Safe Nominees in Safe Movies: A Roundtable Discussion on the 2015 Oscar Nominations
In the week leading up to the Oscars, we decided we wanted to take a critical, nuanced look at one of the most debated set of nominations in recent memory, reviled for its sheer and utter lack of diversity. We gathered pals-of-the-Pin Fariha Róisín, Pilot Viruet, Durga Chew-Bose to discuss.
Do the Oscars even matter?
Fariha: My initial reaction is: “Nooooooo.” Then of course, ultimately—they do. The rhetoric surrounding the oscar snub of Ava DuVernay and her film Selma (supposedly because of the portrayal of LBJ—NYT reviewer Maureen Dowd said it was “artful falsehood”) has brought on the question of: “Well, why do you want to sit at a table that doesn’t want you anyway?” And the best response to that is “MONEY.” Hollywood got money. They have power, control over distribution, they dictate who and how and where people see your film. When you’ve won an Oscar it opens up gateways for future projects, future deals, it gives you a c c e s s.
Remember when Adrien Brody won? There’s that infamous shot of Halle Berry saying his name at the Oscars in 2002. He won for his performance for portraying Holocaust survivor—Vladislav Szpilman in The Pianist. Immediately after his name is read there’s a cut away to Nicholas Cage and Jack Nicholson (who were also nominated) laughing because they have no idea who Adrien Brody is. Adrien Motherfucking Brody.
Just think of all the people who watch the Oscars around the world. According to estimates it’s over a billion people each year. If Selma won Best Picture how powerful would it be for an international audience to watch a great American hero who actively, and historically, called out white supremacy? This isn’t Solomon Northup kind-of-shit—this is about a man that challenged the system by endlessly pushing forward. Maureen Dowd’s response to the film was so telling. She’s angry because LBJ wasn’t the white savior, because racism is over! Plus LBJ, like, basically created the civil rights movement, so you know why isn’t this movie about him? I mean he was a champion of black voting rights! #NotAllWhitePeople!
DuVernay chose a different kind of American storytelling. She’s also a black female filmmaker. That is power. She is the living embodiment of person of color taking the reins and creating their own narratives, i.e the narratives that white people refuse to write about, or (in most cases) refuse to even acknowledge. Selma is also cemented in an interesting time to be alive in America. It was hard not to watch it and think of the parallels with Ferguson—almost half a decade later. So, yes. The Oscars, unfortunately “matter.” That doesn’t mean they’re not the worst, though.
Durga: The Oscars do not matter. Hulking with institutional bigotry, they are insignificant. Of the roughly 6000 members, nearly 94% are white, 77% are male, and 86% are over the age of 50. While Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts’ first black president and third woman elected to the position, has addressed this year’s criticism of the nominees (no actors of color, no women nominated in directing or writing categories) and called for greater diversity (problematic, meaningless word that I use but am unsure of what it means anymore) in the future, this attitude of we can do better next year reinforces Hollywood’s bias that if you are not white, straight, and male, you must wait your turn. That being disallowed recognition and furthermore, respect in your field, simply is the state of things. That achievement is a word used to disguise what’s really going on: prejudice. That Ava DuVernay should be thankful that she was invited into the room but understand that no one will invite her to walk on stage as a director.
Of course, winning one of those gold statuettes does by some means afford access, as Fariha notes, and launches careers (though in most cases, further entitles already entitled careers); but why make art with a 94% white and predominantly male audience in mind? Why pander to men over 50 who haven’t contributed to film in years, and in some cases, decades? Why choose their lives over yours? It’s been 17 years since the Oscars were this whitewashed — the year of Titanic, As Good as it Gets, and Affleck and Damon winning best original screenplay for Good Will Hunting. I was a kid and didn’t think twice about how everyone was white because aspirationally-speaking, when you’re a brown kid, you accept that trying to be white is perhaps not easier or even overt but certainly some kind of subliminal goal; that you’ll never expect to see your reflection on screen anyways. Fariha spoke to this far more eloquently in her piece on Girlhood — a film I have complicated feelings about in terms of reflection and representation, and authenticity of story, especially considering it was made by a white filmmaker. Still, everyone should read Fariha’s piece because in it she addresses the urgent need to get the stories of brown girls on screen.
The thing is, the insidiously regressive politics of the Academy make it extremely difficult to retain any hope of things changing, or of actors and directors nominated to speak up, but wouldn’t it be cool if nobody showed? If the red carpet was just tumbleweed, a dopey-looking Ryan Seacrest, and a vacant Mani-Cam?
