Monday, January 13, 2020

GMA Needs Oscar Talk Color

I have watched GOOD MORNING AMERICA for a long, long time. I watched when the Oscar nominations were announced and GMA's weekly film critic, Joel Siegel, was in studio live to do post-nomination analysis. In those days, each network -- ABC, NBC and CBS -- had a weekly film critic on its weekday morning news program. We also had syndicated weekend film review shows with two critics doing reviews. This goes back to the 80s/90s and there was no racial diversity in the line-up of critics. They were all white dudes. Society and times have changed. Now, diversity is an issue that deserves attention. So here's the thing -- and I write this as someone who has rarely seen a reflection of himself on national TV in the area of film critics: Again, I watched a white entertainment news journalist on GOOD MORNING AMERICA bring up the lack of racial diversity in the list of Oscar nominated actors. yet there was no Black/Latinx entertainment news contributor as a guest in that segment. And I do not mean to slam today's guests, ABC Entertainment News anchor Chris Connelly and VARIETY's Elizabeth Wagmeister. She's the journalist who said "...not a ton of diversity" referring to our Oscar-nominated actors. But can't GOOD MORNING AMERICA book a Black/Latinx entertainment news veteran to be in place for the Oscar nominations discussion and add a different outlook with some history? Can't GMA have a person of color as a guest when Chris Connelly brings up the Hollywood diversity issue?
The morning Viola Davis was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in FENCES, Chris Connelly and fellow Caucasian entertainment news journalist, Jess Cagle, were live on GMA for the Oscar nominations. "Oscars So White" was mentioned. Both gentlemen gushed over the umpteenth Oscar nomination Meryl Streep received. NO ONE mentioned that Viola Davis had just become the most Oscar-nominated Black actress in Hollywood history by receiving her 3rd nomination which came for her performance in 2016's FENCES. I cheered in my living room when I heard Viola's name announced that morning. For 20 years, the most Oscar-nominated Black actress had been Whoopi Goldberg with her Best Actress Oscar nomination for THE COLOR PURPLE and her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for 1990's GHOST. Both Whoopi Goldberg and Viola Davis are stars -- on ABC programs (THE VIEW and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER).

Today's actor nominations show that Oscar Loves Biopics. Check out the Best Actress category. Cynthia Erivo, Charlize Theron and Renee Zellweger got nominated for playing real-life characters. Jonathan Pryce, Best Actor nominee, and Best Supporting Actor nominees Tom Hanks and Anthony Hopkins also played real-life characters.

Think of actors who've won an Oscar for playing a real life character. There's Nicole Kidman for THE HOURS, Philip Seymour Hoffman in CAPOTE, Sean Penn in MILK, Julia Roberts in ERIN BROCKOVICH, Jamie Foxx in RAY, Forest Whitaker in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, Cate Blanchett in THE AVIATOR, Marion Cotillard in LA VIE EN ROSE, Christian Bale in THE FIGHTER, Mahershala Ali in GREEN BOOK , Meryl Streel in THE IRON LADY and Rami Malek in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. (There are others.)
For HARRIET, Cythia Erivo becomes the 3rd actor directed by a Black woman to an Oscar nomination. Euzhan Palcy directed Marlon Brando to a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for 1989's A DRY WHITE SEASON, Dee Rees directed Mary J. Blige to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 2017's MUDBOUND. Female African American director Kasi Lemmons directed HARRIET. Previously an actress, Lemmons played the FBI cadet training best friend to Jodie Foster's character in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

5 males who directed a Best Picture nominee were nominated for Best Director today. Greta Gerwig, who directed a Best Picture nominee, was not nominated for Best Director. This puts her in a category with trailblazing director Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow was a Best Director nominee (and won) for THE HURT LOCKER, which was also nominated for Best Picture (and won). Her following film, ZERO DARK THIRTY, was nominated for Best Picture. But it did not bring her a second Oscar nomination for Best Director.

Greta Gerwig's LADY BIRD was a nominee for Best Picture and she was nominated for Best Director of 2017. Today, her LITTLE WOMEN was nominated for Best Picture. She, however, did not get a second Oscar nomination for Best Director.

Mel Gibson directed two Best Picture Oscar nominees -- BRAVEHEART and HACKSAW RIDGE. Each brought him an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

2019 was a landmark year of solid work from female directors: Lorene Scafaria: HUSTLERS, Lulu Wang: THE FAREWELL, Greta Gerwig: LITTLE WOMEN, Olivia Wilde: BOOKSMART, Kasi Lemmons: HARRIET, Melina Matsoukas: QUEEN & SLIM, and Marielle Heller: A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

But the Academy didn't seen to notice.

Those are some points that I, a person of color, would've mentioned had I been a guest on GMA for the Oscars talk. Full disclosure: I was hired by ABC News to be the weekly entertainment editor on an ABC News weekday live hour-long show called LIFETIME LIVE. The ABC production aired on Lifetime in 2000. I did film reviews and gave film history with an accent on accomplishments of women in film. The show lasted only one year. I was very interested in doing entertainment news contributor work on GOOD MORNING AMERICA. I made a pitch -- but the interest was not mutual.

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