By Ygal Kaufman
Rule one of making predictions: never try to predict the outcome of a contest whose outcome is unsure. This is sort of from the Uri Geller/John Edwards school of paranormal thinking, but it’s a pretty safe rule. Rule two: don’t try and predict the Oscar nominations on the day they actually come out. It’s hard to look good. I violated both of those rules in these pages last week, and got burned for it.
For those keeping track at home, last week in Entertainmental I tried to read the tea leaves of the Golden Globes to see what they could tell us about the Oscars. I made some very pithy observations and a couple pretty declarative statements about things that were and weren’t true, as well as things that would and wouldn’t happen. So how’d I do overall?
For starters, the two films I pretty conclusively stated stood little to no chance of receiving Oscar nominations, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood, not only did receive nominations, but they’re now pretty unanimously agreed to be the front runners for Best Picture. Not a great start.
But I did say I figured there’d only be five to seven nominees for Best Picture, and then picked eight. Eight were indeed nominated, and my only missed calls out of the eight were picking Angelina Jolie’s unjustly ignored Unbroken instead of Budapest, and Foxcatcher instead of Whiplash.
So I guess what I learned is I should have made all my predictions two weeks in advance like everyone else, so that by now everyone would have already forgotten my predictions and I wouldn’t look foolish.
TV’s Best Night
Hint: It’s Wednesday.
I wrote about it a few weeks ago, and then it happened last week: the season premieres of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City, and Workaholics. All on the same night Abbi and Ilana, the stars of City, won the night with their achingly hilarious season debut. In the episode they satirized the current “rape culture” debate in a manner so deftly brilliant that it took a second viewing for me to process it all. It takes a very refined team of writers to handle such an issue, especially in the current climate, with the intelligence and panache that the Broad City crew did. It also doesn’t hurt that the show costars comedian Hannibal Burress, who is now credited with starting the snowball that became the avalanche of Bill Cosby accusers.
But never to be (too) outdone, the Workaholics team satirized the same subject with their weapon of choice: porn jokes. It was almost as good. And then of course Sunny returned for their 10th season with a tribute to Wade Boggs that featured the gang attempting to drink 71 beers, and then have batting practice.
They can’t all satirize timely and controversial subject matter; someone still needs to go after Major League Baseball.
Time for Quotas
Okay, I guess we have to go back to the Oscar pool to drink deep one more time. You may have heard a bit of a controversy has brewed over the—let’s call it homogeneity—of the Academy Awards nominees. Alright, so much for kid gloves; there’s a lot of white people nominated this year.
Al Sharpton called an “emergency meeting” (whatever that means… does anybody really think Sharpton and his colleagues immediately convened somewhere in their pajamas in the middle of the night to breathlessly discuss the complexion of the Oscar nominees?) over the issue. Other outlets pretty much parroted his apocalyptic tone. USA Today titled an online piece discussing the matter with appropriately millennial-targeting buzzwords and clunkiness: “Really?!: All-white Oscar nominees don’t match real life.”
More disturbing than the apparent lack of editing there is the strange assertion that the Academy Awards should somehow “match real life.” The Academy Awards nominees should ideally reflect the best that the world of film has to offer. Now we could get into whether or not that really happens for a host of reasons; as I’ve already belabored, basically all the Academy does is nominate biopics and movies about politically popular grievance stories. And one could certainly make a case that the direction team and actors of Selma, which did get a nomination for Best Picture, deserved recognition for their work as well.
But when the Academy doesn’t nominate a lot of minorities, I’m afraid I can’t muster much outrage. Their goal is just not even close to “awarding films that reflect the demographic makeup of society.” The insinuation that they should be is ridiculous.
Now someone could make the point that the Academy of
Cobwebs and Ben Gay Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences being 94% white is a problem, and they might be right. But I tend to think the way you discredit a tired and entrenched bureaucracy is not by whining about their choices, but by ignoring them and forcing them to either change or face obsolescence. Sort of the way we all handled AOL.