Duets. Twenty of ’em.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Jada Pinkett Smith announced that she is boycotting the Academy Awards this year due to the lack of diversity among the acting nominees. I’m sure that will put a huge dent in the show‘s ratings, as the 40 million people who tend to tune in to the telecast do so to see Jada Pinkett Smith. Following in Pinkett Smith’s footsteps, Spike Lee and Pinkett Smith’s husband Will Smith announced that they were joining in the boycott.
The issue is that out of twenty nominated actors and actresses, twenty are Caucasian. At first glance that doesn’t appear to be very diverse. At second glance, it’s still not diverse, but a boycott is not going to bring about the change that is needed.
Granted, the conversation about the lack of diversity among the nominees needs to be had. The Motion Picture Academy needs to step up its efforts to expand its membership beyond white men, who at this time overwhelmingly make up its ranks.
However, the Academy Award nominations are the result of the actual problem, which is the lack of diversity involved in the movies being made by Hollywood. Movie studios and production companies need to be engaged in the diversity conversation. They’re the ones making the majority of films from which the Academy chooses the nominations. While Caucasian men make up the majority of ticket buyers, serving other demographics adds to a studio’s bottom line. Remember how shocked everyone was when the Sex & the City movie proved a box office bonanza? It’s a movie with female leads that sold tickets primarily to women moviegoers and grossed over $400 million, and it isn’t even good!
Women like to see their lives on the screen. So do African Americans. And Latinos. And people of Asian descent. And gay people. And trans people. And older people. And so on and so on.
Seeing one’s life on the screen means more than merely seeing people of one’s race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation on screen. As the conversation surrounding this year’s nominees focuses on race, let’s look at some recent black nominees.
During the past decade, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o were nominated for portraying slaves. Denzel Washington was nominated for his role as an alcoholic drug-abusing pilot. Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis were nominated for playing maids. (Spencer won, but Davis lost to Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. Yes, the Iron Lady won over the lady who irons.) Mo’Nique won for her portrayal of an abusive mother. Forest Whitaker won for playing a corrupt, human rights-abusing dictator. Barkhad Abdi was nominated for playing a pirate. Ruby Dee was nominated for playing the mother of a drug kingpin.
Also nominated was Gabourey Sidibe for her portrayal of an African-American teenager who is repeatedly raped by her father and abused by her mother and others. That performance lost to Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of a nice, white lady who takes in a troubled African American teen.
Other characters portrayed by recently nominated white folks include Colin Firth as a king with a speech impediment, Eddie Redmayne as a brilliant scientist, Benedict Cumberbatch as a brilliant computer scientist, Leonardo DiCaprio as a stockbroker, Patricia Arquette as a loving mother, Sandra Bullock as an astronaut, Daniel Day-Lewis as the U.S. president who freed the black slaves, Robert Downey Jr. as a white actor portraying a black man, and Christoph Waltz as a bounty hunter who emancipates and mentors a black slave. I’m not going to go through every white nominee; we’ll be here all day!
From the examples given, eagle-eyed observers may notice the types of parts for which black actors and white actors get nominated for Academy Awards. Lee and the Smiths are not wrong in saying there is a problem here that needs to be fixed.
Joining the boycott are Curtis Jackson, star of such not-Oscar nominated films as Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Home of the Brave and Righteous Kill. Under his nom de rap 50 Cent, Jackson posted on Instagram a plea for Chris Rock to step down as the award show’s host. The same request came from Tyrese Gibson, star of such not-Oscar nominated films as The Fast & the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, and Furious 7.
Calvin Broadus, under his nom de rap Snoop Dogg, posted a video on Instagram that said “Fornicate the Academy Awards,” though not in those exact words. Broadus was not nominated for his role in The Wash, in which he stretched his acting chops by portraying Dr. Dre’s weed-smoking best friend. That film has an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Until a few minutes ago I thought The Wash was a remake of the seventies movie Car Wash, which has an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Per Wikipedia, The Wash is an original movie written and directed by Mark Jordan under his nom de rap, DJ Pooh.
