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Sitting out the Oscars

Tobin Low Feb 26, 2016

The Oscars have historically been must-see viewing. Maybe you’ve gotten an invitation to a viewing party, read some of the numerous articles that have surfaced about who will take home the prize, or watched an interview with one of the nominated celebrities on the charm offensive to increase their odds. But this year, a number of events are aimed at decidedly sitting out the awards ceremony, due in part — in some cases, a very big part — to the Oscars’ now notorious tendency to ignore talent of color.

One event directly in competition is the All Def Movie Awards, produced by Russell Simons’ All Def Digital. Created in response to actors of color being shut out of nominations at the Oscars, the awards were taped Wednesday but will air on Sunday. As Variety writes, the All Def awards are unlikely to affect ratings elsewhere in a significant way, but that wasn’t really the ultimate goal. Categories like “Best Helpful White Person,” for example, make a playful, albeit pointed, statement about inclusion.

Elsewhere, in Flint, MI, an event featuring top tier entertainers will take place as a benefit for those affected by the water crisis. Organized by Ryan Coogler, who recently directed “Creed,” and hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress, the event features appearances from musician Janelle Monae and director Ava DuVernay. As Buzzfeed reports, organizers of the event say the timing is coincidental, with the end of February chosen because it closes Black History Month. Even so, there are interesting implications for the Oscars’ must-attend cache when some of the biggest talent in Hollywood opts for another event.

And April Reign, managing editor of BroadwayBlack.com, will also be skipping the Oscars this year — so will many of her Twitter followers. Reign is the creator of #OscarsSoWhite, which has evolved from a single tweet into a movement. Reign has been a vocal advocate for inclusion, and asked that people join her in streaming “The Wood” during Sunday’s Oscars broadcast — the film features an all black cast.

As Reign told Los Angeles Magazine, the hashtag has served as a “rallying point” for work that has been carried on by black actors for years.

Whatever it is you choose to tune into on Sunday, there are certainly more options than there used to be on Oscar Sunday. None are purporting to compete with with the awards for ratings. Instead, the coinciding events seem to be asking: Are the Oscars still the golden standard for the film industry, or should we begin to look elsewhere for recognition?

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