The Academy Awards. Hollywood prom night. Who's going home with the Hollywood gold?
In this year's Oscar race, no Hollywood film sparked so much passionate criticism and dialogue as The Help with its topic of race. The Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer nominations, to me, are well-deserved. The criticisms the movie started about Hollywood racial images onscreen and racial diversity offscreen are also well-deserved.
Viola Davis is a terrific, versatile actress. She's made Oscar history with this second nomination alone. She has no film projects in development, according to IMDb.com. Jennifer Aniston has four. Katherine Heigl has four. Adam Sandler has nine. Seriously? That's why the criticisms shot at Hollywood on the lack of opportunities for minority actors are accurate. In its way, The Help helped. Fences, the drama by legendary playwright August Wilson, won the Tony Award for Best Play. James Earl Jones won the Tony for Best Actor. It won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The 2010 Broadway revival scored 10 Tony nominations. It starred Viola Davis and Denzel Washington.
Hey, Hollywood, why can't we get Ms. Davis to star in a film adaptation of that award-winning Broadway drama? There's an idea for you. As we can tell from the annual list of actors nominated for Oscars, Hollywood loves a bio pic. Patsy Cline, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Edith Piaf and members of Britain's Royal Family have gotten actors invited to Hollywood Prom Night thanks to their big screen biography performances. Here's another idea: Viola Davis as larger-than-life singer Dinah Washington.
I'd love to see Viola Davis as the fierce and fabulous singer they called "The Queen." Think about it. Hollywood also loves summer action flicks. Here's another idea for Viola. Hollywood, you like summer action flicks. If you make something like Air Force One, let Viola do the Glenn Close part. Let her play the Vice President.
If I was back on TV doing film commentary and reviews again, I'd mention all that. There's long been a need for racial diversity on television in the film critics area too. Many viewers grew up seeing Siskel & Ebert, Gene Shalit and Joel Siegel review movies on network morning news programs and syndicated TV shows. CBS Sunday Morning has David Edelstein. Jeffrey Lyons and his son, Ben, have reviewed movies on national TV. Black film critics are rarely seen on TV and we're over a decade into the 21st century. Our exclusion in the film reviewer/historian and movie host category bothers me. A lot of us can do that work, you know. I know I can. Elvis Mitchell is not the only black person in America who can talk about movies. I like Elvis, but he's not the only one. He's often just the only one Anglo network TV producers let you see. So, I want you to meet some folks. When it was announced that PBS would premiere Roger Ebert Presents 'At The Movies,' I was thrilled. Initial reports told us that long-haired film critic Elvis Mitchell and Omar Moore would be regulars. Omar Moore deserves TV airtime. He's a fine writer and has great film smarts. He's also comfortable on camera.