Speaking about his recent cover story for Variety titled "Shame on Us", journalist James Rainey says, "I think the problem is with all of us — not just the industry and Hollywood, but there is a long way to go for a lot of minority groups, underrepresented groups, to have their place in the American economy."

So how do we fix it? Stop going to shitty movies would be a start. The sad reality right now is that if what they're doing is making money, Hollywood is gonna be slow to change. But they can — remember when Straight Outta Compton came out to rave reviews but didn't play in "non-urban" theatres like Whistler until it "surprised" everyone with incredible first week financial success?

Then they put it in more theatres and everyone still went and it made even more money? Stuff like that helps. So does on-demand distribution like Netflix, Amazon and iTunes where the audience can support what it wants. So does supporting your local film festivals. And so does not going to see Dirty Grandpa, a movie so poor it makes Jem and the Holograms look like Apocalypse Now. Hollywood needs to learn that while poop is inherently funny, that doesn't mean you can shine up a crusty cow turd and call it pumpkin pie.

Speaking of Dirty Grandpa, it worries me that a legend like Robert De Niro would read its script and even consider it. And you're on latrine duty too Zac Efron — We Are Your Friends was utter garbage (imagine your aunt from rural Saskatchewan directed a movie about DJ culture), so Dirty Grandpa is not an ideal follow-up. (And for masochists who want to see how bad-simple it really is, Dirty Grandpa is playing at the Village 8.)

The bright spot of this week's new releases is Kung Fu Panda 3, which reteams all the key original voice actors (anchored by Jack Black but Angelina Jolie is still perfect too) with ace director Jennifer Yu, who elevated the franchise with Panda 2. This time out, the adventures of Po the Dragon Warrior and his friends are more beautifully animated (the secondary 2D sequences are back and welcome) even if the story seems a bit less fleshed out than the standard bad guy/good guy animated fare. One of the best things about this franchise was how it grounds parts of the plot in real Chinese history — this time the bad guy (Bryan Cranston) is out to capture the qi, or personal energy force, of all the kung-fu masters including Po.

In a nod to historical kung fu cinema, Po must train a peaceful village to become warriors. The wisdom isn't as seamlessly integrated into the narrative but this one has some good humour, stunning animation and, of course, all sorts of chubby panda kung-fu fun. (Some non-white voice actors in there too, now that we're keeping track.)

Also opening, Disney's The Finest Hours, a seafaring adventure based on the (apparent) greatest rescue in U.S. Coast Guard history. It looks like Titanic meets Pleasantville (with a whole lotta The Perfect Storm) and it's Disney, so expect spectacle and melodrama. Casey Affleck is in charge of the boat that's sinking and he always steals the show.

Side note: Doesn't it seem like there's a lot more of these historical seafaring adventure films lately? Is this the last gasp of that whole hipster culture? After years of coifed, bearded dudes wearing plaid wool jackets to not go camping in and buying custom axes to not chop wood with, I think it would be awesome if Hollywood, despite their obvious flaws, were able to cash in on the idiocy by selling burly adventure-at-sea stories to a generation that can't ride a ferry boat without rushing into the café for free wireless. Thar she blows.


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