Pilot: I would love to say no and live in a world where the Oscars don’t matter because, to a certain extent, I do believe that they’re pointless in the sense that all award shows are pointless and not only when they don’t line up to my opinion. So many amazing films get passed over and so much mediocrity gets rewarded that it’s understandable to believe the Oscars don’t mean anything. I mean, this is a ceremony that once told us Crash was the best film of all year because it made white people feel a little guilty about locking their car doors when a black person walked by (but it did not make them stop doing so, but just a bit guilty about it). How can you take an institution that voted on Crash seriously? You can’t! But it just means that the Oscars can be total bullshit, but they still definitely matter.
As mentioned, there is money and accessibility that comes along with those statues. (Maybe it’s not nearly as much accessibility for black actors but still: It’s there.) There is an understanding that comes along with having “Academy Award Winner…” preface your name for the rest of your life (and who doesn’t want that?). There are people who are more likely to see a movie because the trailer says it’s directed by an Oscar winner, or it stars one, or whatever.
The thing is, no matter how much we don’t want the Oscars to matter or how much we can say it doesn’t because of its inherent bigotry — and Durga, I totally understand everything you’re saying and those numbers depress the hell out of me — the Oscars do matter and likely always will. My fellow TV critic and friend Sonia Saraiya recently wrote: “The Oscars are the most prestigious film awards in America, and they remain the strongest motivator for film studios to produce work that is more than just feel-good summer blockbusters. The Oscar is a trusted brand that encourages audiences to stray outside of their comfort zone; film is a profit-driven business, but the Oscars are a way to influence what consumers are willing to pay for.” So of course they matter: The Oscars do matter because award shows guide audiences to movies. It clearly matters that Selma was nominated for best picture, and it also matters that Ava DuVernay was snubbed for best director.
Durga: You’re right, Pilot, it does matter that DuVernay was passed up for a Best Director nomination in favor of, say, Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game. (And let’s not forget how the Oscar campaign for The Imitation Game is a Weinstein-driven farce with ads that read HONOR THE MAN. HONOR THE FILM.) Hollywood’s contempt for DuVernay’s work is clear and its insistence on “honoring men” is well, a caricature of the Academy members and the industry’s prejudice. My opinion has less to do with my personal wants or hope that eventually the Oscars lose all credibility. But I do believe this year has proven that these awards are only contributing to their own insignificance. On February 22nd, when the camera pans from nominee to nominee as names are read, the world will see 20 white faces in acting categories and 5 men in the directing category. I can’t be expected to care. I will not characterize those faces as “mattering.”
If we accept that the Oscars don’t matter – what kind of accomplishments for films do matter?
Fariha: I’m cynical about this industry. If you’re asking what matters in regards to distribution/access, etc. I think it’s more about networking, connections. It doesn’t have a lot to do with talent. Sometimes it does, but rarely. However, if you’re asking in regards to what matters for my viewing pleasure I’d say content, narrative—good storytelling is so often usurped by gadgets and flashy special effects. The movies that moved me the most last year were beautiful (Jauja by Lisandro Alonso) necessary (Citizenfour by Laura Poitras) and powerful (The Wonders by Alice Rohrwacher). Even something like Inherent Vice (also a favorite) encapsulates that full cinematic experience—it’s colorful, it’s funny, it’s engaging. Those things matter in films. I love comic book franchises like Marvel because they’ve created their own cinematic universe. There’s consistency, there’s nostalgia, they’re creating much more than just a movie—they’re creating an atmosphere. Last year’s blockbuster Guardians of The Galaxy was so well written. There was rhythm, and it was funny. That’s what makes a good film.
Sometimes—a lot of the times—I watch Hollywood films and I think to myself: “How on earth did this get funded?” Like Exodus. That’s a movie that came out in 2014. Can you believe that? The gall of Ridley Scott (who is basic as fuck) to say that if he were to hire a “Mohammed-so-and-so” the film wouldn’t get made. So what’s my response to Ridley Scott? Don’t make a movie about ANCIENT EGYPT if you can’t hire a Mohammed-so-on-so, buddy. Move on, you’re taking up space. It’s infuriating because these are all myths Hollywood perpetuates. Statistically can they prove what they’re saying? No. Yet they continue to live in a microcosm of whiteness—their all white frat party/circle jerk—it’s actually hilarious that these out of touch white men (like the government) dictate so much of what, and how, we think.
