“I’m here. I’m part of this now.”
— Pam, “The Office”
The human mind and soul exist, but are not mutually exclusive to chasing your dreams. In kindergarten, your teacher may have asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up. As 5 and 6 year olds, we try to pick the coolest job, or perhaps even mirror what our parents or guardians are doing at that moment in time. Like many young kids from an inner-city neighborhood, you struggle to find your place in a world not reflected broadly in the media.
As a champion for the underserved, underrepresented and an unashamed advocate for diversity, my role as the film awards editor at Variety is a humbling achievement that will never go unappreciated. This is my first week on the new job. So who am I and what is all this about?
Founding my own corner of the web at AwardsCircuit, the last 15 years have been dedicated to following the landscape of cinema and TV, with an emphasis on awards season, while continuously looking at things through an inclusive lens. Most of all, which tends to get lost in the journalism arena, I’ve enjoyed the ride. I’ve seen the grotesque districts of the internet in the form of message boards, comment sections and #FilmTwitter. We’ve seen and heard the noise and vitriol from all of them. Trolls and bot-like beings hiding behind a keyboard and throwing out vile descriptions of the subject being discussed. My objective in this space is to be as positive as possible with my casual moviegoers, celebrities and journalistic colleagues. How difficult can that be?
As you get to know me at Variety, I will share my cinematic experiences with you — and in an open dialogue, I hope to get to learn about yours. In some ways, a pocket of the population might categorize me as “basic” when sharing my top three films of all time: “Dead Poets Society,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.” In other ways, my 10 favorite films of all-time also include “Dial M for Murder” from Alfred Hitchcock, the masterpiece of his career that no one mentions enough. The best animated film ever made is “The Lion King” while “Searching for Sugar Man,” a brilliant music documentary, gets closer to cracking my all-time lineup with each passing year.
When it comes to performances, the bigger, the better is my motto. Marlon Brando’s turn as Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire” is the single best acting piece ever, while Whoopi Goldberg’s Celie in “The Color Purple” is the closest runner-up. I will always appreciate the passionately restrained and subdued like Géza Röhrig in “Son of Saul” or Joan Allen in “The Crucible.”
I think vocal performances should be eligible for acting Oscar nominations, as demonstrated by Jennifer Jason Leigh’s work in “Anomalisa.” The same goes for motion capture performances, especially Andy Serkis in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”
I live for laughing until I cry, as demonstrated by my love for Jack Lemmon’s work in “The Odd Couple” and will always promote a proper horror-worthy performance such as Anthony Perkins in “Psycho” or Piper Laurie in “Carrie.”
When it comes to the Oscars, I believe they are a necessary and integral part of our history. Not just with what they select, but in what they do not. Some of my recent favorite best picture-winning films include “Moonlight,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “Chicago.” Going back, “Rebecca,” “It Happened One Night” and “The Apartment” will always hold up by my estimation.
We can’t talk about the Academy Awards without talking about those snubs that cut deep. I’m on a quiet island among the people who believe that “Silence” is Martin Scorsese’s most significant contribution to cinema, and I’ll die on that island alone. The same goes for the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which made me an ardent defender of Oscar Isaac, no matter what film he’s starring in.
I will do my best to get a bug in the Academy’s ear that they should finally add best stunts and best casting to the ceremony, while doing a better job of making the shorts available to the public before the ceremony, if they are hellbent on keeping it on the live show.
I’m a sucker for a good swell in a movie score (i.e. Steven Price for “Gravity”), and any camera work from Roger Deakins (“1917”) is almost always a gift from God’s own hands. I wish the world would be able to name as many sound and visual effects artists as possible as they do movie stars, myself included. I think Joi McMillon is an angel living in the film editing world.
Jenny Shircore is my favorite makeup artist of the moment, and I will always revere anything that Stan Winston touched.
When I’ve completed this life, I’m asking God to send me back as Ruth E. Carter’s sewing machine because her costumes percolate off the screen.
There have been just five women nominated for best director in the Academy’s 92-year history. I would have personally selected five in the last two years alone – Sofia Coppola (“The Beguiled”), Nadine Labaki (“Capernaum”), Josie Rourke (“Mary Queen of Scots”), Dee Rees (“Mudbound”) and Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”).
#OscarsSoWhite is proof of the underlying problem in Hollywood and my allotted time will focus on correcting those faults by educating voters and highlighting POC. I will never apologize for ensuring people are aware of all Black, Latino and Asian films that are eligible for the Oscars. On the other hand, I’ll also never apologize for liking the movies people seem not to enjoy as much, including “Crash” and “Green Book.”
I have a few cinematic blind spots that are embarrassing, which many of us tend to have but don’t like to admit. A late start in this industry, with a non-existent arts education didn’t allow such resources. When I launched AwardsCircuit in 2008, and learned more about the Academy’s history, I was able to discover classic films that so many hold in high esteem. Opportunities to co-host TCM’s Black Experience in 2018 allowed me to discover Gordon Parks’ “The Learning Tree” and re-evaluate Michael Schultz’s “Cooley High.” I’ve never seen “Casablanca.” I’ve only watched “Gone with the Wind” once, and I will always tell people to watch “New Jack City” and “White Men Can’t Jump” if you stumble across it.
“People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws,” Jonah Hill says as the assistant GM Peter Brand in his Oscar-nominated performance in “Moneyball.” That sums up my prediction philosophy. My predictions are reflective of the direction of the awards, not my agenda.
My weekly column will cover the race’s temperature, even when it’s way too early to discuss it. The podcast, which we’re relaunching with a team of Variety editors and writers, will fill in the blanks with engaging discussions and in-depth interviews. And finally, I’m an advocate for the community at large, especially on this side of the cinematic spectrum. I am no better than you, nor do my thoughts on a piece of art outweigh yours. Examine that art and share it with all. I can be reached at @AwardsCircuit on Twitter and Instagram. I’ll do my best to respond.