While the soundtrack of The Wash didn’t produce any Billboard Hot 100 hits, the soundtrack to Car Wash did. It was on January 29, 1977, that its theme song hit #1, an incredible feat given it’s a song about a car wash. Amazingly, the song holds up to this day.
Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Our playlist kicks off with Rose Royce’s “Car Wash.”
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God needs better marketers. That guy wearing an ill-fitting sportsjacket who stands on a box outside the Port Authority shouting incoherently through a megaphone or that guy in a diaper on the corner of Hollywood and Highland holding the sign about end days? I’m supposed to walk by them and think “If this person says God exists, it must be true.” It doesn’t work for me.
Then there are God’s marketers with slightly bigger megaphones, like that pastor who recently penned an op-ed claiming that Taylor Swift turns kids gay, and they can’t shake it off. Swift’s not really my cup of chamomile, but if I need to choose between that writer’s brand of religion and homosexuality, then crank up the 1989 CD.
There’s also your Fred Phelps types, picketing concerts and high-profile funerals with signs reading GOD HATES FAGS. Many self-appointed religious leaders say the same thing, albeit with less colorful language. I’m supposed to walk by them and think “If this man has a sign that says God Hates Fags, it must be true.” Similar signs are held up in the “counter protest” area during the Gay Pride parade. Shockingly, the parade goers weren’t swayed. If only there was somewhere else these self-proclaimed religious folks should be on a Sunday morning. If only.
Some of His messengers kill cartoonists. God hates fags and cartoonists. Their marketing technique is the old “Buy our product or we’ll murder you.” It didn’t work for Kellogg’s and it won’t work for Him.
By now you’re probably saying “Glenn, what does this have to do with Mary J. Blige, the multiple Grammy Award-winning multi-million-selling r&b singer who celebrates her 44th birthday today?
When I read that Mary J. Blige considers herself a born-again Christian, my stomach sank. Oh, no. Another diva hero gone to the dark side. Songs of hers I like will now have the association with the slogan “Live and let live provided you live the way I tell you to live,” and nothing mars a good groove like a bad ad campaign.
Turns out I was wrong. The guy standing on the box, the guy who listened to a pop singer and turned homosexual, the guys who picket parades – they all misled me. Not all of God’s marketing reps are assholes.
Says Mary J: I’m not God. God said not to judge anyone lest you be judged. That’s it. Who am I to point my finger? You’ve got to walk in love. To say you do not want people to be happy is so mean, so not me.
She told PrideSource:
“I believe [Christ] died to give us a deep relationship with God, and in having a deep relationship and walk with God, there is no judgment. We cannot judge or think we’re better than anybody.
“I have nothing but love for everyone in the universe. I believe we can all teach each other something, and I believe we can all grow and learn from one another. I’m a spirit, so I need spiritual assistance – that means I need to pray, I need to read The Word, I need to share The Word with people. That’s what it’s for. It’s not for me to be like, “You’re gonna burn in hell.” That’s not what I believe God wants me to testify about.
“The fact that I’ve been through so much, and my trials and tribulations are out in the open, is to heal other people. And that I’ve come through it isn’t to say I’m better; it’s to say we all can do it.”
Isn’t that refreshing? I still don’t believe in God, but it’s nice to find someone who does and is full of love and support. If He wants to sell the product, He needs to recruit more marketers like MJB.
Let’s get it percolating with these twenty career highlights.
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Today is the 27th of June. Only three more days of Gay Pride month and then I can go back to my self-loathing. Phew!
New York has their big Pride celebration this weekend. While I enjoy Pride here in West Hollywood, it’s nothing compared to the revelry in my former home of Manhattan.
The Los Angeles Pride parade here in WeHo goes for around two miles and lasts a couple of hours. If memory serves, New York’s parade is five or so miles long and lasts for around 168 hours. WeHo’s parade consists of a handful of politicians, floats for clubs I never heard of, some folks who are legends in their own minds, and a lot of lesbians on motorcycles. NYC’s parade consists of many political groups, many religious organizations, important social clubs such as Lesbians for Patsy Cline and Queens Against Brunch, and a hell of a lot of lesbians on motorcycles.
