The New York Times' film critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott alert us to today's burning problem:
Crammed into this year’s field of 10 best picture Oscar nominees are British aristocrats, Volvo-driving Los Angeles lesbians, a flock of swans, a gaggle of Harvard computer geeks, clans of Massachusetts fighters and Missouri meth dealers, as well as 19th-century bounty hunters, dream detectives and animated toys. It’s a fairly diverse selection in terms of genre, topic, sensibility, style and ambition. But it’s also more racially homogenous — more white — than the 10 films that were up for best picture in 1940, when Hattie McDaniel became the first black American to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy in “Gone With the Wind.” In view of recent history the whiteness of the 2011 Academy Awards is a little blinding.
... But it was possible, over much of the past decade, to believe that a few of the old demons of suspicion and exclusion might finally be laid to rest. Are the coming Oscars an anomaly, or an unsettling sign of the times?...
What happened? Is 2010 an exception to a general rule of growing diversity? Or has Hollywood, a supposed bastion of liberalism so eager in 2008 to help Mr. Obama make it to the White House, slid back into its old, timid ways? Can it be that the president’s status as the most visible and powerful African-American man in the world has inaugurated a new era of racial confusion — or perhaps a crisis in representation?
Dargis and Scott are absolutely right. It's discrimination, that's what it is, racism of the most invidious kind. You see, it's not that white Academy members didn't vote for deserving blacks for Oscars this year. No, the white bigotry was much more profound: there weren't deserving blacks in 2010 (which, by definition, must be the fault of whites). That Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman chose to appear in big budget popcorn movies in 2010 rather than in lower budget prestige films, and that Jamie Foxx's performance in the Oscar-bait The Soloist was forgettable just proves that racism is rampant.
Steps must be taken. Let's think about the ten Best Picture nominees:
How hard would it have been for Hollywood to cast an African American in The King's Speech? Why did Helena Bonham-Carter get to play the Queen of England when Tyler Perry was available?
Why wasn't a single black actor even considered for the role of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network?
Why did that hillbilly girl in Winter's Bone wander around the Ozarks asking her white trash kinfolk where her pa was when she could have gone to a shaven-headed black computer hacker genius and had him locate her father using high tech satellite imagery? That would have been awesome.
Why did Hollywood cast Christian Bale as Mark Wahlberg's brother in The Fighter when they could have cast Diddy? Shouldn't Morgan Freeman have played a wise janitor at their boxing gym?
How come Natalie Portman's mom in The Black Swan wasn't played by Mo'Nique? In the The Kids Are All Right, wouldn't it have subverted stereotypes about heritability if the biological daughter of Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo had been played not by Mia Waskiowska but by that 300 pound black girl from Precious?
Why did Toy Story III bring back Tim Allen to voice Buzz Lightyear when they could have substituted Chris Tucker? Why wasn't that real life mountain climber who cuts his own arm off in 127 Hours played by Ice Cube? Why, when Spike Lee has time on his hands, did Hollywood let Christopher Nolan write and direct Inception?
And don't get me started on Rooster Cogburn. Instead of Jeff Bridges, Hollywood could have hired N!xau, that little tongue-clicking San from The Gods Must Be Crazy.
Finally, why, after all these years, are the Coen Brothers still segregated? When are they going to hire a black Coen?
(For their next investigative report, Dargis and Scott should expose an even bigger racial scandal: Not one Oscar nomination went to Machete!)