All the world is not white. More people than just white people watch movies. Make your films compelling: have racial diversity (both in your films and as writers on your films), have complexity within female characters, if you have trans characters hire trans actors. These are important standards to uphold in Hollywood. This is what matters.
Durga: Getting movies made by communities that otherwise have no access or money: that’s an accomplishment that matters. But we shouldn’t stop there. It’s about prioritizing. And it’s about prioritizing from the very beginning stages of a project. If your film is about women, insist the writers are women too. Greta Gerwig recently said at Sundance that, “We need more women writers. Men don’t know what we’re doing when they aren’t there.” It’s the simplest most concise way to describe what I mean by diversity. It’s not about some blanket idea of equality; it’s about observational precision and prowess, and truths that are lived instead of assumed. Men don’t know what we’re doing when they aren’t there. Men don’t know what we’re doing when they aren’t there.
Pilot: Personally, the accomplishments that have always mattered aren’t the immediate accolades but the lasting legacy. If a movie I wasn’t previously interested wins a big award the year it comes out, I might watch it if I’m bored enough. If that movie is talked about 10 years later, then of course I’m going to take some time to check it out. Films that are shown in college courses—those matter to me. Films that are still talked about and still as emotionally devastating or groundbreaking or whatever decades after they came out means a fuck of a lot more than if it won the Oscar—just look at Do The Right Thing. We didn’t give that movie a single Oscar but you can’t tell me it doesn’t mean anything.
Personally, I’ve always thought that the Oscars don’t matter in terms of the actual awards, but that they function as a kind of sign or proof of what movies should get made. So when a year passes when all the movies being celebrated are about white dudes having whimsical women change their lives or overcoming the adversity of being a tortured middle class artist or whatever, that feels like a hint that these are the movies that should continue to get funding, get made, get seen. Do you agree? Disagree? What purposes do the Oscars serve in our life?
Fariha: Not necessarily. I think that has more to do with studio bosses picking and choosing (and inherently being racist) so what gets the greenlight are things that they think should be made. When Shame came out, Steve McQueen was talking about how studio bosses didn’t think it was appropriate to show Fassbender’s dick. That’s why the movie gets an N17 rating. It’s how they dictate society, how they dictate culture—and therein the world. They think they know what audiences want, but they often don’t. It’s because they have their own agendas. Hollywood contributes so readily to rape culture, or racism, particularly because they don’t think of women or people of color as people who are worthy of having their stories told. The Oscars control, and hold, that power and that is all encompassing. It seeps into our everyday lives.
You hear of this story endlessly—whether it’s Whoopi or Lupita—talking about the first time they saw someone that looked like them on screen and they suddenly felt validated. Obviously Whoopi and Lupita are endlessly talented but by having the Oscars honor them they were given instant visibility. How many magazines has Lupita been on this year? You see her at fashion shows, at film festivals, award ceremonies and every time a dark skinned girl sees her she, herself, feels validated, too. She feels a little less alien, accepted. Representation is vital.
Pilot: I agree to a certain extent. The Oscars do help to push studios in a certain direction and help them decide what sort of films should be made (plus Hollywood follows trends and there is nothing more trendworthy than an award-winning movie). But at the same time, it doesn’t like, actively discourage films similar to those that weren’t nominated from getting made. The thing is, movies about boring white dudes and the boring white ladies that they fall in love with are going to get made no matter what and even if they stop winning awards. Movies like Selma or Top Five or Girlhood are going to continue to get made (and perhaps continue to not get rewarded) regardless of what big-name studios because a) film, unlike television, is fortunate to have an indie scene that does tend to reward these sorts of movies and b) you will never shut up people of color, and we will always find a way to get this stuff made.
As for the role Oscars play in our lives? Aside from giving us an excuse to drink wine on a Sunday night and joke with our friends? I definitely agree with it seeping into our everyday lives, even if we don’t realize. We are aware of what movies/actors/directors win even if we don’t watch the ceremony. It’s impossible to ignore. But more importantly: Yes, representation is vital. You may not care about the Oscars or think it matters but when you’re a minority and someone who looks like you wins? That means something. That means everything — especially to this film nerd who was often surrounded by way too many white dudes in film classes. I’m reminded of the pilot episode of Black-ish when Andre is up for a promotion and narrates that, because there are so few black people at his company, when he wins and moves up the ladder, it’s like every black person at the company wins. When a woman or a person of color wins an Oscar, I feel like I’ve won, too.
Is this year’s batch of nominations actually worse than other years, in terms of representation, or does it just feel that way? Is this a pointed snub, or a just another symptom of the greater problem about race, power, and film?
