Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Oscars 2016: Two fighting an uphill battle

OF ALL the people embroiled in the Oscars controversy, you have to feel for two in particular, caught up in this mess by accident and through no fault of their own, people in both an untenable and an enviable position as change agents now, on Feb. 28th — Oscar night — and beyond.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy and an African American, is in an impossible public-relations position, presiding as she does over the very organization that’s the source of the problem.

With the serial embarrassments of last year’s Oscars derby and the embarrassment of this year’s nominations, Isaacs could be forgiven if she hollered and threw up both her hands, tired of pushing against an institutional boulder that will not budge very long or move very far.

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A statement from Isaacs preceding the one on Jan. 22 shows how dedicated she is to making change from inside the beast.

“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.

“As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.”

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And to some extent, the Academy has undercut my man Reginald Hudlin, one of Hollywood’s most able and in-demand multihyphenates, and the one in charge of producing the ABC telecast slated for Feb. 28.

Hudlin, who secured the services of Chris Rock as the host for this show, finds himself producing a program that, like last year’s model, could well be defined as much by the films and actors that weren’t there as by the films and actors that were.

Since the public tends to associate the telecast with the Oscar and the Academy for which it stands, both Isaacs and Hudlin face the discomfiting disconnect of performing their roles on behalf of an organization whose membership includes precious few people who look like them. And that’s a position they shouldn’t be in.

Image credits: Isaacs: Via TheWrap. Academy A logo: © 2016 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Hudlin: via Twitter (@reghud).

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