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Oscar Boycott? In Hollywood Big Bucks Trumps Diversity


During my showbiz writing days one of the nicest things about interviewing British actors was how down to earth and normal they seemed compared to many of their American contemporaries. That's why the current kerfuffle over the annual American Academy Awards nominations offers such a stark contrast.

A few Black American actors angry at there being no Black nominations for this year's awards, say they are pushing for a boycott of the awards show.

That there are no Black nominees is regrettable, but not part of a racist conspiracy. In the end it's just business. The box office and hype rules when awards are considered. A UK director such as Ken Loach would have a snowball's chance in hell of winning an Oscar these days.

Not so in Britain. The annual BAFTA awards next month, which always precede the Oscars, are traditionally more aesthetically artistic in its view of films, big and small. Tiny budget indy productions often get nominated and occasionally win. That's because nominations and judging is done by professionals, not by thousands American academy members, many with vested interests in films under consideration.

Yet, even the BAFTA's are part of what is now called the entertainment award season which begins in the autumn and continues through to the dead of winter with the Oscar telecast. The main goal of the season is to televise as any red carpet events as possible to bring in millions of dollars in advert revenue and promote the films as well. That's largely because most American TV networks are part of the same multimedia corporations that own the film studios.

You see while the BAFTA's are suppose to be mainly about celebrating British films, there really is no such thing anymore. Films today are largely international, tied together by major studio distributors and being listed in the stock market. Their success is no longer based on word of mouth, but on massive media promotion much of which is hype generated by award shows such as the BAFTAs.

The simple fact of life that some irate Black Hollywood actors ignore, or are ignorant of, is there's no equal opportunities in Hollywood. This holds true for women actors as well. With major film productions costs running into the tens of millions, studios go after the big buck that good broad based stories and actors will bring...and those for the most part are still hunky white men.

Jennifer Lawrence made news about her campaign for gender equality in Hollywood. Now that she has established herself as a bankable A-List star, her pay cheques will go through the roof. The same would be true if stories about Black people had wide enough appeal such as "12 Years a Slave," or "Jango Unchained."

In Hollywood, where fortunes are at stake, big box office trumps diversity.

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