Fariha: I don’t think it’s a pointed snub, necessarily, but the lack of diversity is palpable. Even Jessica Chastain during her Critics Award speech was like, “Um? Guys? We have a fucking problem.” Hollywood is one of the biggest supporters of white supremacy, but I don’t know if it actively sought out only white films/white actors this year as a means of protest. I think the more frightening thing is that whiteness is ubiquitous to them. As Durga said, you look at the figures—94% of Oscar voters are white and 77% of them are over the age of 63. Of course they don’t think they have a race problem because they are also one of the biggest propagators of racism. It’s like that Hyde quote from That 70s Show—“The three true branches of the government are: military, corporate and Hollywood.”
The fact that Oyelowo wasn’t nominated for Best Actor is indicative of how the Academy doesn’t really consider non-white actors as relevant enough to even nominate. He is a brilliant actor and his performance of Martin Luther King Jr. (that voice!) was impeccable, but he isn’t considered on par with someone like Bradley Cooper playing Chris Kyle in American Sniper because ultimately his role doesn’t support the larger narrative of America. Actually, just the other day Oyelowo said in an interview: “Historically—this is truly my feeling; I felt this before the situation we’re talking about and I feel it now—generally speaking, we, as black people, have been celebrated more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings or being at the center of our own narrative.” He’s like, “Damn motherfuckers, Hollywood, I see you. You are not fooling me.”
Which is such an articulate rebuttal to what Anthony Mackie said few weeks ago. Mackie mentioned that every actor nominated for Best Actor (this year) deserved their nomination because they’re good actors, which is proof that Hollywood is doing it’s job. That is like the Uncle Tom of answers (harsh, I know) but it’s like your Bill Cosby pull-your-pants-up type rhetoric where it’s black (and other POCs) fault for not being accepted by a culture that is inherently against them. Hollywood is perpetuating a standard and insisting that it should be upheld—and we’re all drinking the kool aid.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing was just bad. The Imitation Game is a bad film. But it’s such an Oscar film—which is why anyone’s watching it, because of that infamous Oscar buzz. So it comes full circle: this is the reason, if there’s any reason, that the Oscars are important.
Durga: The snub is pointed. It’s the Academy’s glaring statement that movies like The Imitation Game— insert Rihanna eyeroll— the kind of film you see when your parents are in town visiting for the weekend, are more crucial than Ferguson and Selma’s powerful and timely portrayal of protest, pain and uprising in America, of no longer being able to breathe. Shutting DuVernay out from the Best Director category mimics how the industry functions and reinforces its lack of diversity. So yes, it’s pointed because it keeps old white men in power; comfortably and smugly cluelesss. Hollywood’s history is so young and it continues to behave like a scared, skittish child. It continues to keep those that are marginalized in the margins and through funding and the hoopla of award shows, continues to emphasize that only some stories get to be told, that only some stories are necessary. Few things make me feel as alone as walking out of a theater and back into this garbage world wondering, “Why was this movie made? For whom? Who thought this was a good idea?” One thing’s for certain: there’s nothing like an Oscar-bait movie with all of its cliched trappings and Alexandre Desplat score to reinforce what it means for some us to feel invisible and for white men to seem invincible.
Sidenote: If casting directors weren’t for the most part women, there would be a category for them at the Oscars. These casting directors are finding the actors that are winning these awards, and yet, their work goes unnoticed. It’s just another way of silencing women in the industry. Of benefiting from their whip-smart instincts, their power moves, their deep understanding of character in story, their taste, all the while making sure that these casting directors remain anonymous.
Pilot: I’m not sure I’d say it was a pointed snub but it definitely feels worse than other years in terms of representation. It’s the second time within two decades that the best actor/actress nominees are all white—the last time was 1998, that god-awful Titanic year—and at this point, in 2015, it’s almost like you have to actually try to exclude black actors in order to get such a lily white roster of nominees.
And I agree with what you’re both saying (though I realized that I actively bristle at the term “Uncle Tom” because, oof) because it seems like the Academy went out of their way to ignore David Oyelowo who was a goddamn revelation. Granted, of all the best actor nominees, I have only seen Michael Keaton in Birdman (and he was OK, sure, whatever) so who knows—maybe Steve Carell is absolutely breathtaking! Or maybe I’m totally undervaluing what’s-his-name (listen: If white people aren’t going to learn to pronounce David Oyelowo or Quvenzhané Wallis then I have no intention on learning what the Sherlock’s dude name is). But I doubt it. They are safe nominees in safe movies. So I don’t think it’s pointed, but I do think it’s a reflection of the Academy’s tendency to stick to safe, white, easy nominees. They throw us a bone every once in a while—”Here, have Lupita and be quiet for a couple of years”—but then make sure to stick close to what they know.
