You can dispute or dismiss this, but a guy I was speaking to this morning feels that in liberal Hollywood’s politically correct realm and more precisely in creative filmmaking circles of 2015, older white guys are getting the shit end of the stick in more ways than one. In one sense this is an old lament and yet to some, I’m sure, this probably sounds outrageous. I know that right now some readers are saying “what?” The Oscar nominations just demonstrated to many in this town that the old farts of the Academy don’t get it, and that they didn’t give Selma its due because they felt they did “the black thing” last year with 12 Years A Slave, and you’re saying that 50-and-over white guys are being…what, discriminated against? Your friend actually thinks that?
Yes, that’s the viewpoint. For the last 90 years, I mean. With the exception of the usual heavy-hitters and pantheon types, older directors and especially writers have always been treated this way — over, past their prime, spent. Older creative guys do tend to lose the spark — let’s be frank. Look at Blackhat, for God’s sake. But there’s something else going on now, and it’s almost on the level of that famous “aha!” that Tom Wolfe stumbled upon when he began roughing out “The Painted Word” and realized that modern art had become “completely literary” and that it only existed only to illustrate the text (or more specifically this or that conceptual theory).
What’s going on today in Hollywood is starting to become somewhat similar, for in the award-season realm it’s not just the film but who has made it — the combination of the two is what travels. Because (and I’m not saying this is an absolute law but it’s becoming more and more of an occurence) if the film is right but the filmmaker is wrong, you might be nudged out of the game. Or you might not even be considered in the first place. Or even get the film made.
French cineaste Pierre Rissient is famous for having said “it isn’t enough to like a good film…you have to like it for the right reasons.” In the same vein it isn’t enough to like or support a would-be Best Picture contender — you also have to like the right filmmaker, which means this or that filmmaker has to have earned your allegiance for the right reasons.
Ask yourself the following questions and be honest. That means don’t fucking lie.
If Selma had been directed and co-written by Edward Zwick (whose films I’ve had many problems with in the past so don’t call me a water-carrier) and been produced by Plan B’s Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner, would it have gotten the same impassioned, politically correct support from the Jessica Chastain crowd that Ava DuVernay‘s Selma did? Don’t lie.
I’ll go you one better. If DuVernay had directed and co-written Black or White and persuaded Kevin Costner to play the lead, would that film still be an all-but-ignored non-starter in the 2014 awards race? Be honest. You know that DuVernay’s Black or White would have been saluted and celebrated a hell of a lot more than Mike Binder‘s version has been — you know that.
See where I’m going with this? We can play these games all day. But the bottom line is becoming more and more of a constant. It’s not just the movie — it’s the combination of the right movie and the right filmmakers behind it. Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course. Are there dozens of noteworthy exceptions? Quite possibly. But don’t tell me it’s not an increasing factor these days.