ReasonForOurHope

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #7 - The Walking Dead

6 SEASON
(2010 - Present)

The Walking Dead title card.jpg

I could never have predicted that this show would have become the phenomenon that it is today.  Based on the Robert Kirkman comic book of the same name, The Walking Dead is a bleak, violent, and sometimes downright disgusting view of human beings put into the most extreme survival situations.  And while the TV show has all of those elements, it made the wise decision to focus on the heart of the human person: how it breaks, hardens, and is redeemed.

Set in an unexplained zombie apocalypse, the main hero Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his small band of survivors as they try to overcome the hordes of zombies and other maurading humans.  What could have been simple horror schlock instead became a show exploring the boundaries of human morality in extreme conditions.  This show is the Lord of the Flies.  It asks the question: "How far would you go to survive?"

And while that sounds horrible, and at times it is, there are moments of hope.  What makes this show watchable is that even in this broken world, there are those who try their best to be moral heroes.  I reflect on the difference between this show and Game of Thrones, which is also set in a dog-eat-dog world of Westeros.

There are no saints in Westeros.

But there are saints in The Walking Dead.  They are few and far between, but you can find them.  And just like the saints of this world, they are rejected and suffer for it.  There are no easy answers in The Walking Dead, but there are clear ones.  As a Catholic, you can find such wonderfully rich examples of morality.  Two come to mind at once.

At one point, Rick and Hershel (Scott Wilson) are made an offer to turn over one of their own to be tortured to death or face total annihilation.  At first they both decide to do it for the sake of their families.  But after Hershel reflects on the Scriptures with his daughters, he finds the strength to do what is right and not do this wicked thing.

That isn't to say that everyone is filled with faith on the show.  In fact, Hershel's daughter Maggie (Lauren Cohan) begins to feel her faith slip away.  But in one scene she confronts a priest who wants to die because he saved his own life and let his parishioners die.  While looking down on him broken on the floor he cries, "They're all dead because of me."  Maggie replies, "Yes.  They are."  And then she reaches out a hand and lifts him up.  She then joins him in prayer.  Notice the very Catholic view of sin and forgiveness here.  There is conviction in Christ, but not condemnation.  He has done something horrible, he owns it, and now forgiveness can take place.

Please don't misunderstand, the show is not particularly focused on theology.  And there are just as many dark moments (if not more) than their are hopeful ones.  But I cannot tell you how appreciative I am that this show takes faith and God seriously.  Some characters lose faith.  Others cling to it.  But no matter what, it is not simply dismissed as it is most media.  That alone gives The Walking Dead high regard in my book.

But from an artistic point of view, the show is also incredible.  It is richly cinematic show that pulls you into the world visually.  And notice its lack of music.  For most of the episodes, you will not hear a score.  The producers have such confidence that the visuals with convey the emotion of the scenes that they do not need a lot of music to emphasize it.

The acting is also fantastic.  It is amazing to see how the characters have evolved over the years and how the actors have made those changes organic and powerful.

TV THRESHOLD
"Pilot"
(1x01)
The first episode of the series set up the entire feel for the show.  It was scary and dire with action and lots of deep emotion.  I always remember in the pilot where Morgan has a chance to shoot his zombie wife and simply cannot bring himself to do it no matter how hard he tries.  At this point you knew this was a zombie show about the human heart.

JUMP THE SHARK
N/A

As of right now, The Walking Dead has not jumped the shark.  One of the smart things that the show has done is that it reinvents itself every season or so with new characters and locations.

WORST EPISODE
"Pretty Much Dead Already"
(2x07)
I can understand if someone watched the show and took this episode as their TV Tap Out (SPOILERS BELOW)
The entire season had been focused on finding Carol's daughter Sophia.  But the end of this episode not only revealed that Sophia had been dead the whole time, but that she was a zombie in Hershel's barn.  The level of despair that this episode has is overwhelming.  While the show never promises a happy ending, this was a real gut-punch.  And this was only half-way through the show's roughest spot: season 2.  But starting with the 3rd season the show found its way again.

BEST EPISODE
"No Sanctuary"
(5x01)
This episode has all the best and worst that the show has to offer.  You see the absolute worst in humanity, where people treat others as essentially livestock.  But you also see our heroes at their best.  Not only does this have some of the best action sequences of the entire show, but it still reminds us why we root for them.  When they come across a container where someone is imprisoned, some contemplate leaving it alone to save their own skins.  But Glenn says, "That can't be who we are."  That sums up our heroes.  This world pounds them down, trying to turn them into beasts.  But they refuse become that.  Yes, they fail along the way, but they never stop trying.  This episode also has one of the happier endings that the show has ever had.

