It's Oscar season again, and on February 25, little man-statues will be given out to the beautiful and famous in Hollywood, and as the Guerrilla Girls remind us, the recipients will be mostly men. While this annual celebrity cluster bomb reveals the clinically vapid celebritrons, the endlessly pretentious red carpets, the perfectly sculpted franken-lips, breasts, eyelashes and everything else, a handful of talented, politically convicted auters will be inconspicuously milling about.
This year the Academy Awards Menu is replete with political treats in many departments, and this, while not being perfect, is something to chew on. From best picture nominee Letters from Iwo Jima to best foreign language nominee Water to the nomination of Paul Greengrass for best director (Flight 93) there are glimmers of political art amongst the glitz blitz. The best news comes from the Documentary Feature category where all five nominations are for political films. Two films exploring post-invasion Iraq and the consequences on the daily lives of ordinary Iraqis have made it into this category in what can only be described as a political message from the Academy. (And don't get me wrong: Iraq in Fragments and My Country, My Country are both excellent docs deserving of the nomination). While Jesus Camp is the best contender in this group, with it's interrogation of religious fundamentalism as seen through the community of fanatical Christians in the Southern U.S., it is suspected that this year's penguin winner will be An Inconvenient Truth (a great message, but really, a film on a power point presentation winning best Documentary Feature?).
Of course the Oscars as always, remind one of the inconsistencies and contradictions of the Hollywood machine: a film on global warming is up for best doc while the unforgivable, disgusting and irresponsible children's film by Disney — Cars — is up for best Animated Feature. Wake up to global warming and do something! Now get your kids to watch this cute film that promotes car culture and indoctrinates toddlers into the vicious and unsustainable cycle of consumerism from but a wee age! Of course, the Oscars have always been politically ignorant, especially — as the Guerrilla Girls remind us — when it comes to gender.
For the past six years the U.S. activist group that calls itself the “Conscience of the Art World” has been raising awareness about gender inequity in the art world, including film. While this feminist group that “fights discrimination with facts, humor and fake fur!” launched their group after being disgusted with the lack of representation of female artists at the Tate Museum, they have consistently targeted the world of film. They use creative art interventions like billboards (pictured) museum companion books, and street theatre to disseminate the facts:
• No woman has ever won the Oscar for Best Director
• Only three women have ever been nominated for Best Director
• 94% of writing awards have gone to men
• 3% of all acting awards have gone to people of colour
The list of an all-male, mostly-white celebrated industry go on, and the Guerrilla Girls will continue to shake things up as long as such a biased, discriminatory industry chugs along and churns out product that reflects these figures. In one of their most notorious campaigns that involved ads in major U.S. magazines, billboards in scores of cities, books, and pamphlets, the Guerrilla Girls coined “The Anatomically Correct Oscar.” And as they say: he's white and male, just like the guys who win! So while this year's Oscars are showing signs of progressive politics, lets not hold our breath until there is real dynamic representation both behind and on the screen.