Monday, January 27, 2014

Macklemore And Ryan Lewis Won On Talent, Not Race

Last night (January 26th, 2014), the 56th Grammy Awards aired and by the end of the awards, music fans were Tweeting/Facebooking/Myspace'ing (does anyone really still use this site?) about the performances, fashion, and awards presented (and the controversy).

It was a night full of collaborations such as the surviving Highwaymen with Merle Haggard and Blake Shelton and Robin Thicke with Chicago. Even the surviving Beatles teamed up with the surviving members of Nirvana. People talked about fashion such as what fetish like outfit was Beyoncé wearing during her performance and the various robot helmets of Daft Punk.

Like every year there will be debate about whom should have won certain awards and that is usually a matter of a music listener's taste and whom the listener is already a fan of. This year though, watching the news stations (local and national) and their music experts, you would have thought there was a robbery.

The rap album of the year was presented to new, indie artists Macklemore And Ryan Lewis. Other nominees included Drake, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West. As soon as Macklemore was announced, many news commentators, entertainment reporters, and fellow rappers started to fire away at the new artist. If they wanted to complain about their belief that one artist/album was better than Macklemore, that would be an okay debate in my eyes, but a lot of them turned it into a race war battle.

CNN had a music industry reporter who claimed that the Grammy's were racists because they always pick "white artists" to win the rap album of the year. In fact only two white artists/duos have won...Eminem and now Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The reporter went as far as to say Eminem is only an average rapper at best and claimed the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis aren't even rap. A Fox News reporter said Ben Haggerty (leave it to Fox News to use the artist's real name instead of stage name) aka Macklemore should be ashamed to even have accepted the award. Hell, it even was a trend on Facebook's new "trending" feature.

First off, this is ridiculous. At the very least Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are rap musicians. No argument. Secondly, they were one of the break out artists this past year, doing it on their own (indie style), and becoming one of the year's best sellers. At the minimum, they deserved to nominated.

Breaking off from the minimums, I will agree that debates can be made for one artist over another, but not because of race. Regardless of skin color, a good album is a good album. To make the argument that they only won because of race is absurd. They won because they made an album that many rap music fans loved. There is no "race conspiracy" in the rap genre. With rap being a mainstream style of music now, people of all races/ethnicities/cultures are listening.

One radio host even went in the direction that said that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis should be ashamed of winning the award "strictly" on their race and should give back the award. They cited that Macklemore himself sent Kendrick Lamar a message saying that he was sorry he "robbed" him of the award. This isn't evidence of their self guilt. Many times an award winner is surprised they won over another nominee that they are personally a fan of.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, congratulations of your awards you have won. You deserved them and worked very hard to get where you did. Don't give in to the pressures of people calling on you to abdicate your awards because of your race. You won your awards and not your skin color. If "white skin" would win Grammy rap album of the year awards, the Beastie Boys would have won a few by now (they've only been nominated once). Not everything needs to be such a controversy. Let an artist enjoy their awards they won. Hell Kanye didn't even jump on stage to argue this one.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Insert Actor Here Please

One of the more underrated roles in making a movie is casting. Many movies have been made because of a stellar performance given by an actor and many have become flops because of the lack of care or favors that had to be done in the casting process.
With comic book fans, especially before the comic book movie frenzy, they would debate who would be best in particular roles of their favorite heroes. Who would be best as Batman? Who would be the best Wonder Woman? So many opinions and yet, someone in Hollywood actually gets to play that role. Casting directors along with the movie director themselves get to play that almost fun role (although sometimes due to politics, might not be fun). Imagine if the Superman movie in the 1990's that was being led by Tim Burton, actually cast Nicholas Cage as Superman himself? A balding Superman with the personality of a door nail? No please.
Fans of novels get into the same debates, although not to the levels that comic books usually get. In the 2000's, Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" had such debate before Tom Hanks was chosen. Tom Hanks is a great actor and from a connections stand point, made sense as well since he has worked with director Ron Howard many times. Being a fan of the Robert Langdon character, I thought Johnny Depp would actually be a better Robert Langdon (he played a similar character in "The Ninth Gate"). The debate raged on recently as well for the "50 Shades of Grey" book series. Who would be the two stars brave enough to be open to play the kinky roles? Which guy would be the one to bring in the "mommy porn" lovers out of the home and into the theater?
Imagine how different "Godfather" would have been in Jack Nicholson played Michael Corleone instead of Al Pacino. Nicholson was offered the part first, but turned it down. How different would Don Vito Corleone was played by the movie studio's first two choices, Danny Thomas and Orson Wells? I bet it doesn't become the classic that it did.
On the vice versa side, imagine almost any movie Keanu Reeves played in. Now how much better is each one of those movies instead of Keanu Reeves? Keanu Reeves' only perfectly casted role was Ted from the "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure" movies. He wasn't even a top five choice for Neo in the "Matrix" movies. Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Kevin Costner (not kidding), Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Val Kilmer, and David Duchovny were all casting director's choices before they settled on Keanu Reeves. It's even rumored that before Hugh Jackman was cast as Wolverine, Keanu Reeves was the first choice. Horrible.
Movie casting doesn't get the recognition that a star actor, screenwriter, or director get, but it is one of the roles that can make or break a movie and should be recognized in a big, bad way, especially when it almost seems that a movie is perfectly cast.