The 2011 Best Picture Oscar Lineup in Terms of Race, Class, Gender and (Subjectively Speaking) Quality

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | The Lost Boys February 22, 2012 at 1:24PM

Yesterday I took on this year's best picture Oscar race, concluding the obvious in its pathetic representation of race, class, gender and (from my own perspective, at least) quality filmmaking. To follow up -- and show in retrospect just how shitty this year's lineup is -- I've done the same for last year's lineup, which relatively looks downright progressive.
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Winter's Bone
"Winter's Bone"

Yesterday I took on this year's best picture Oscar race, concluding the obvious in its pathetic representation of race, class, gender and (from my own perspective, at least) quality filmmaking. To follow up -- and show in retrospect just how shitty this year's lineup is -- I've done the same for last year's lineup, which relatively looks downright progressive.

Yes -- there isn't a non-white character in any of the primary casts. That's a big problem. But there's also a lot of good news: Two films are directed by women; Four of them have female leads; The classes represented across the board... 2012 it is not. Though sadly, with this year's new voting system, something tells me films like "Winter's Bone" and "The Kids Are All Right" wouldn't have made the cut.

And it terms of quality, there's a few films I would have preferred didn't make the cut (namely "The Fighter," "The King's Speech" and "127 Hours"), but none of them are by any means bad films. 

Black Swan:
Directed by: White male
Written by: White male
Lead character: White female
Class of lead character: Lower middle
Is it at least any good? Yes. It's the kind of dark, challenging work that Oscar tends to ignore. I never expected it to go over as well as it did with them in the end, but I'm definitely not complaining.
Reductive letter grade: A-

The Fighter:
Directed by: White male
Written by: White male
Lead character: White male
Class of lead character: Lower middle
Purpose of most prominent secondary female character: Love interest and mother play equal part
Is it at least any good? More or less. Personally I wasn't as won over as many (I found it occasionally condescending and mostly conventional), but I'll at least agree it's a generally solid family drama with excellent performances across-the-board.
Reductive letter grade: B

Inception:
Directed by: White male
Written by: White male
Lead character: White male
Class of lead character: Upper?
Purpose of most prominent secondary female character: Dead wife
Is it at least any good? It's hard to deny the technical achievements of the film, even if I thought its twisty narrative was intensely flawed. Either way, was nice to see the Academy reward this genre and Christopher Nolan himself after "The Dark Knight" snub.
Reductive letter grade: B

The Kids Are All Right:
Directed by: White female (who's a lesbian!)
Written by: White female and male
Lead character(s): Two white females (who are lesbians!)
Class of sole lead character(s): Upper middle
Is it at least any good? Yes. A clever, affecting -- and quietly political -- family dramedy with pitch-perfect performances, it was a lovely treat to see this small film make the cut.
Reductive letter grade: A-

The King's Speech
Directed by: White male
Written by: White male
Lead character: White male
Class of lead character: As upper as it gets
Purpose of most prominent secondary female character: Wife
Is it at least any good? It's a great... TV movie. Similar to "The Help" this year, charming performances help it rise above its conventional, slight re-telling of "history." Should never have won best picture.
Reductive letter grade: B

127 Hours:
Directed by: White male
Written by: White male
Lead character: White male
Class of lead character: Middle
Purpose of most prominent secondary female character: Girl main character meets for like 20 minutes
Is it at least any good? Meh. James Franco is fantastic and there's some really great scenes, but overall it never quite won me over.
Reductive letter grade: B

The Social Network
Directed by: White male
Written by: White male
Lead character: White male
Class of lead character: Upper middle
Purpose of most prominent secondary female character: Ex-love interest
Is it at least any good? The general consensus is a resounding yes. I don't feel like getting into a rant -- one year later -- about why I fall just outside of that, but let's just say I didn't quite take to the film's third act.
Reductive letter grade: B+

Toy Story 3:
Directed by: White male
Written by: White male
Lead character(s): White males
Class of lead character: Middle, by way of their owners I guess
Purpose of most prominent secondary female character: Love interest
Is it at least any good? Yes. Not the greatest "Toy Story" (probably the worst, frankly.. but it had a lot to live up to), but definitely a sharp, heartfelt addition to the Pixar canon and a deserved nominee here.
Reductive letter grade: A-

True Grit:
Directed by: White males
Written by: White males
Lead character: White female
Class of lead character: Lower middle?
Is it at least any good? Yes. The Coens give us a focused and wonderfully entertaining new take on the comic western with a brave, empowered female character at its center.
Reductive letter grade: A-

Winter's Bone
Directed by: White female
Written by: White females
Lead character: White female
Class of lead character: Lower
Is it at least any good? Yes. With a starmaking performance by Jennifer Lawrence at its center, "Winter's Bone" is a stirring little film with another brave, empowered female protagonist. In retrospect, it's kind of shocking the Academy included it here...
Reductive letter grade: A-

So now let's compare (and for the hell of it, I'll add in 2010's #s without doing the full analysis treatment)....

Directed by:
2010 (8 white males, 1 black male, 2 white females)
2011 (9 white males, 2 white females)
2012 (9 white males)

Written by:
2010 (13 white males,  1 black male, 1 white female)
2011 (15 white males, 3 white females)
2012 (16 white males)

Lead characters:
2010 (7 white males, 2 white females, 1 black female)
2011 (7 white males, 5 white females)
2012 (8 white males, 1 white female*, 1 black female*)

Classes of lead characters:
2010 (2 upper middle, 6 middle, 1 lower middle, 1 lower)
2011 (2 upper, 1 upper middle, 2 middle, 2 lower middle, 1 lower) 
2012 (4 upper, 1 upper middle, 2 middle, 3 lower**)

Are they at least any good?:
2010 (5 yes, 3 mixed, 2 no)
2011 (6 yes, 4 mixed)
2012 (3 yes, 2 mixed, 4 no)

*-Suggests the arguable idea that Emma Stone and Viola Davis were co-leads of "The Help"
**-Suggests the arguable idea that the kid from "Hugo" is lower even though it seems in the end he's destined to return the the middle class he originally came from.


 

This article is related to: Peter Knegt, Academy Awards