The New Separate But Equal Academy Award Designed for “Black Panther.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced several changes this week including a new category; “Achievement in Popular Film.” If you think that sounds rather vague? A lot of people are agreeing with you. The Academy, along with ABC which is contracted to televise the Oscars through 2028, saw the worst ratings in the Oscar’s history last year, the first of the ABC contract. ABC apparently started discussions with the Academy the day after last year’s telecast. Among the changes the Academy agrees to was limiting the broadcast to three hours and moving the ceremony up in the calendar year. It is the new category which disregards quality, the base criteria for every existing Academy Award category, in lieu of box office receipts.

This comes at a time when the Academy Awards has received great criticism for it’s failure to honor a significant number of minority Actors/Directors which led to the #OscarsSoWhite movement beginning in 2016, which had considerable evidence for its claims. Also converging on the Oscar’s is the Black Panther film that is eligible for consideration next year and may well be the most influential film in many generations, featuring an almost all-black cast, writers and director.

Under the old rules, Black Panther might well have gotten nominations in categories like cinematography for its wonderful depiction of Wakanda and costuming for the Dora Milaje (female warriors) and other Wakandans. The rub comes when discussion comes of consideration of Black Panther for Best Picture, the top award of all.

ABC has it’s conflict of interest as it is part of the Disney companies that include Marvel Studios which made Black Panther. While wanting more popular films to be in the running for Academy Awards to hopefully improve ratings for the Oscar’s. It cannot have escaped their notice that some of the films that might benefit from the “Popularity” category in the future include Avengers 4, Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel and the next wave of superhero movies from their studios. But the existence of the category is all on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which is doing nothing to stave off another #OscarsStillSoWhite campaign.

The creation of a separate category based on popularity means that Academy members will decide which category a film may be nominated in with the near certainty that films will not qualify for both. Black Panther might be a shoo-in to win in the popular film category but also never have a chance to be recognized as the best film nor credited for being as good at the ultimate winner of the Best Picture Oscar. Many Academy voters were upset that, “Get Out” received a nomination last year for Best Picture though it had no chance of winning. Separate will no more mean equal now as it did for segregated schools in America’s recent history including some current Charter Schools under Betsy DeVos. While in future years the category could reward films with no racial considerations, it could just as easily become the Affirmative Action Oscar where films with minority casts and crews go to be considered, never having a shot at the real brass ring. The “Popularity Oscar” will be much like being named “Miss Congeniality” in the Miss America contest. No one will remember the winner, except the winner.

It is worth noting that Black Panther isn’t actually a “black movie” but it is one where a major studio financed a film with black themes, an almost all-black cast, and a black director, blowing up the concept that films with any of the above won’t be profitable, especially in foreign markets. For all of what it wasn’t, it did let us picture an African nation that was never colonized. We saw black leaders and a black militant who some saw as the hero of the film. It provided an opportunity for black patrons to amass in Wakandan and other African attire and was a huge source of pride. That pride should extend to the ability of seeing the film recognized as the Best Picture of 2018, not just one that sold lots of tickets. Let Black Panther compete against the best of the best, it will hold its own. Otherwise, it will become a Jeopardy question. Name the first film to win an Oscar for popularity? Should the film win in the new category, Disney will gladly accept it. I wonder what would happen if none of the black principals went to the stage to accept the back of the bus Oscar?

Why Nixon’s Pardon Set A Bad Precedent

The parting shot we usually see of Richard Nixon is of him boarding a military helicopter, hands raised with big smile. Coming from him, his hand gesture was far more likely a “V for Victory” as opposed to a peace sign which gained popularity during the resistance to the Vietnam War. His wife Pat had gone ahead, Nixon boarded and turned with his big wave, followed by his daughter Tricia and her husband. That morning, President Nixon officially signed his letter of resignation, he said good-bye to his staff, and boarded the helicopter with new President Gerald Ford and many officials on the White House lawn, waving him off.

