The LA Film Critics Association named Moonlight the Best Picture of the year yesterday, followed by La La Land as runner-up. Barry Jenkins, who directed Moonlight, won Best Director. He also won Best Director from the New York Film Critics Circle last week while La La Land was Best Picture. And the LA and New York critics agreed on Mahershala Ali as Best Supporting Actor who is now likely the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
How important are critics though in determining Oscar? Several times this year I’ve posted about how critics can affect box office performance, particularly for movies that are about and for women and minorities, not unlike how it works within the Academy, the institution that governs the Oscars. The majority of film critics are white men. They see and analyse films through that specific lens. How does that imbalance then affect the way films are supported and celebrated? How does that help or hinder a film’s awards momentum? This was the subject of the most recent episode of Vulture’s podcast, The Awards Show Show during which three critics discussed How Critics Affect the Oscars, and How Bias Affects Critics.
Jen Yamato is one of those critics. She talks about rivalries between different critics’ associations, how even the critics clubs are jockeying for position – who’s more influential, who can get out first with their pronouncements and declarations – and what impact, if any, these behind-the-scenes competitions have on award season and the films that end up contending for Oscar. Jen tweeted something last week that I sent to Sarah. It was after Martin Scorsese’s Silence had screened for critics. And while proper reviews are still embargoed, many critics started tweeting their initial reactions. Many of those (predominantly male) reactions were super-jizzy. Jen’s reaction was…
@DrewMcWeeny I expect to be the lonely one here siding with the Japanese against the Jesuits and yet another white male journey of discovery— jen yamato (@jenyamato) November 30, 2016
Anyone still championing Liam Neeson in SILENCE for Best Supporting instead of Tadanobu Asano, Yôsuke Kubozuka, or Issei Ogata, well...— jen yamato (@jenyamato) December 1, 2016
As viewers then, it might not be enough to know that “critics”, in general, love or hate a certain film. Because “in general”, right now, means generally white male critics loved or hated a certain film. Do we need to make a point of asking the follow-up question, “WHICH critic loved or hated a certain film?” Sarah is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. Jen Yamato is a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. For me, their reviews are going to be weighted with more significance. The problem is that there are not enough Sarahs and Jens. To be fair, as Jen says in the Vulture podcast, the LA Film Critics Association is becoming more diverse. It’s led by a woman, Claudia Puig, and is perhaps more culturally and generationally diverse than other critics boards. Still, as she qualifies, film criticism is “becoming more diverse but criticism is not a diverse place to be”. So it’s not just Hollywood that has to work on representation and inclusion. It’s also everything that orbits Hollywood – critics, media, fans. And that includes us. We here at LaineyGossip are trying to work on it too. As always, we appreciate your criticism, feedback, and guidance.
Yours in gossip,