OVERALL

The Walking Dead is not a show about zombies.  It's a show about the human condition and forces us to put a mirror up to ourselves and ask some difficult questions.  And while there is a great deal of darkness in the show, there is also light.  And the darkness has not overcome it.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Charity of the Month: Avila House

Front of the House edited
Hello all,

I know I haven't done one of these in a while and shame on me for that.

I would like to return to a charity that I promoted here last year.

I've written a great deal about the impact that Fr. Larry Richards has had on my life.

Currently he is fundraising to restore the Avila house as a retreat center.  I can speak from personal experience that religious retreats can be an opportunity for life-changing moments.  We should all look for anything we can do to make it possible for others to come to know Christ in a profound way.

You can read all about Fr. Larry's plans here.

If you would like to donate, you can follow the link here.

And as always, I will never ask you to do something I am not willing to do myself.

New Evangelizers Post: On the Necessity of Justice for Mercy

I have a new article up at NewEvangelizers.com.  

We have now entered the Year of Mercy, a wonderful year when we focus on the incredible love and forgiveness that Christ brought to the world. Mercy is a truly heavenly thing. As Shakespeare wrote, “The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…” (Merchant of Venice, Act IV Scene I)

And that is the mercy we find in the Gospel. But what about before the Gospels in the Old Testament?

A common cudgel used by secular society against the Church is the harsh justice presented in the Bible before the birth of Christ. Our opponents will point to God sentencing whole populations to death for infractions that are rampant today. What cities in the modern world could pass the test of Sodom and Gomorrah now? Capital punishment was enforced by the Jewish people for idolatry, adultery, blasphemy, and the like. The severity of the rules handed on by Moses sometimes appear at odds with the gentle forgiveness offered by Jesus. But the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. We didn’t get a different God with Jesus. And God is not schizophrenic. He was not all fiery and angry at first but then mellowed out for the Gospel.

So how do we explain the relationship between a God of severe justice and gentle mercy?
Simple: You cannot have mercy without justice.


You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #8 - Veronica Mars

3 SEASONS
(2004 - 2007)


It took me a while to begin watching this show.  I had heard good things about it, but all I got from the promos was that it was a high school Nancy Drew.  This concept, while somewhat interesting, didn't really appeal to me.  I probably would not have picked it up except a strange thing happened.  Even though the show aired on the UPN, it was owned by CBS.  And so one Saturday when there was nothing on I was flipping stations and came upon an episode.  This was especially strange because the show was only in its first season and nowhere near ready for syndication, yet here it was having its repeats aired on a more popular network.  

I only saw about 5 minutes of it.  But that was enough.  I was hooked.

The show revolves around teenager Veronica Mars (a breakout Kristen Bell), who works after school for her father, private investigator and former sheriff Keith Mars (a fantastic Enrico Colantoni).  This outsider uses her detective skills to solve mysteries surrounding her high school classmates, but this often leads to larger issues.  

There are a number of things that make Veronica Mars stand out.

1.  Mystery inside mysteries.
Each episode brought to Veronica a fresh mystery that would most likely be solved by the end of the episode.  But within that mystery would often be a little clue to a larger mystery that would build for the entire season.  In season one, Veronica's best friend Lily (Amanda Seyfried) is murdered.  This sets off a chain of events that sets Veronica as an outcast and her fathered fired from law enforcement.  As she solves the mysteries of her classmates, she finds more and more out about the events that led up to Lily's death.  The show does an even better job in season 2.  It was incredibly fun and engaging to watch all of the little mysteries add up to the bigger ones

2.  Radical Character Development
It is really incredible to watch the pilot to the show and see the drastic journey the characters make over the course of 3 short years.  Long-form story telling like TV or comic books allows such an opportunity to slowly grow and change a character.  Most shows are too afraid to do so for fear of alienating viewers from the qualities that made them connect to those characters.  As a result, they remain static.  But Veronica Mars allowed their characters to grow, evolve, and sometimes devolve.  This is best seen in Logan Echols (Jason Dohring) who went from a flat villain you loved to hate into the true heart of the show.