Less than a month later, President Ford issued a full pardon for “any crimes Richard Nixon may have committed,” so that “the country may heal.” Given that precedent, the only deterrent to any future President contemplating any future crimes… is the embarrassment of having to leave office. Taking a nationally televised perp-walk, with all their wealth intact. What happens when the President has no shame?

Whatever you may think of Nixon, he did through his attorneys agree to accept subpoenas from the Supreme Court and handed over his secret recordings of conversations in the Oval Office. When confronted by Senate Republicans informing him he “didn’t have the votes” to fend off an Impeachment guilty verdict, he resigned rather than subject the nation to the ordeal. He ultimately recognized the authority of the other branches of government to perform their duties. With Donald Trump, there is no reason to believe he will adhere to any subpoenas whether to testify before a grand jury or provide any documents requested by the courts. The President has already nominated a Supreme Court Justice who believes a sitting President shouldn’t be investigated for crimes and gives wide deference to Executive Power. If anyone is relying on shame to deter any self-serving actions to avoid justice by this President, they must not know Donald Trump.

We keep saying in our country that, “No man is above the law.” There is evidence to the contrary that the very rich often avoid punishment for their crimes and the apparent guaranteed way to avoid justice is to become President. It seems clear that the Mueller investigation is investigating potential financial crimes committed long before Trump’s election. He has the taxes Trump never intended to show America, he has witnesses to the business affairs of the Trump Organization including secret tapes made by Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. There is documentation of Trump payoff’s to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen MacDougal. These are only some of the things we know Mueller has.

A man of few values that aren’t highly flexible, we know by his immigration policy where Trump has stripped children from their families, some permanently. Trump believes in the value of a deterrent. A world in which the worst thing that could happen is that he gets to play more golf and do less work is no reason not to commit crimes. There needs to be a credible threat of jail time for this and any President that commits crimes, including those committed before attaining office as becoming President shouldn’t become literally a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. It would also rein in Presidents that might consider committing crimes while in office. The penalty should be much harsher than no longer having to do one of the hardest jobs in the world.

In the event Donald Trump resigns, with the promise of a full pardon for “any crimes he may have committed.” He won’t slink off quietly into the next phase of his life. He’ll leave on a Trump branded helicopter, phone in hand ready to tweet divisive messages and ensure the good of the nation is not a consideration.

Changing Of The Guard

My youngest daughter has always been my greatest protector. I am not alone in that regard. Her brother was once involved in a minor traffic accident and from a thousand miles away she harassed everyone in the family until he went to the emergency room to get checked out. He was fine, except for the $200 deductible he shelled out but there would have been no peace had he not gone.

Her mother and I divorced when she was a preteen and sometimes I wouldn’t see her for days and when I traveled for business, up to 5–6 weeks. Whenever I saw her next she would always inspect me up and down, always noticing any new scratch I might have obtained since I saw her last. In those days I played a lot of basketball including in a church sponsored league where I often took her with me to my games. Despite the religious affiliations of most of the teams, many of the games were quite physical and as my team’s center, I received (and dished out) my fair share of contact. When one particular team which included their church pastor and several deacons, went too far in my daughter’s eyes. She yelled out, “Bow ’em daddy!”

Years have gone by and my daughter now has children of her own, demanding much of her attention. I was at the Birthday Party of her 1-year-old at which her 5-year-old daughter scraped her arm when playing outside and came in crying. I called her to me and comforted her, negotiating cleaning her wound first before applying a band-aid which she was convinced was “going to hurt.” The wound got cleaned and bandaged up, the crying had almost stopped when suddenly she noticed a cut on my thumb she hadn’t seen before. She asked, “What happened?” I told her I had accidentally cut myself with a knife cutting some peppers.

“Did it hurt?”

“A little bit, I cleaned it and put on a band-aid just like yours.”

“Be careful papa!”

“I will… you too!”

She got down and went back outside to play. My daughter never noticed the cut on my finger, something she wouldn’t have missed at one time. But her daughter had taken on the responsibility. Should any new injuries present themselves, there will always be some explaining to do.