Oscar wins by Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood look like a blow to the chin of a couple of the biz’s “isms” — racism and ageism.
The Acad has now given more honors to African-American actors in the last five years than it did in its first 50.
Vic Bulluck, executive director of the NAACP’s Hollywood bureau, said he’s excited about the wins, but “we have to remain vigilant and keep the issues in the forefront.”
He added the org has seen progress followed by backsliding in past years, back to the day of Hattie McDaniel’s win for “Gone With the Wind.”
Producer Debra Martin Chase thinks the trend is less a change in the Acad’s thinking than in the number of meaty roles for African-American thesps. “It is not so much a question of recognition as it is one of opportunity. When great actors get great roles in great movies, they have the opportunity to shine.”
Chase said the Oscars don’t necessarily indicate what’s happening around the business as a whole.
“We have to see what happens afterwards. Halle Berry won, and she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world, but you don’t see her getting the kind of offers that Julia Roberts gets. That’s what we need to be looking at.”
On the ageism front, writer Bob Shayne, who’s part of a class-action suit over ageism in Hollywood, said, “There’s a top tier of people — actors, writers, whatever — who are such stars that their fame can’t be ignored. It’s the tiers under those few who get pushed into the background.”
San Diego State U. professor Martha Lauzen also warned that the Acad’s choices don’t say much about who gets below-the-line jobs.
“It’s very easy to be misled by a few high-profile individuals,” Lauzen told Daily Variety. “What we’ve found year after year in our research is that the numbers stay remarkably stable in terms of diversity, whether we’re talking about gender or race or age. I’m always expecting to see something different, but it doesn’t happen.”
As for ageism, even Clint got into the act, joking about the geriatric team behind “Million Dollar Baby.”
And he pointed to his 96-year-old mother, seated in the audience, thanking her for the genes she supplied.
Comparing himself to an even more elder statesmen, Sidney Lumet, Eastwood said he felt like a kid, suggesting that he hoped to make many more movies.