After such a tumultuous year protesting the problems at the core of the film industry, from the anger at the lack of minority and female nominees in major categories at the Oscars to the Cannes 82 peaceful demonstration, It’s important to highlight the diversity of award winners, whether their work is worthy or not. It is an argument with a million different opinions, facts and statistics and none of it means that brilliant work shouldn’t be rewarded because of who made it.
However there needs to be a recognition of how these awards impact the future. Even to this day, studios rarely believe women can helm action franchises, or that films with a female character will not do as well at the box office. The major awards represent the best of the best, but the doors need to be thrown open. This year, we find out if our campaigns, speeches and votes have really had an effect. The Golden Globes reflect that the work we are doing has started to have an effect, but we are not there yet.
Let’s start with something wonderful that happened this year. Just in time for Christmas, Sony released Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. A beautiful, vibrant, heartfelt work of art. Over 4 years of hard work went into the creation of this years Best Animated feature. A film that takes animation and works to innovate, combining 2D and 3D styles, as well as drawing from the comic medium which birthed our titular character. For that alone it is worth an acknowledgement. However Into The Spider-Verse goes one step further in that it has a diverse, mixed gender cast of characters. Our central character is Miles Morales, an afro-latinx boy, who debuted in 2011. He is joined by Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Peter B. Parker, Peni Parker, and Peter Porker. Separate heroes with agency and stories of their own. Furthermore, after Disney announced that there were only two female characters in Frozen because they are ‘harder to animate’, Sony proved them wrong. Into The Spider-Verse earned the recognition it deserved.
The conversations about diversity often focus on the large percentage of white nominees and often create an opposition between black and white, or male and female. But there are countless ethnicities that to do not receive representation in major films and television. However, this year Darren Criss made history as the first Filipino American to win a Golden Globe for his role in American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. In addition, Sandra Oh received an award for her work in Killing Eve. This is Oh’s second Golden Globe win. Crazy Rich Asians was also nominated for Best Musical or Comedy, as was it’s star Constance Wu. These wins and nominations suggest that the doors are widening for Asian representation, even if by a small amount. Their amazing work was acknowledged and rewarded, which is, after all, what award season is all about.
Furthermore, Hollywood is famous for having an age problem- one that is particularly sexist. Men do not get the ageist criticism against their female counterparts. However, this year the Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy and the Best Actress in a Drama went to Olivia Colman for The Favourite and Glenn Close for The Wife, respectively. Both women are incredible performers with prestigious careers, especially Close who has been nominated for a total of 6 Oscars. The performances these women gave in their respective films was worthy of recognition and they received it. Colman in particular gave a raw, absurd performance that was the centre of the film and held her own with Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz both giving performances that earned them nominations.
However not every award has such a rosy story behind it. Regina King and Mahershala Ali were the only black nominees in their respective categories and while it is important that they won, it is also important to note who their competitors were; it reflects the opportunities and attempts to equalise the industry. Therefore we need to draw attention to it in the same way Natalie Portman emphasised the ‘all male’ nominees at the Golden Globes last year. Even with a record year for black filmmakers, they are still in the minority of award nominees. This year Spike Lee was the only black nominee for Best Director. The same rings true for the BAFTA nominations. It is possible that BlacKKKlansman was merely the only film that got that far in competition, but it’s hard to believe it is that simple. But it is an improvement on last year where there no black nominees in the Best Director categories at the BAFTAs or the Golden Globes.
Similarly Green Book, which won Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, has been under fire for reports of historical inaccuracy. Members of Dr. Shirley’s family, including his brother Maurice and niece Carol Shirley Kimble, have blasted the film for an incorrect portrayal of their relative. Then there is the suggestion that its approach to its subject matter is old-fashioned and that we have moved on from stories like Green Book. Stories about difficult periods of history always need to be told, that is not in question, but whether the integrity of the film should be questioned before it receives further acclaim is an issue that will require further discussion. However Mahershala Ali’s award is suggestive of progress so not all is doom and gloom.
After the year of women finally being believed when they claim sexual assault, identifying sexual predators, and speaking out against the institutional sexism, Michael Douglas earned an award for The Kominsky Method. Douglas has had allegations of sexual harassment by Susan Braudy, a well-known journalist and author. Both sides of the accusations have had their fair share of media coverage and it harks back to the controversy surrounding Casey Affleck’s Oscar win in 2017. Should we separate the art from the person? Yes and no. Douglas has denied the claims but no conclusion has been publicly announced, therefore should the voters disregard or accept the claims? Either way, if powerful men believe they can continue to abuse people without consequences, the world will not change. And that is something that needs to be remembered.
Lastly, we come to the biggest controversy of the night: Bohemian Rhapsody. After a lukewarm critical reception and massive box office, as well as claims of inaccurately presenting Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, it is a surprise that it earned any nominations, let alone wins. Then there is the reports of Bryan Singer’s rape allegations and outrageous behaviour during the films production requiring the re-hiring of Dexter Fletcher. Personal taste and love of Queen aside, rewarding this film, even if not the individual, suggests that there won’t be repercussions for Singer’s actions. No doubt the Best Film win will justify these issues rather than serve as a warning for future productions, because after all there are only so many directors qualified to direct a Queen biopic, right?
This year was a mixed one. There is hope in the air, but we are still many steps away from an inclusive and diverse film industry.
The full list of winners can be found here.
by Mia Garfield
Mia Garfield has just finished a degree in Film at Falmouth University. She has written about the female voice in cinema and negotiating the position of the female director. She has just finished her first short film ‘Sonder’, keep an eye out for it at festivals in the UK. A big lover of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Mythology, her taste is varied and every time she is asked about her favourite film she gives a different answer. Today her favourite films include Howl’s Moving Castle, Memoirs of A Geisha, How to Train Your Dragon, and Big Hero 6. You can find her @miajulianna2864
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