The list of Grand Marshals of NYC’s parade over the past ten years includes Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of the Academy Award-wining film Milk; Lt. Dan Choi, a member of the US Army who served in Iraq, came out a gay, and challenged the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy; Dan Savage, creator of the It Gets Better Project, designed to dissuade LGBT youth from suicide as the answer to school bullying; Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the United States v Windsor Supreme Court case which led to part of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act being struck down as unconstitutional, paving the way for the legalization of same-sex nuptials; Cleve Jones, the LGBT and AIDS activist who, among other things, conceived of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983; Constance McMillen, the high school student who sued her school in Mississippi when they refused to allow her to bring her girlfriend to the school prom; and Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, whose murder for being gay led to expanded hate crimes legislation to cover sexual orientation.
The list of LA’s Grand Marshals over the past ten years includes Paris Hilton, who is very wealthy and said “Gay guys are the horniest people in the world. Most of them probably have AIDS … I would be so scared if I was a gay guy … you’ll like die of AIDS;” Sharon Osbourne, who is very wealthy; Chelsea Handler, the television personality who dated 50 Cent, the grammatically-challenged former superstar who tweeted “If you a man and your over 25 and you don’t eat pussy just kill your self damn it. The world will be a better place. Lol;” and Demi Lovato, who had a gay grandfather. In 2007 we found an actual gay to be our Grand Marshall – John Amaechi, the first openly-gay former professional basketball player. In 2011 we found another one – Johnny Weir, the celebrated figure skater who smashed all the macho stereotypes of that profession. To be fair, I know how difficult it is to select the appropriate person to be our Grand Marshal. It’s not easy to find an openly gay person in Los Angeles; that’s why I’m still single.
As the organizers of LA’s Pride Parade begin their search for next year’s Grand Marshal (may I suggest Vladimir Putin?), lock the doors, lower the blinds, fire up the smoke machine and put on your heels, because we’re gonna have a kiki. Dive, turn, werk.
Today’s playlist consists of songs that were #1 in Glenn’s Ten, the weekly tally of my favorite current songs, on this date going back to 1981, the year I started tracking such things (click here for more background).
My #1 on March 3, 1981 was Don McLean’s cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” My #1 this week is Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” It took me thirty-three years to go from “Crying” to “Happy.”
In 1981 I was a shy, skinny high school student who felt like he didn’t belong. I wished I was more popular but hard as I tried, I just wasn’t cool.
I worked to better myself. Gaining weight was a challenge, as was overcoming my shyness. To achieve the latter I ultimately turned to stand-up comedy. Getting up on stage in front of a group of strangers to express my thoughts was what I needed. It gave me confidence and got me an agent and positive reviews in publications including Backstage.
To gain weight I ate a banana split every night right before bed. I didn’t put on any pounds, but I did develop lactose-intolerance.
Eventually my metabolism slowed down and I filled out.
I also became successful in corporate America, most recently as the Vice President of Licensing at Warner Music Group. That shy, introverted kid made something of himself.
In retrospect, I’ve been cool this whole time. Perhaps my fellow high school students didn’t think so, but what did they know? I’m going to rely on the impressions of 16 year-olds as to my coolness? It takes more guts to be a non-conformist. I learned to love myself as I am.
Loving yourself is the subject of a few #1 songs of this date. There’s 1991’s “I Touch Myself” by Divinyls, but that’s not the self-love to which I refer. Lady Gaga’s self-empowerment anthem “Born This Way” topped my chart for several weeks n 2011. Madonna, Gaga’s spiritual predecessor, sang “You’re frozen when your heart’s not open” in 1998.
It’s now 2014. I’m unemployed for the first time since graduating college. I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been. I am confident. I feel positive and energized about my future. If I have to, I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am…happy.
Here is the chronological soundtrack of my March 3 journey from “Crying” to “Happy,” with videoclips for the two entries not available on Spotify.