Kanye West is no stranger to controversy. His music talent assures him hall of fame status as a hip hop artist. His marriage to Kim Kardashian is a thing of pop culture legend. And boy does he like to spread his opinion. And his opinions are … well ...

 

You see - Kanye West loves Donald Trump. His wife does not but whatever. There it is. But now, some of you are saying - “Why is this controversial? Thirty million white people adore Donald Trump.” There being, the rub. Kanye West is a black man who grew up in Atlanta and Chicago with a middle class family. Now he’s a filthy rich hip hop artist. So, obviously - there aren’t too many black hip hop artists that are pro Trump. Why is that? Because many can make the strong case that the modern Republican party doesn’t give a rats ass about people of color. Which is why the crushing, overwhelming majority of black Americans vote against the Republican party and voted against Trump.

 

Now, Kanye West, rightfully so, responds, “Whatever. No one tells me what politician I can or can not support.” And he’s right. Of course, he is also the famous musician who stood up in front of millions of viewers and said, “George Bush doesn't care about black people” during a live fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina. And he was right then too.

 

Which belabors the question why Kanye West thinks that George Bush doesn't care about black people but Donald Trump does. Jimmy Kimmel asked him this very question and West’s silence spoke volumes (Kimmel had to cut to commercial due to the silence). When Kimmel came back from commercial, West never bothers to respond and moves on to other topics. About three weeks later at a Chicago radio station West was asked the same question and came up with this:

 

“I feel that he (Trump) cares about the way black people feel about him. He would like for black people to like him like they did when he was cool in the rap songs and all this, and he will do the things that are necessary to make that happen because he’s got an ego like all the rest of us. He wants to be the greatest president and he knows that he can’t be the greatest president without the acceptance of the black community so that’s something he’s going to work towards.  

 

Um, okay. So Kanye's answer is - Trump doesn’t really care about black people except for their value as a prop to help him gain more power. Well, um, yeah, I agree with you Kanye! Trump doesn’t give a rats ass about black folks except how he can exploit that relationship for personal gain. Which means he doesn’t care about black people!  

 

Does West know this? Is Kanye trolling the world? Is this all a marketing scam to remain in the public eye? I mean, as long as he kicks the hornet's nest he sells more records?  Or something?

 

Maybe. But his love for Trump does seem sincere.

 

But that’s not all. A few months ago he said this about slavery to the folks at TMZ,  “you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 hundred years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you was there for 400 years with all ya’ll? (Kanye laughs at this point).”  

 

Now, I don’t care how much of a “free thinker” you claim to be, laughing that slavery was a choice is just butt ass stupid. Thankfully, the entire internet beat him up until he backtracked the comment.

 

And then, just last week he stepped in it again and tweeted a picture of himself wearing a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat and wrote:

 

“This represents good and American becoming whole again. We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love”  

 

Ugh. So much to unpack.

 

First of all “America becoming whole again.” This is a fine idea. And all good folk should want this. Better said than done, but still.

 

“We will no longer outsource to other countries. We will build factories here in America and create jobs” This is a fine idea but Kayne West is as fucking nieve as a tiny baby if he thinks his buddy Donald Trump will build American factories.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I know that Donald Trumps has said over and over that he will bring factories back to the U.S. and nieve folks all across America screamed, “Trump, Trump, Trump!” It was a main platform for Trump in the campaign. MAGA = bring American jobs back!

 

But guess what?  

 

Didn’t happen. Won’t happen. Not with Trump in charge.

 

The vast majority of Trump products are currently manufactured overseas in China, Bangladesh, Canada, Honduras, Germany, Taiwan, Mexico, Slovenia, South Korea and Vietnam. But mainly, in China.

 

Here is Jimmy Kimmel ordering a bunch of product from Trump.com and having a hard time finding anything made in the U.S.  But he did find some illegal product that violated U.S. import laws. So, at least there’s that.

 

In fact, back in July, Trump hosted a White House event to promote American made products and, as you can imagine - the vast majority of Trump products could not be featured at his own event that he hosted to promote goods manufactured in the country where he’s the president.

 

How bullshit is that?  

 

And you will still find millions of Trump supporting jobless factory workers from small towns all over the U.S. who have been financially devastated when a big corporation closed down the only manufacturing plant in town and moved it overseas to pay workers in Bangladesh ten cents per hour. These are the very same people that chant, “Lock her up! Lock her up!” about Hillary because of - I don’t know, something about her emails.