3.  Acting
As a show on a lower-rated network, Veronica Mars never had the budget to make most of its episodes look as polished as they should have been.  But the series more than made up for that with its actors.  Bell, to my mind, will always be a star.  Strong, smart, vulnerable, flawed, and heroic all come through her performance in a completely believable way.  Colantoni was a real surprise for me, having only been familiar with his comedy work.  But there was a strength mixed with kindness and danger that I have rarely seen in a television performance.  And I already mentioned Dohring who is so charismatic that even when he comes off as evil, there is enough good will there to keep you rooting for him.


TV THRESHOLD
"An Echolls Family Christmas"
(1x10)

I think that it takes about ten episodes to really appreciate Veronica Mars.  This was the random episode I caught on CBS that hooked me.  This episode revolves around a late night poker game where all the cash was stolen.  Everyone at the game suspects the other and the only neutral person they can turn to is Veronica.  Not only does she come through, but she does it in a way that drops the mic.

On top of this, the episode brings in some important elements of Lily's murder forward into the story.  It is really here that you begin to see the anthological and mythological elements of the show come together.


JUMP THE SHARK
"Show Me the Monkey"
(3x10)
This was the episode that jettisoned the year-long mystery.  Instead, the series resolved the main mystery the episode earlier and began another one.  But unlike years past where the mysteries seemed to develop organically from the story, this felt tacked on.  As a result the main series mysteries felt rushed and disconnected from the main lives of the characters.

WORST EPISODE
"One Angry Veronica"
(2x10)
Usually the writing for the show was very sharp and smart.  But this one felt forced and completely artificial.  While Veronica and her boyfriend were broken up, he impregnated another classmate.  That classmate wakes up from a coma in this episode and is desperate to not have her baby raised by her own parents because of their radical Christian beliefs.  Not only did this feel like a soap opera, but it also felt like an unnecessary jab and Christians.  To be very fair, there were many times the show could have taken the low and easy road of making devout Christians the bad guys because of their Christianity.  But to my surprise this was often not the case.  This episode was a regretful backslide.

BEST EPISODE
"Not Pictured"
(2x22)
This was the big finale to big mystery this season: someone caused a bus crash that killed many students at Veronica's high school.  Slowly over the course of the season the pieces began to fit together.  I cannot say too much without giving anything away, but this episode gave us an answer that was both surprising and inevitable.  The final confrontation was also scary, gut-wrenching, cathartic, and masterfully acted.  Not only that, but a dangling mystery from the first season is brought up in the end in a devastating way that could feel contrived but instead felt like an anguished character revelation.  If Veronica Mars never had another good episode, this one would be enough.

OVERALL
Ultimately, one of the reasons I love mystery shows is that they are the search for truth.  Perhaps it is the Catholic or the Philosopher in me, but I am so attracted to shows where characters are dedicated to the search for what is true no matter what the cost.  Veronica (whose name means "true image") is always looking for the truth, as should any honest person.

Those who are fans of the show are completely devoted.  It was a minor miracle that creator Rob Thomas got the show made the way he wanted and then even more of a miracle that he was able to make a feature film sequel.  I have always hoped that Veronica Mars would have a bigger audience so that more people can appreciate this little oasis of TV excellence.




Wednesday, January 27, 2016

TV Tap Out - How Far is Too Far?

On this blog we coined the phrase "TV Threshold" as a counter-point to "Jump the Shark."

A show "Jumps the Shark" when it reaches an point after which the quality gradually degrades.

A "TV Threshold" looks more to the ascent of a series rather than its decline, asking how many episodes into a show do you need to be before you understand the show's goodness.

But now I want to focus on something else, not the rise of a good show or its gradual decline.

I'd like to talk about the "TV Tap Out."

Sometimes I will be watching a series, maybe even for several seasons, but then something will occur on that show which will make me completely stop watching.

This principle could be applied to any other form of serialized storytelling, like comic books or a book series.

For the most part, this does not apply to how I watch movies.  I will often finish a movie, even if it has something repulsive happen in it.  I figure that since the film is so short (compared to watching a series), that either that horrible thing will be resolved by the plot or if not at least the bad movie experience will be over soon.  In fact, I've only ever walked out of one movie in the theater (John Carpenter's Vampires, in case you were wondering).

But with a TV show, it is a much larger investment of a person's life.  Time is life and the amount of life many of us, including myself, give to television is not insignificant.  The wastefulness of this is a topic for another day.  For now, let us focus on the significance of the Tap Out.

