Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Time For Hollywood To Take More Chances

This year’s uproar over the lack of diversity among nominations in the highest-profile awards categories is the latest example Hollywood’s failure to recognize artistic diversity. The milestone nominations for best picture for “BlacKkKlansman” and “Black Panther” or the victory of “12 Years a Slave” in 2014 seem like aberrations.

That lack of diversity also means a missed financial opportunity due to Hollywood’s unwillingness to take reasonable risks. Despite Sony Screen Gems’ highly successful films like “Stomp the Yard” and “Think Like a Man” and the global popularity of “Black Panther” and the “Fast & Furious” films with their significantly minority casts, Hollywood too often worries that minority- and women-driven projects are more likely to fail. That thinking is ironic, since filmdom’s biggest flops have almost always had white male directors and stars.

Disney finally gambled on a superhero movie that starred a woman and was co-directed by another — “Captain Marvel.” It was a massive box office success, one of only 46 films in history to earn more than $1 billion worldwide. Women directed, produced and starred in several other critically acclaimed stories that were hugely profitable but failed to win Academy voters’ favor. The Greta Gerwig-written and -directed “Little Women,” which was produced by Denise Di Novi, Amy Pascal and Robin Swicord, deservedly garnered a best picture nomination, but voters neglected Gerwig in the director category.

No woman received a director nomination. That’s nothing new. Only five women in Oscar history have been nominated in the category, and none more than once.

Cynthia Erivo’s actress nomination for her portrayal of Tubman highlighted the absence of actors of color among the acting nominees. Academy voters chose not to recognize Awkwafina in “The Farewell,” even after the Asian American actor won a Golden Globe for her widely praised starring role.

The industry has a lot to feel good about. Filmmakers tackled important, engaging subjects with skill and passion. But the industry continues to deny people more representative of the changing world in which we live the opportunities they deserve. This error is hurting Hollywood where it counts most: its bottom line. In this light, taking a few chances on creative talent outside the traditional pipelines may not be such a big risk.

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