Judging from the widespread outcry of this year’s nominations: do we ever think anything will replace the Oscars ceremony, or will their importance ever decrease?
Fariha: I don’t think its importance will decrease, and I don’t necessarily want it to. I’ve been watching the Oscars—as a tradition—since I was 7. I’ve written Oscar speeches for myself, you know, because why not? The Hollywood glitz and glam is intoxicating! I just want it to be more accepting and encouraging of non-white/female/LGBTQ narratives and let more voices in—and also let them win! It dictates so much of our culture, so it has a lot of responsibility as a result of that. Why has Viola Davis still not won an Oscar? I mean really?
Durga: The pomp leading up to the Oscars is fun, sure. I love watching old speeches on YouTube. I love the look of shock when Marisa Tomei was rightly recognized for My Cousin Vinny, beating out Vanessa Redgrave who everyone expected to win for Howards End. I just want to see more nominees and faces on stage that reflect change, that accord praise where praise is due, that no longer champion imbalance, that confront white supremacy, that do not deprive storytelling in favor of whatever norms they’ll have you believe are norms or whatever histories they’ll have you believe are true. The precedent needs to be collapsed, not repeated.
And these hopes lend themselves to all of the categories, not only acting and directing. Women cinematographers for instance, where are their nominations? Or Bradford Young, who beautifully shot Selma. In a Q&A following the film’s first New York screening, Young spoke of his work and the work that needs to be done in this industry, and why he fights to do what he does. He said: “This is all I have. As a young black man, and as a black man with a family, this is how I keep myself from going to jail. I’m not going to let them undermine this. Every bit of energy I put into this is so we can collectively not be undermined.I know that seems utopian in the sense that this is just a movie, but for a lot of us who have been continuously shut out of it — and for the me in particular as a cinematographer of color — I don’t see myself. (…) They can intrude in my house. They can make me wonder in fear the fate and destiny of my son, who is a 15-month-old black boy and it’s real for my wife and I. That’s something we talk about everyday. They can come in my house in many different ways. They can come in my space in different ways, but I refuse to let them come into this space.”
Pilot: Nope, never. It’s such a prestigious ceremony, it has such a rich history, and come on — regardless of how bigoted it is, we all secretly love to watch and snark and complain; we all secretly want to win an Oscar ourselves. The Oscars aren’t the only super-white institution or part of culture that the majority of America gleefully celebrates, and it certainly isn’t the worst. The best we can hope for is that eventually the Academy starts recognizing more and more women and/or people of color, and that women and/or people of color get more opportunities to be recognized by the Academy. And we can hope that I someday win that Oscar because I will give a great speech destroying whitey, obviously.
In response to Selma largely being snubbed, Spike Lee has said that there’s a ten-year cycle of black films being accepted by the mainstream; most recently was 12 Years A Slave, and before that was Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, and Sidney Poitier winning Oscars in 2002. DuVernay herself said that she knew she wouldn’t be nominated due to “math,” and an anonymous Academy member supported the lack of nominations for Selma by citing 12 Years A Slave. What’s more: none of the Best Picture nominees star a female. A quick glance at the Oscars’ history shows that a female-led film hasn’t won the Best Picture award since 2002’s Chicago. Why do we continue to uphold these awards as the standard when they have a prolific, forthright history of rewarding stories of straight, white men and never anyone else? Do you think POC or women will place larger importance in more representative ceremonies, like NAACP, BET, ALMA?
Fariha: Maybe. It is due to math, but I’m a more optimistic realist—I do think that that math could change. It’s a super positive thing that we’re having this conversation on a forum like The Hairpin. The more these thoughts spread, the more change will actually occur. Plus there are interesting filmmakers that are taking the helm—smarter, younger and more self aware filmmakers are making films which will also change the voices of the films being made. Not only that, diversity is becoming a thing that people are thinking of. The new Star Wars trailer has John Boyega and Oscar Isaac as two of the three actors that have screentime, so that’s progress. It’s definitely better than Christopher Nolan’s white space in black space in Interstellar. We’ll actually have to watch the film to see if it’s any good, but it’s a good start because it triggers something in people’s minds. Star Wars is so white, so it opens it up. I mean if anything—having POC/diversity in general makes a film more palatable to larger audiences. That’s just the plain truth. The Academy is going to have to acknowledge that at some point. If they’re concerned about money, guess what—films with POC leads MAKE MONEY.