A few observations

-Tap Out events are completely subjective.  They are less about a particular artistic objection, but instead deal with a person's own internal taste.  You determine a "Jump the Shark" moment by analyzing overall quality.  Tap Out events are visceral, emotional responses.  They have nothing to do with a show's quality in acting, writing, directing or the like.

-If the Tap Out event happens late in a series, it has to be very strong.  If I have only started a series and it does something to turn me off, I can quickly turn away.  But if I have made a significant temporal and emotional investment in the show, I am more likely to forgive something as an uncommon misstep in an otherwise good show.


So what are my Tap Out triggers?

After reflecting on the times I threw up my hands and gave up on a show, below are my Tap Outs.

SPOILERS BELOW

1.  Heroic or Comedic Blasphemy.

If a character acts out against God or the Christian faith, it is not necessarily a deal-breaker.  In the context of the story it could be part of this character's arc towards redemption.  On The Walking Dead, Maggie comes to a crisis of faith and turns away.  But by the end of the season, she finds solace in praying with others again.  The blasphemy could also be done to highlight a person's badness.  On The Office, Gabe says "I sure as hell don't believe in God."  This statement is met with shock and revulsion and only underscores Gabe's emptiness.  On Dawson's Creek, atheist Jen gives a blasphemous eulogy in a church for her dead friend.  But she is called on this by her grandmother who points out that Jen was not being honest and helpful but selfish and hurtful.

But there are times when blasphemy is used for comedic effect, not to make fun of the blasphemy but to make fun of the faith.  My wife tapped out of Arrested Development when Gob made a mockery of the crucifixion by being bound to a cross in a church for a publicity stunt.

2.  Loss of Innocence.

I am more tolerant of immoral behavior in adults than I am with children.  That isn't to say that the bad behavior of grown-ups is excusable.  But there is something especially sad when I see children engage in morally destructive behavior because of the loss involved.  Adults have already made their choices that have formed a good portion of their character.  But when I child does it, my heart breaks because they cripple their spiritual lives, perhaps irrevocably.

At the end of season 2 of Lie to Me, the main character's 16-year-old daughter told him that she was sleeping with her boyfriends.  I never watched another episode.  On Modern Family, Phil found out that his teenage daughter lost her virginity to her idiot boyfriend.  Phil's response was to tell her that he respected her choices.  She smiled and told the camera, "I have a cool dad."  I soon stopped watching.  I enjoyed the first episode of Blackish.  But in the second, the mother talked about her son engaging in personal sexual self-gratification and she called it "adorable."  And with that, I was out.

3.  Abortion.

If a main character has an abortion, it becomes almost impossible for me to enjoy the series any more.  I've found this is more often the case in a comic book series than a TV series.  TV writers tend to understand that most audiences also react strongly to a main character engaging in an abortion.  If the dilemma comes up, both sides are presented but the main character usually chooses life, like on The Walking Dead.  There are exceptions like Maude and Scandal, but those shows already trafficked in controversy.

I can think of two comic book series that I stopped buying when a main character had an abortion: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Invincible.  No matter how much I wanted to get past it and continue with characters I had spent so much time with, I could not.

4.  Sexual Assault.

This isn't always a deal breaker.  It depends on the context.  Veronica Mars has a pilot episode where she wakes up from an aftermath of being ruffied and raped.  But since this happened very early on was part of the character's past, it came off as more of a tragic backstory than a story development.  But when it happens later in a series, it is much more problematic for me.

On Downton Abbey, when Anna was raped, it broke the spell of the show.  The series was based on the idea that the lives of the servants and the nobility are as dramatic as each other in different ways.  But once she was attacked, I was unable to care about any of the noble family's soap opera problems.  Game of Thrones also had this effect.  While there had been a number of sexual assaults already, the rape of Sansa was too much.  As a viewer, I had spent 5 seasons developing a strong sense of protectiveness for Sansa.  She was constantly in danger and had nothing to protect her but her wits.  But her violation felt like a betrayal to the audience.  Even the words of her attacker to Reek are addressed to us when he says, "You knew her as a girl, now watch her become a woman."  There was a sickness to that whole story development that gnawed at me so that I could not get past it.

----------

So those are my TV Tap Outs.  You may agree with them or disagree, but they are what they are.

What are yours?

