A Rocky Mountain Oscars: Al Sharpton Is At It Again

The Grand Tetons in winter make for a majestic skyline, photo by NPS
The Grand Tetons in winter make for a majestic skyline, photo by NPS

“Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher up you get the whiter it gets and this year’s Academy Awards will be yet another Rocky Mountain Oscar,” said Sharpton.

State of Affairs In Tinseltown

Even though Al Sharpton let loose with this zinger over a month ago, the sentiments in this sentence have taken on a life of their own and now with the Oscars just around the corner, (tomorrow night to be exact) many folks are talking about the “whiteness of the upcoming Oscars”.  In fact, as things stand now, this presentation of awards, could be greatly overshadowed by the lack of minority participation. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be surprised if most major news outlets, cover the 2016 Oscar Awards from Sharpton’s viewpoint. Since the real-life event is just over 24 hours away, not only will we soon be aware of the new winners, but also we will know just how this whole scene plays out in the eyes of the national press.

Several years ago, Al Sharpton appeared on SNL in a short skit satirizing lack of racial diversity on the popular TV program.
Several years ago, Al Sharpton appeared on SNL in a short skit satirizing lack of racial diversity on the popular TV program.

Al Sharpton’s Wit

“Bush said after Sept. we have to go and get bin Laden. Yet he can’t find bin Laden. He can’t find bin Laden, he can’t find the weapons. Now we’ve got to take pride that Saddam Hussein is still alive; we can’t find him.  Now I promise you that if I am elected, President Bush will not be in charge of the bureau of missing persons.” Al Sharpton 2003

With many Movie and TV appearances, plus numerous involvements in various political events, Al Sharpton has been in the public eye for a long time. Over the course of time, what stands out is his lucid and biting wit. Perhaps, one of the most vivid examples of Sharpton’s skill at satire, comes from his unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2003, when he lauded George W.’s inability to locate bin Laden and even though his run for the White House did not go very far, he did gain an appearance on SNL. In fact, looking back over the years, it may be that Al Sharpton’s innate gift for ridicule and satire is his most popular attribute. Certainly, his recent comment on the Oscars emphasizes this skill.

The 2016 Oscars

By chance, two of the major 2016 films competing for awards, are set in the snow-covered Rocky Mountains of the western USA. Though I have not actually seen The Hateful Eight and The Revenant, I do know that both films are stories from the 19th century high mountain West and do contain many snowy scenes, shot at higher altitudes. In fact, these two snowy Westerns may be competing for Best Picture and various other awards. By the secondhand accounts that I have read, The Revenant, which is based on a gruesome true story, may win out, but we won’t know for sure until Monday night. Personally, having worked in High Rockies, as a ski lift operator, I am intrigued by this outcome and I do hope to see both these movies sometime soon. Please keep in mind that this year’s criticism is not necessarily misplaced….as it is also possible that one or even both of these films could turn out to be epic and iconic films of the 21st century.

Russell Means playing Chingachgook in the Last of the Mahicans
Russell Means playing Chingachgook in the Last of the Mahicans

The Sad State of the Native America Cinema

It is also important to note that the above criticism does not solely apply to the African-American community, as there are similar situations throughout the Non-white population, especially among Native Americans. At least Chinese, Asian Indian and Hispanic people have films originating in respective home countries, though having more American representation would be a good thing. For American Indians, a host of cinema releases (Pow Wow Highway, Smoke Signals, Skins (2002), Thunderheart etc.)  in the latter years of the twentieth century, seem to suffice as the latest cultural import to mainstream America. And most of these films seem centered around the Sioux nations which gave rise to the late firebrand and actor, Russell Means.

What Needs To Happen

“How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White?”  Writer/director Spike Lee

A short scene in the movie, Boyz In the Hood, may provide the positive direction in which this discussion has to go. In this 1991 hood classic, the father of the main character, has a brief discussion with some associates about the economic success of their nearby Korean residents. A the same time, he bemoans the fact that his own black community has a much tougher time with this most basic challenge of producing successful start-up businesses. Though hood dramas may be an overused cliche that current Hollywood minority actors may what to avoid, there is a lot to be said for, not only building strong financial backing, but also a network of screenwriterswriters, directors and authors that can hone raw experience into a viable entertainment product.

 

 

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