There was that good Vulture piece recently about how mediocre white filmmakers always get picked up at Sundance. Like, the guy who made Safety Not Guaranteed (an indie film) was picked up to make Jurassic Park. Like, that’s actually insane. It seems Hollywood trawls festivals like Sundance for their big next white dude to put on a pedestal, then gives them all the awards and all the money. *Jean Ralphio voice* Circle jerrrrrk!
Durga: We continue to uphold these awards as the standard (only sort of) because like most traditions in this country that are deeply fucked and unrepresentative, and have an embarrassing history of discrimination, they still gather us around a single activity. They still gather us on a Sunday with friends and snacks, glamour and slight snark. So, the best thing to do is gather but question. Gather but remain critical. Gather and likely this year, get bored. Gather and talk about these imbalances and hope that more of Hollywood’s majority will speak up and fund projects outside of their perceived comfort zone: i.e. films about white dudes by dudes for white dudes. I, for one, am thrilled that Megan Ellison, who was the first woman ever to be nominated twice in the same year for producing Her and American Hustle, is teaming up with Ana Lily Amirpour for The Bad Batch, her cannibalism dystopia and follow-up to A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. I hope Ellison continues to work with women filmmakers, to support women filmmakers of color, to support them through development and production, and champion them into award season. Because whenever Ellison announces a new project, it’s a good day.
Why has TV diversified so much more quickly than film?
Fariha: There’s more room for experimentation in TV. Maybe also because they’re not seen as larger investments? People like Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan are proving that shows made by women—starring women (WOC, trans, queer women)—can be just as evocative and enthralling as having stories about straight white men in suits. I know, who would have thought?
Pilot: Well, I think we need to talk about whether or not TV is more diversified than film or if it just feels that way this year. Yes, ABC has three solid sitcoms focused on minority families (Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, and Cristela) but they are all new this season. Yes, Gina Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for Jane the Virgin (and it was deserved!) but the last time a POC won in that category was 1997. TV is just as cyclical as Spike Lee says film is: We get these big bursts of minority-driven television programming every few years and we champion diversity but eventually those shows end/get canceled and we have to wait for the next boom. But to sort of answer the question, I think it has a lot to do with how fast television works which gives the medium the chance to quickly respond to fads in society and, unfortunately, diversity is considered a fad.
What are some snubbed films that you think deserve an Academy Award?
Pilot: This year, or in general? This year, definitely Obvious Child. It was a pretty genius screenplay but it was also the sort of story that is not going to appeal to old white dudes falling over themselves about American Sniper. Also, you know, women weren’t allowed in the screenplay category either. Lego Movie was much better than I expected but the Lego people involved were yellow, and we can’t nominate anything with color. Rosario Dawson should’ve been nominated for Top Five, even if just based on her haircut.
Fariha: I really liked A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. It was innovative, and enthralling. Also an Iranian Western-Vampire-Black and White film? In a perfect world it would get nominated for at least Best Screenplay. Or something. Because Wes Anderson is nominated for, like, The Royal Tenenbaums. Even though it is super white, Listen Up Philip was so good and definitely deserves to be nominated. The portrayal of the women is so complex and layered, I was really impressed. Plus Philip is every Brooklyn-whiteboy writer, so that’s apt. And of course Dear White People should also be nominated because that movie is so good and so important. It’s also funny, informative and compelling. Every school in America should be screening that movie with Selma. Double feature. Can you imagine?
Pilot: Oh yeah! I’m seconding Dear White People because that was utterly fantastic.
In your opinion, what’s the best movie of 2014?
Fariha: If we’re gonna talk about a “great American movie” then Selma wins the ticket, and should win the Oscar. But like Spike Lee pointed out, the Academy fulfilled its quota with 12 Years. Ironically, Selma is such an Oscar bait film—it’s a biopic about an average American who pushes boundaries, overcomes brutality and creates real insurmountable change. He just happens to be a black man, welp. If Selma was about LBJ and the black characters were secondary (including Martin Luther King) then I bet it would win the Oscar. No joke.
Pilot: I didn’t see many 2014 movies because who the hell can afford to see movies in NYC? So my favorite movie of the year was Neighbors. But yes, Selma was probably the BEST. Objectively, it is an amazing film. Story, acting, directing—everything about it is worth celebrating.