Some Things to Think About While Watching the Oscars

The problem with people  who make pronouncements about discrimination in Hollywood is that Hollywood isn’t a monolith.  That’s the myth.  The reality is that the film industry is no longer headquartered in Hollywood….or anywhere else for that matter. Motion picture companies are global conglomerates, with branches in Japan, China, Great Britain, New Zealand, Russia,  Indonesia, India, and other less renowned places. There are more films made in India each year than anywhere else on earth, and you betcha that their films aren’t populated by white male actors, unless you consider Indians Anglos, which they most definitely do not. (Self-definition is the name of this game; you are who you say you are. The Indian people are the original Aryans, but don’t tell Hitler that.)

There is no such thing as a liberal bias in Hollywood. That’s another myth. Actors may be liberals, and they often think they are but, as long as you have a hundred million bucks in the bank, you’re not a liberal, you’re a capitalist, and there is no such thing as a liberal capitalist. (I know George Soros would disagree, but then isn’t he the one who crashed the silver market, long known as the poor man’s investment? Warren Buffett?  Don’t make me laugh. His advice on buying into a down market has bankrupted more people than Bernie Madoff ever could.)

Oh, some of them think they are liberals but if they were true liberals, they wouldn’t be multi-millionaires or outright billionaires.  The consolidation of wealth is a symptom of capitalism but, of course, the consolidation of wealth is what made the modern world possible. Without capitalists, we would still be traveling in horse drawn wagons, crossing oceans in sailing ships, and relying upon human muscles for most labor intensive work. Capitalism is what makes automation possible and automation is the essence of the modern world. The consolidation of wealth means that only a very small group of people can bankroll the increasingly expensive process of making a movie.

That doesn’t mean that capitalism is good; it only means that capitalism is necessary. Like democracy, capitalism is the worst of all possible systems, except for all the other ones.

The Oscars are a marketing mechanism.  Oscar nominations and Academy Awards translate into more tickets sold, more DVDs purchased, and more bargaining power for the winners, which make the Oscars very important to the people who make films, but not so much for anyone else. After all, most of us have already seen the nominees or we wouldn’t be so interested in the outcomes of the voting.

Actors are entitled to their opinions like everyone else, and I, for one, am very interested to see what actors think about things, because that indicates the extent to which liberal ideals have percolated up to their ranks in life, not because what they actually think matters, but only what they are thinking about. Penetration and saturation are the two standards by which political polemics are judged among academic theorists who think about such things…but, outside of a very few “A” list actors and actresses, performers are the hired help.  So are the writers and directors.  The film industry belongs to the producers and the money behind the producers, and they are the ones who get to pick and choose the people who actually make the movies. Awards like the Oscars are testimonials to the “bankability” of actors, directors and screenwriters, and that’s all the money people care about: bankability.

My point is that everyone who makes films is a capitalist by definition. They accrue capital to make films to accrue more capital. They aren’t making films for the purpose of promoting any pro-social agenda (but see Rock the Kasbah for a rare film with a serious message hidden behind the humor, or Concussion for a darker view of oppression.)

The rumble behind this Hollywood discrimination story is that Will Smith is pissed off that he didn’t even get nominated for his masterful job in Concussion, which was absolutely worthy of a nomination, if not the award.  However, he did not get nominated because he’s black. He didn’t get nominated because he’s Will Smith, someone who  is just not very well liked in the Hollywood community. I agree that Smith should have been nominated. Samuel Jackson should have been nominated for his role in The Hateful Eight, a great acting job in a terrible movie. Michael B. Jordan should also have been nominated for his performance in Creed. Instead, Jennifer Jason Leigh was nominated for The Hateful Eight, and Sylvester Stallone was tapped for his role in Creed, two performances worthy of recognition, one for surviving a terrible script and one for reprising the role of a lifetime as the aging and infirm Rocky Balboa.

There are only five nominations in each of the acting categories, while there are eight slots for best picture? What genius came up with that idea? If they needed eight categories for best picture, why not eight slots in each of the acting categories? Can you make eight great films without eight great actors?

