Some years ago, I was sitting in the orchestra section of the Wiltern Theatre, pretending to ignore the barrel of the video camera aimed straight at my head.
The Cable Ace Awards.
The reason for my presence?
An HBO film called The Last Innocent Man.
It had received multiple nominations from the Cable Academy back in the days when cable programming was not yet eligible for Emmy consideration: Best Movie or Mini-Series, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Art Design, and best of all…
So there I was…in heady company: Sammy Davis, Jr., Raymond Burr, Ted Turner, Billy Crystal, Hal Holbrooke, Larry King, Bernadette Peters, Rod Steiger, and many, many others.
I was there, and I was ready.
Speech rehearsed and memorized.
Looking relaxed but ready to spring up and bound to the stage.
The writing nominees are announced.
A pause for the opening of the envelope.
The camera moves in close on me.
And the winner is…
Ted Whitehead for The Life and Loves of a She-Devil.
For The Life and Loves of a She-Devil?
I’d obviously been robbed!
I erupted in silent indignation.
Did I consider the possibility that I hadn’t deserved the award?
Are you kidding me?
No, I was clearly the victim of shocking bias on the part of the Cable Academy.
They obviously had something against the small but significant minority I represent: former DePauw University Professors of English born in Pomona, California.
How did I know?
Not a single one of us had ever won an ACE Award!
I suffered similar disappointment some eight or ten years later when my NBC film, A Friend To Die For, was overlooked in the Emmy nominations.
It had received fabulous reviews.
It had attracted the largest television audience of any MOW aired that year.
And it had gone totally unrecognized by the members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences!
Oh, it had starred Tori Spelling, and the producer had refused to spend a dime promoting it during the awards season.
But what difference could that have made?
Once again, I’d been robbed!
Not only had my film been overlooked, but my heartbreaking work of staggering genius as “The Jogger” had also been ignored.
I’d opened and closed my movie in a silent turn so dazzling that every actor who undertakes such a role in the future will, I am sure, have to measure his performance against mine.
Never has an extra contributed so much to a motion picture and received so little in the way of recognition!
The Television Academy was obviously as biased as the Cable Academy.
If you looked at the record, there was only one conclusion possible: former DePauw University Professors of English from Pomona, California simply didn’t stand a chance.
Twice the victim of Hollywood’s institutionalized bias against me and my kind, I understand Al Sharpton’s fury at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s failure to nominate the star and the director of Selma in this year’s competition.
The only possible explanation for such oversights is, of course, unrepentant racism.
Never mind that the President of the Academy is Cheryl Boone Isaacs, a charming, talented black woman I had the pleasure to know back in my day at Paramount.
Never mind that last year, 12 Years a Slave received nine nominations from the racially biased Academy members and won Best Picture, Best Writing, and Best Supporting Actress.
Never mind that Paramount, the American distributor of Selma, failed to get the screener DVD’s out to the Screen Actors Guild and the Producers Guild in time to qualify for their awards.
Never mind that the film’s portrait of Lyndon Johnson has been challenged by distinguished historians and by actual participants in the events leading up to Selma and to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Never mind that Jake Gyllenhaal, who gave the performance of a lifetime in Nightcrawler, and that Amy Adams, whose portrayal of Margaret Keane in Big Eyes won the Golden Globe for Best Actress, were overlooked as well.
As for those who have made the preposterous suggestion that perhaps the members of the Academy simply didn’t feel director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo deserved nomination…well, that’s simply beneath contempt.
Then, of course, there are those who ask how the membership of the Academy could be racist in light of the fact that they did nominate Selma in the Best Picture category even though they overlooked the director and star.
Clearly nothing more than the Academy’s shameless attempt to cover-up its appalling bigotry.
No, Al Sharpton is right to call an emergency meeting of his Task Force on Diversity to consider action against the racist Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
As the victim of obvious bias from both the Cable Academy and the Television Academy, I say to him, I share your pain.
Personally, I think Al Sharpton is a shake down artist. He will keep yelling racism and as soon as a company or in this case the Academy of Motion Pictures gives him some money he will go away. I wonder is Selma will win. Yeah, I feel sorry for the people who lose. The cameras will always go to the actors or others sitting in the audience and when the winners are announced the people who didn’t win have to sit there and smile.
One reason there were less nominations for that movie may be that are several biographical movies that are nominated.
I can not comment on the movie Night crawler because I didn’t see it. However, my husband and I did see “The Theory of Everything.” Eddie Redmayne gave an astounding performance as Stephen Hawkings. In last part of the movie all of his acting was done through his eyes.
I completely agree with you about Sharpton. He plays the race card to put himself in the spotlight and often hurts the very cause he espouses. The Academy affair is a perfect example. He had nothing to do with the making of SELMA and yet he’s positioned himself as its official spokesman, slurring the members of the Academy simply to promote himself.
Yes, Redmayne is brilliant–to the point that you really believe that’s Stephen Hawking up there on the screen. So are Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Keaton. The Academy has some hard choices to make.
This is an article about Al Sharpton and how he gets paid by large companies not to cry racism. Just wait the Academy will suddenly make a large donation to his group.
Don’t be sorry about it. Winning (or not winning) an award is no matter of quality. The jury may have… let’s say other obligations… or just didn’t understand it. Never expect other people having your skills because they’re in the position to judge your work 😉
Thanks for the kind words, Nicole, but the fact of the matter is that I never really expected to win for either of my films. I was kidding. The whole piece was an exercise in irony, designed to poke fun at Sharpton, his expectations and his accusations. I actually agree with your observations about awards.