Share in the comments below.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #9 - Gilmore Girls

7 SEASONS
(2000-2007)

File:Gilmore girls title screen.jpg

I am a gigantic fan of the Marx Brothers.  I have watched their movies dozens of times.  What always grabs me is not just general humor.  I am in love with their ability, particularly Groucho's, to speak a mile-a-minute presenting a lightning-fast wit with the sharpest of dialogue.  I have never encountered writing like that in television.

Until Gilmore Girls.

I had ignored this show for a number of years, thinking it to be another soap-opera, mother/daughter show.  And yes, the show has soap opera elements that revolve around a mother and a daughter.  But it is so much more.

Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino created such a lovely and strange world in her small town of Star Hollow, Connecticut.  The inhabitants were strange, but in a way that we could see our own strangeness in them.  And while they were all a bit strange, they were not flat.  Gilmore Girls gave humanity, depth, and dimension to characters who would never have had it in lesser hands.

The performances were also utterly fantastic.  Even with the best writing, if you cannot find actors to make it sing, it will land with a thud.  Fortunately the casting was great.  Lauren Graham was amazing as Lorelai Gilmore.  She is alternately funny, dramatic, sage, and immature in a way that never feels false.  Alexis Bledel also does an admiral job as her daughter Rory, the bookish girl who originally acted as a foil to her wild-child mother.  This show also had seasoned actors Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann as Lorelai's wealthy parents.  But the most overlooked and important performance was Scott Patterson as Luke.  There was a strange, hyper-reality that surrounds the characters of Stars Hollow.  But Patterson's Luke feels grounded in a way that is different from everyone else.  He adds a stable, masculine presence that presents goodness and decency as dependable and attractive.

Each week the show was sure to be a treat for all those hungry for sharp writing.  It did begin to decline after a few years with the devolution of Rory's character particularly.  But it still stood above most TV shows around.

TV THRESHOLD

"Pilot"
(1x01)

The opening scene sets up everything you need to know about the show.  The dialogue flies and snaps.  The entire episode is horribly charming as we are introduced to the main plotline of the show with the estranged relationships and the quirky tone.  From that first episode, you got the sense that you were watching something unlike anything else.

JUMP THE SHARK
"The Long Morrow"
(6x22)
Amy Sherman-Palladino's last episode on the series she created was like a gigantic middle finger to the show.  Being fired from her own show may have embittered her, but this episode is filled with bitter goodbyes.  It also has Lorelei make the most irrational and destructive decision of the entire series (which is saying a lot).  But it does so in a way that not only hurts the show itself, but hurts fans of the show who were emotionally invested in the story.

WORST EPISODE
"Last Week Fights, This Week Tights."
(4x21)
I almost stopped watching the show with this episode and it was over something that was unrelated to the main story.  Lorelei is on the phone with Rory and says that she just met someone whose name begins with the letter "J."  Rory's response is "Not Jesus!  I'm sick of Him and Mel Gibson."  In a show that had been generally respectful of religion (though it show's Rory's best friend's mom as a bit of fanatic), I was shocked at this outright insult to the faith.  And it forever soured me against the character Rory. It is fitting that this episode is the beginning of a downward spiral that eventually turns her into a homewrecking adulteress.  But this utterly pointless and hurtful line still stings.  I hated even writing about it.  The only way for me to continue being engaged in the show was to see Rory as no longer the protagonist but as the tragic villain in need of redemption.  Luckily, that is kind of how the next few seasons play out.  Rory comes off as entitled, selfish, and spoiled.  And all of these qualities lead to hurt and heartache in her life.

BEST EPISODE
"Bon Voyage"
(7x22)
SPOILERS
I am a big fan of finales done right, and this was a finale done right.  A great finale is one that gives you a proper goodbye to characters in whom who have invested several hours of your life.  It gives you a cathartic sense of closure and that is what this episode does.  It marks several endings and resolutions to several of the different relationships.  The performances and directing wonderfully reflect this sense of goodbye.  But for me, my favorite moment was between Luke and Lorelai.

 I often praise this show for its quick wit with a multitude of words.  But I love when a writer can capture the essence of a character in a single line.  When Lorelai confronts Luke about all of the hard work he did for her and Rory, he simply says: "I like to see you happy."  This has been his character from the beginning and it is the reason why they belong together.