 

So, to be clear. If you approve of Trump because you think he’s the president that, as Kanye tweets, will, “Build factories here in the U.S. and create jobs” you’re only fooling yourself.

 

And finally we get to the last part of West’s tweet, “We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love.”

 

Abolish the 13th amendment? The, um, amendment that … you know - abolished slavery? West wants to get rid of that? WTF?

 

Well, as you can imagine - the internet went bonkers. Here is a rich, black man writing to abolish the amendment that got rid of slavery. Well, that kind of sounds like something a white, nationalist Nazi would write. You know?

 

Of course, West immediately corrected himself saying he “misspoke” and that he wants to “amend” not abolish the 13th amendment. Well, fair enough. This makes a bit more sense. His beef with the 13th amendment is with the “unless you are in prison” portion.

 

As you may or may not know the 13the amendment specifically says,

 

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

 

I added the bold, italic as emphiss. To clear up what he meant by the 13th amendment West later tweeted, “In order to make a freed man a slave all you have to do is convict them of a crime.” This, I feel, is a fair point. Kevin Dickinson writing for bigthink.com kind of agrees too in his very nice piece, Kayne West’s 13th amendment outburst was baffling, but worth considering.

 

A few points he brings up:

 

“Arizona's Tent City prison was infamous for its inhumane conditions. It was overcrowded, prisoners remained outdoors at all times in the Arizona heat, and many were forced to work in chain gangs for no compensation. Although closed last year, Tent City remained operational for more than two decades...”

 

He also talks about how enormous amounts of unreported rape happen behind bars and posits that this could be considered a form of sexual slavery especially if the prison guards know about it and don’t do anything to interfere. Well, the 8th amendment provides protection against cruel and unusual punishment. So, maybe it should all tie together and the 13th amendment could be revised slightly to end for profit prison slaves. Agree with it or not, it’s a fair point.

 

Of course, West doesn’t suggest out “how” the 13th amendment should be amended only that it should be. Which is fine. There are lawyers for that. But still I mean, that’s the whole point of the Constitution having amendments - so that it can evolve over time.

 

Okay. So, despite some of the crazy things Kanye has said in the past (and will say in the future), I’m giving him a pass on his 13th amendment tweet. I believe he honestly meant amend and not abolish.

 

But, Kanye - all that other “Trump is going to bring factory jobs back to the U.S.” - what bloody alternative universe do you live in, man?

 

Published in Opinion

The 90th annual Motion Picture Academy Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 4th, with show host Jimmy Kimmel leading the way.  Here is list of all the nominees. As someone who graduated from film school and freelanced in “the biz” on and off for twenty years, the Oscars once held a special place in my heart. I never cared for the glamor of it all, and “What are you wearing?” is the most vapid question I can think of. No, it was my pure love of cinema that drew me and forty million of my closest TV watching friends to Oscar night. And for a long time I believed that the Academy Awards always - got it right!

 

But now, “meh” - I don’t really care that much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch them. And then, like so many years past, will be unable to recall who won best actor, best picture, best adapted screenplay in, like, three months.

 

Perhaps the failing memory of age is why I can’t remember recent Oscar winners. Perhaps it is the dumbed down formulaic construction of Hollywood movies that make them all mediocre and there for - quite forgettable. Maybe it’s a combination of both.

 

I used to think the Oscars would go to - you know - the actual best actor, actress or movie - in each category. Isn’t that the idea? It’s just not true though, Academy voters rarely vote for “the best” of anything. Instead they vote for their friends. They vote for sentimental reasons. They get too get caught up in politics and targeted marketing campaigns sway their minds. Many voters don’t even watch all the movies that are nominated despite getting free screener copies of all of them. Many older voters don’t “get” movies that young folks make. The Oscars is nothing more than a popularity contests where, occasionally, and quite by accident - voters select the best choice in any given category.

 

Do you know how many times movies win the “Best Screenplay” award because voters are like, “I should probably vote for this for Best Picture but I’m not going to so I’ll just give it a screenplay prize.”

 

Do you know how many times an actor loses for a performance that should have earned them an Oscar only to win the following year for a lesser performance because voters go, “Whoops. I really should have voted for him last year - guess I’ll just do it this year.”