There’s no doubt in my mind that, if the Academy had eight slots to fill, Smith and Jordan would have gotten best actor nods, and Jackson would have gotten a best supporting actor nomination. So, the real question is, “Who decided to limit the acting categories to five selections each?” because that’s where the covert racism is really being displayed. In any given year, going back to the 1960s, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to fill eight slots without naming at least one actor of color in each year. There’s a lot more room with 32 slots than there is with just 20.

The idea that Hollywood is liberal is contradicted as well by the growing number of Christian-themed films and television programming.   Last week, three of the six trailers we saw before the feature we went to see were either overtly or covertly Christian themed films.  The sad fact is that three of the remaining Republican candidates are avowed Christian fundamentalists, people who believe that the end times are at hand and that the Apocalypse is coming. A majority of the candidates who have fallen by the wayside also identified themselves as Christian fundamentalists. (Only God knows what Christie is but it is a fair dinkum guess that he’s a narcissist.) Whether any of them are religious is another matter. Check their bank accounts. Rich people are never spiritual.  They are materialists. (Oh, some think otherwise; wrong again.)

These films, which have been coming out with increasing frequency in recent years, have preconditions moviegoers to be more receptive to the conservative agenda.  This isn’t an accident, a coincidence, or even serendipity in action. It is part of a conscious, coherent plan to turn America into a “Christian Country” by saturating the communications media with repeated pronouncements to that effect. In fact, the candidates for the Republican nomination for president have been outspoken about their collective belief that this is a Christian nation, despite the prima facie evidence to the contrary.

One recent filmin particular, presented in a documentary format, attempts to convince the audience that the Founders of the Republic were Christians to a man, and that the Republic was founded on the basis of Christian principles when, in fact, the only principles that were  incorporated into the doctrines of the new nation were OLD TESTAMENT principles.  There was a good solid reason for this.  The growing number of denominations in the infant Republic read the New Testament differently from each other, according to their predispositions, but the Old Testament was virtually identical from one version of the Christian Bible to the next.  Nevertheless, many of the founders went out of their way to attest to the fact that the United States was not a Christian nation, and was in fact an agnostic nation. (If you do not profess a religion, any religion, you are ipso facto an agnostic, and since the Constitution of the United States does not endorse any specific religion, the nation that Constitution produced was by definition an agnostic one, one that professes neither faith in or disbelief in a supreme being.)

Republican icon Newt Gingrich yesterday issued a statement blaming Fox News for the decimation of the 2016 presidential campaign by giving Donald Trump virtually unrestricted and largely unchallenged access to their airwaves during the runup to the 2016 campaign, going back as far as his emergence as the Birther in Chief in 2010. Trump knows a band wagon when he sees it, and wasted no time climbing aboard that hobby horse, but the blame doesn’t stop there. NBC gave Trump carte blanche to burnish his image with his Apprentice series, through which he was able to make himself a social icon of cutthroat capitalism. Trump’s Apprentice programs should have been cancelled the moment he started making political pronouncements, because he crossed the line between entertainment and politics.  The truth of the matter  is that Trump has been running for president for six years now, and his persistence is paying off.

These two phenomena work together. The saturation of the airwaves and the internet with Trump’s shenanigans was well abetted by the proliferation of Christian media that predisposes ill-educated Americans to luxuriate in made up concepts of spirituality that have no basis in fact or in scripture.

These are the same techniques that Hermann Goering and Adolf Hitler used to seize power through parliamentary elections, the manipulation of the press, film and radio to sell their big lies to the German people, along with the creation of a wholly specious religion based on wild-eye notions of Norse mythology combined with early 20th century Romantic mysticism.

So, don’t worry about the percentage of people of color at this week’s Oscars. You have more important things to worry about. Sit back. Relax. Watch it all unfold, because there’s not a hell of lot else that we can do. Politics is now entertainment and like most entertainment, it is devoid of serious commentary. You will know when we reach the nadir. That will be when the Best Picture award goes to some Christian propaganda film.