Jason Blum minted his reputation as a Hollywood producer with wildly lucrative genre franchises like Paranormal Activity, The Purge and Insidious, so it feels unexpected to find him in the thick of things this awards season with a legitimate contender. But, really, how unexpected can something be if it keeps happening? A Blumhouse production has been…
From the article: “This summer will be the 30th anniversary of Lee’s Do the Right Thing, which was famously snubbed in the best picture and best director categories at the Oscars. Driving Miss Daisy was named the year’s best film, a scalding affront to many observers who still cite it as evidence of Hollywood’s entrenched attitudes toward race and inclusion.”
It hit me the other day. I may have been watching a documentary on the making of John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood (which made him the first African American director nominee and the youngest) or this year’s Hollywood Reporter director roundtable which features both Ryan Coogler (love him!) and Lee. What hit me? Lee has never had an academy award/Oscar nomination for best director. How, Sway? He’s been nominatd for best screenplay for Do the Right Thing and best documentary feature for Four Little Girls, and was presented with an honourary Oscar a few years ago, but not only has he never won a competitive Oscar, he has never been nominated for a directing Oscar. How can one of the definitive directors since She’s Gotta Have It landed in the mid-80s, a groundbreaking director in many ways, topically and stylistically (see Jungle Fever for examples of both) who has produced award worthy fare not ever have even been nominated? Ever? And in light of that fact, how can people willfully (emphasis on the willfully) dismiss calls for diversity as tokenism, insisting on meritocracy…as if! Because if we’re talking meritocracy, Spike isn’t even the only black artist overlooked on merit alone…not by a long shot. Unless meritocracy means doing exceptional shit to run even with some stuff that’s objectively mediocre. Come on now.
But in case you want to fight me, remember Spike is the director of Do the Right Thing AND Malcolm X who has, across films like School Daze, Mo Better Blues, all the way forward (granted with some duds in between) to Blackkklansman (which granted I haven’t seen yet but it won the Grand Prix at Cannes and critics and audiences are praising it as a return to form for the director, tonally on point, narratively out of the box, with great performances) innovated and tackled ticklish topical issues from a space specifically his. Close your eyes and imagine the modern American film canon without Spike. Can’t be done. And he’s never even been nominated – this is almost as big a slight as Glenn Close never having won a best actress (or even best supporting actress) Oscar, actually no it’s a bigger slight, for the culture, especially considering that Glenn is legitimately in the running to get hers this year (sorry, Gaga).
p.s. off topic but while I’m talking film, I have, since my pre-Oscars post, seen, on the big screen, Spiderman in to the Spiderverse (and it has all my non-votes for best animated feature…what a dope film!), and, via Netflix, Joan Didion: the Center will not Hold (apropos of nothing since it came out a couple years ago and is eligible for nothing this year but which was a new discovery for me and an interesting watch) and Roma (which is …slow and quiet…and visually poetic…with rumblings under the surface that belie its seeming domesticity…and, while I don’t think it has my vote – after all I haven’t seen Blackkklansman yet – I get why it’s getting all the love and has broken from the pack in the best picture category).