 

About fifteen years ago,  maybe longer, the Hollywood Reporter started a “Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot” column. Usually they would find four voting members of the Academy - an actor (or actress), a producer, a writer and a director. And, given total anonymity have the four voters say who they are voting for and why.

 

Here is this year’s, “Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot.”  A few samples:

 

Dunkirk looked great, but it was a little confusing, there wasn't enough of an emotional thread, and the drone of the airplane through the whole fucking movie just drove me crazy. For me it just didn't fully work.”

“... I grew to dislike Lady Bird because of its fucking social media campaign. They pounded the drum too much. They put a magnifying glass on everything — like, how they shot the scene at the airport in one take. They shot the scene at the airport in one take because they fucking stole it!” (“Stole it” means they didn’t have permission to shoot there and did it quickly before getting caught).

 

Talking about best director:

 

“Christopher Nolan got involved with a huge undertaking [Dunkirk], but he made a confusing film, so he failed. [Jordan Peele's] Get Out is well done, but let's not get carried away.”

 

And so on and so forth. To be honest, this one is a bit tame by previous standards. There is usually more swearing, racism, sexism, finger pointing and laughing at ridiculous nominations. I remember one year a long time ago a voter saying they flat out hate Jim Carrey and would never vote for him in anything he ever does. Ever. No matter what. Probably in reference to Man in the Moon, or Truman or Eternal Sunshine...

 

Um. Okay. But that kind of invalidates the idea that the Oscar goes to the “best of.” Sure, a lot of voting for a “best of” is subjective and your “best of” might be different than my “best of.” But much of it is objective. Consider this - who is the better actress - Meryl Streep or Paris Hilton?

 

You can argue subjectivity as much as you want but there is a quantifiable difference between the two and we know it. Now, if I were to ask you - who is the better actress - Tilda Swinton or Cate Blanchett - well, um … that’s a little more difficult.  And now who gave a better performance - Tilda in movie A or Cate in movie B?

 

We are now arguing degrees of 1% and in that scenario, coming up with "who’s better" is, frankly, kind of silly. But that’s precisely what award shows do. Year after year. Sometimes Academy voters get it right. Often times they don’t. I don’t remember who else was nominated for Best Actress in 2010 and I don’t need to look it up because - I guarantee you that each and every one of them gave a better performance than Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.

 

And it’s not because Sandra Bullock is incompetent. She’s not. She’s a very adequate actress. She has a lot of skill. She knows how to hit marks and find her light and says her lines. I certainly wouldn’t call her talented. Meryl Streep is talented. Sandra Bullock is adequate.

 

And Bullock should not be an Academy Award winning actress. But she is because she is very well liked amongst her peers. And when they saw their charming, lovely friend Sandra Bullock on the ballot, they overwhelmingly voted for her. Not because she gave the best performance of the year by an actress. No. They voted for her because they personally like her. A lot (and she really does seem to be a stand up person. I mean, did you even see her acceptance speech at the Razzie Awards for worst actress of the year?! You should). Anyway, her friends voted for her to win an Oscar because they universally thought, “When is dear Sandra ever going to get another chance?” Which means all the other great actress performances that year both nominated and un-nominated lost out to Hollywood nepotism.

 

So, while I moderately enjoy the much too long Oscar awards, and I’m occasionally surprised by a few excellent nominations and wins, I’m usually underwhelmed by the final result.

 

That being said, this year there really is no clear front runner. The Shape of Water has the most nominations and that usually means it will win the most awards. But the various end of the year movie awards shows have divided up the movies, actors, directors and screenwriters to multiple films and people.

There are also a lot of milestones to be seen at the Oscars this year:

  • The first woman to be nominated in the cinematography category - Rachel Morrison for Mudbound. (Although, hopefully Roger Deakins finally wins for Blade Runner 2049. Sorry Rachel).
  • The first transgender director to be nominated - Yance Ford for feature documentary Strong Island.
  • First black writer / director / producer to be nominated for all three in the same year - Jordan Peele for Get Out.

 

All great! Baby steps in the right direction!

 

And maybe this is the year where Academy voters honestly cast their vote without pride or prejudice. Maybe this is the year where they get it all right!

 

But I won't hold my breath. I’m now "Oscar cynical" enough to just expect that Academy voters will, you know - disappoint and get it wrong.

 

And I still do not fucking care what they are wearing.

 

Published in News & Information