“It’s not about winning, it’s about celebrating.” These words were uttered by Ice Cube as he accepted the first Best Picture All Def Movie Award for “Straight Outta Compton” at the inaugural ADMA show. The show’s co-creator, Russell Simmons, made a five-year deal with Fusion, so he expects the new awards to continue in years to come. Simmons also made a point of saying that he had nothing to do with the scheduling of the show, which Fusion is airing opposite this year’s ABC’s Oscar telecast.
The ADMA show is not your typical awards show by any stretch of the imagination, and that’s intentional, as Sanjay Sharma, president and CEO of All Def Digital explained. “Four weeks ago, this was an idea. In 10 days, the real thing has come together,” he said. “We’re a multiplatform company. We’re nimble in our DNA. We took the franchise in comedy that we built; we noticed it was all right there in front of us, like the end of ‘The Usual Suspects.’ We thought, ‘Why don’t we take the opportunity to turn this event that’s near the Oscars and hosted by Tony Rock?’
“And the idea became a themed event and a comedic jab, which a lot of people are writing about,” Sharma continued. “The intention is to fill a generational and cultural gap, like the MTV Movie Awards originally did, with categories that are fun and speak to youth culture. The Oscars will never have a Best Bad Muhf–ka category. Hopefully next year, Idris Elba will be nominated for something, Stefan James will be nominated for ‘Race’; hopefully, there will be more inclusion in the Oscars. That doesn’t mean the problem is solved or that we won’t have a meaningful award franchise.”
The talent at the ADMA’s brought their best jokes and high spirits to what was more party than award show. In between previously taped segments, awards with tongue-in-cheek titles were handed out. The Most Quoted Movie went to “Friday.” Best Bad Muhf—ka, presented by Terry Crews, went to Denzel Washington in “Training Day” (he wasn’t there to accept), and Most Likely to Steal Your Girl went to the never-shy Amber Rose, who thanked God and joked to Russell Simmons that she was surprised to win, since she stole so many b–ches from him. The more traditional awards included best actor, which went to Michael B. Jordan for his performance in “Creed,” best actress to Sanaa Lathan for “The Perfect Guy” and best picture to “Straight Outta Compton,” which was met with long, loud cheers.
Tyrese Gibson presented the segment honoring Will Smith with the ADMA Lifetime Achievement Award and, after thanking Simmons for making the event happen, Gibson noted that Smith had conquered music, TV and movies, while remaining a decent person. “He’s become this industry’s undisputed king of the box office,” Gibson said. “We all grew up on Will Smith. He’s our family.”
Then Gibson called up Smith’s longtime friend Charlie Mack to accept the award for Smith, who was out of town working on a film. In one of the evening’s most interesting moments, Gibson opined: “If you really got a problem with diversity, it starts at home. Black people are hating on black people. We need to fix it at home first. That’s where it starts. If you’ve got the goods and are selecting a director or writer, give the opportunities to us, keep it in the family. That’s how you change the game.”
In Smith’s taped message, he thanked Simmons, joking that “Russell called me four days ago and said, ‘We’re gonna honor you in 10 minutes, can you make it?” Smith also shared that this was his first lifetime achievement award and said, “My grandmother told me, ‘Whatever you touch, make it better,’ every project, every person I came in contact with. I took it the wrong way for a little while when [DJ Jazzy] Jeff and I first went on the road— I would try to meet a new woman everywhere I went and try to touch her and make her better. I’m going to keep swinging and do everything I can to do projects that improve lives.” Then, closing with a smile, Smith joked, “The real reason why me and Jada couldn’t make it was because Russell wasn’t honoring enough white people.”
Christoph Waltz received the Most Helpful White Person award, which Snoop Dogg presented and Robin Thicke accepted on Waltz’s behalf.
Norman Lear was given the Vanguard Award for his groundbreaking work in television with shows like “All in the Family,” “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons.” Lear was attending another event for climate change, so he sent a warm taped message to thank the ADMA crowd.
Writer-director-actor Robert Townsend had a hit comedy in 1987 with “Hollywood Shuffle” and spoke to being an Academy member now and what the ADMAs could do to help with diversity awareness: “To honor diversity in Hollywood, you have a lot of talented filmmakers that haven’t been acknowledged. The discussion is, how do we get more movies made for people of color? Because when you think in terms of how many movies come out of Hollywood, we’re talking 300 or 400 movies are made, and when it comes to diversity, there are maybe eight or nine and of those; maybe four are worthy of Academy [Award consideration].
“This discussion is needed, not just for the African-American community, for the Latino community, for the Asian community,” Townsend went on. “I think this discussion is good because the bottom line is money. There’s an audience out there. When you think about a Kevin Hart, these films are outgrossing big blockbusters. What Russell has done is to elevate the conversation and look at diversity. You gotta celebrate Russell because he’s always gonna push the envelope farther. The categories tonight are fun, and that’s what we go to the movies for: to have a good time. We give the awards in our vernacular.”
On the press line, Simmons made his point of view crystal clear: “Many African-American films were overlooked this year. ‘Dope’ was a masterful film and a beautiful film. The cultural subtleties that young people see couldn’t possibly be seen by the elders who make choices at the Academy. We want to give these movies exposure.” Simmons also thinks “Creed,” “Straight Outta Compton,” Jordan, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. were worthy of Oscar nominations. With the ADMAs, Simmons says, “I hope people see some of the movies they might not have seen, some of the artists they might not have recognized. People who were not celebrated will be celebrated because of this. That’s my intention, my prayer for this.”
The All Def Movie Awards air Sunday February 28 on Fusion.
The winners are as follows:
“Straight Outta Compton”
Accepted by Ice Cube and O’Shea Jackson
Best Helpful White Person
Presented by Snoop Dogg and accepted by Robin Thicke
Best Bad Muh Fu$&a Award
Presented by Terry Crews
Presented by Jerrod Carmichael
Most Quoted Movie
Presented to Ice Cube
Lifetime Achievement Award
Presented by Tyrese Gibson
Best Black Survivor in a Movie
Ice Cube as Danny Rich in Anaconda
presented by Gary Owen
Most Likely to Steal Your Girl Award
“The Perfect Guy”
Michael B. Jordan
(All Photos: Michael Buckner/Variety/Shutterstock)