OVERALL

Gilmore Girls is several types of shows in one.  It is a family drama, a romantic comedy, a coming of age tale, and a farce of social class.  But above all it was a show with some of the best dialogue ever written for the small screen.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Diversity and the Oscars

There has been a lot of controversy over the lack of minorities nominated for Oscars this year.  And then the uproar has gotten worse for those who are expressing their opinions about the lack of minorities.

So I figured what harm could I do by throwing my hat into the ring.

Now I know that some of you are of the opinion that this and all award shows are pointless.  This article is not meant to dissuade you from your position.  But for those who have enjoyed the Oscars in the past, here is my analysis.

The lack of diversity in the Oscars is a real problem for the Academy.  The only reason why this award has any cache is that it comes with it an air of respectability.  Nobody cares if you win an MTV Movie Award, but they do care about an Academy Award.  The difference is that the Academy built up over the years a reputation for finding and awarding real excellence in cinema.

But as cinema evolves, this lack of diversity is chipping away at this reputation.

And here is the thing: the racial component is only a symptom of the real lack of diversity.

The problem with the Academy is that they have developed a very narrow-minded view regarding what is and is not worthy of nomination.

The Academy is made up of people who have worked in the industry for a number of years.  They have to apply or be sponsored for membership.  But the fasted way to get in is to be nominated for an Oscar.  Part of the problem is that this leads to a self-perpetuating system.  The types of films and performances that get nominations lead to those new members nominating the same types of films and performances.

This leads to certain formulas to increase your chance of earning Oscars.  For example, straight actors playing gay is a huge factor (Tom Hanks, William Hurt, Christopher Plummer, Jared Leto, Philip Seymore Hoffman, Sean Penn, etc) or beautiful actresses uglyfing themselves (Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts, Hilary Swank, Marion Cotillard, etc).  The movies themselves increase their chances of winning if they are about the movie industry, Southern California, or are a bio-pic in general.

This narrowing of focus leads to a lack of diversity.  But this is not limited to race.  The Academy tends to close itself off to diverse ways of thinking.  I seriously doubt that 13 Hours will get a nomination, and even though American Sniper was nominated it won very little.  And despite the monumental cinematic and cultural achievement of The Passion of the Christ, it also did not comport with the Academy's limited scope.

And it can be something as simple as the snobbery the Academy has towards comedy.  Can you remember the last time a comedy was nominated for best picture or earned a win in a major category?  Comedies are a huge part of the cinematic landscape and they seem to be completely dismissed out of hand as unworthy of awards.

And then there is the problem of genre.  As the majority of the movie-going public votes with their dollars what movies they like the best, the Academy tends to staunchly ignore what is popular.  For example, Superhero films are one of the biggest moneymakers around now.  And yet none have been nominated for Best Picture.  This includes snubs against great films like The Dark Knight, The Avengers, Man of Steel, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Animation is also an incredibly popular film medium.  These stories not only employ incredible spectacle and imagination, but often they reach cathartic levels of emotion that many other "prestigious" films do not.  Yet only 3 animated movies have ever been nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast, Up, and Toy Story 3).

Action movies may not be "high drama" to some.  But can you deny that a great action film requires a strong, dynamic, visceral mastery of the visual art of directing.  And yet Michael Bay, John McTiernan, Tony Scott, and Martin Campbell have never been nominated in this field.

There are some times when they break out of form, this tends to be some kind of tokenism.  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is still the only fantasy film to win Best Picture.

 I do not mean to say that what is popular is necessarily good.  And I also want to make clear that adding nominations simply to bring in more diversity is not the answer.  Adding more diverse films simply to say you are more diverse misses the point.  Films should be nominated for their excellence not so that you can check off a box to make sure you have covered your diversity bases.

But this dogged refusal to recognize what is good because it is popular is detrimental to their brand.  The highest rated Oscar show in years was when Titanic was nominated.  The same thing applied to the year that TROTK won.  If you have no one to root for, then why bother watching.  As you know I see a lot of movies, and I've seen less than half of the movies nominated.

Could you imagine if Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens had been nominated in all major categories?  It would show diversity of genre (sci-fi), diversity of race (John Boyega and Oscar Isaac should have received nominations), diversity of directing (action instead of drama), etc.  And I guarantee it would be one of the highest rated Oscars with eyes glued to see their favorite movie win.

But that isn't going to happen.

By closing themselves off to their insular artistic and philosophical world-view, the Academy lacks the diversity to see some great art right in front of them.

And that is the real problem.