And why does the Academy have such an issue with films featuring the lower working class like The Florida Project?
Seeing the character of Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) trying to survive in pastel coloured world of Sean Baker’s excellent The Florida Project, brought back a lot of memories of my own childhood and struggles growing up poor. Touching the edges of poverty, some months were good, some were tough. Of course, my own experiences are pale in comparison to the struggles that Moonee goes through, and the millions of other young children across the US and UK.
The Florida Project seems like a very relevant film, with the rise of poverty occurring in the UK and the USA. A recent study conducted by the UN found that forty million Americans live in poverty, nearly half in deep poverty. It’s an issue with affects many individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, age or gender. Shockingly, the United States has the highest child poverty rates (25 percent) in the developed world, which seems just so profound when you consider it’s is known to be the land of dreams. It seemed only fitting that The Florida Project would be set in a motel which was a stone’s throw away from Disney World. The place where dreams are made of.
The film has a powerful message, about discovering the beauty in the little details of life. It shows the determination that people have, and the struggles they face. Baker doesn’t shy away from showing us the ugly side either. It’s a beautiful, moving film. But the Academy seemed to overlook it, and the reason is because they are snobs.
I’m not trying to sound like a conspiracy theorist here. Yet I can’t help but notice that certain groundbreaking films are highly praised for addressing poverty and featuring working class. The Academy seems to favour films which deal with the middle to upper classes of society. Take, for example, how Saving Private Ryan, which featured a collection of mainly working class characters, was snubbed for Best Picture to the extravagant Shakespeare in Love. Which featured the elegant middle class.
The Florida Project has received only one Oscar nomination. Films such as Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, Get Out, Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird have all received Best Picture nominations. The pattern here is that these films feature very little to no working class characters. And I am talking about real working class characters who are a major part of the plot, not the ones featured in the London underground train to give Winston Churchill a prep talk.
The snubbing of The Florida Project hasn’t gone unnoticed. As discussed by Complex, the film should have been nominated for Best Picture for it’s ending alone:
That ending is some of the most heart-wrenching cinema I’ve seen in a bit, and without spoiling it, it definitely deals with issues of class and terrible parenting that will have you weeping.
I agree with this statement, the ending to The Florida Project was by far the most realistic and harrowing ending seen in film throughout 2017. In the last ten minutes alone we see all of the main actors deliver extraordinary performances, especially Brooklynn Prince who really captures the confusion and vulnerability of a child.
Many people seem to have reached the conclusion that the Academy snubbed The Florida Project because of it’s topic and the class of the people that it focuses on. As discussed by Esquire:
The Florida Project’s poignant exploration of white American poverty and the hidden homeless has been deemed less worthy – despite, one might argue, a recent election that showed the urgent need for America’s poor and downtrodden to be heard.
They argue that the academy seems to favour films that dealt with race (Get Out), homosexuality (Call Me By Your Name) and female empowerment (Lady Bird) because these topics are being heavily discussed in society. However, poverty and the working under-class is being somewhat ignored by the media. Of course, I’m not sure why this is the case but as previously mentioned poverty is on the rise and should be discussed more openly by the media.
Sean Baker’s previous film Tangerine was also ignored by the Academy. Tangerine was shot on an iPhone and follows the day in the life of two black transgender prostitutes. You can understand why the academy would be so wary to embrace this film which has such memorable lines like “Bitch, the estrogen has been kicking in, the only thing it hasn’t broken down was these fucking arms. Everything else on my body looks good.”
Tangerine is a film which shows very real and very un-PC characters who cuss and insult each other with every slur under the sun. Compared to a film like The Danish Girl which also featured a transgendered main character, Tangerine is a dirty smutty film which doesn’t soften its approach towards the subject and paints a realistic depiction of the transgender procedure. It’s also rich with sarcasm and catty remarks, perhaps this put the Academy off as comedies very rarely get nominated for any categories.
Aside from neglecting The Florida Project this year, the Academy completely ignored other films featuring working class / on-the-breadline characters such as Good Time, Beach Rats, Logan Lucky and Patti Cake$. All of these films received high praise from critics, but a personal favourite of mine is Beach Rats. It has been described by Variety as an:
Anxious, tactile, profoundly sad study of a young man’s journey of sexual self-discovery and self-betrayal
And makes a great double-bill with Call Me by Your Name. And what makes Beach Rats stand out is it’s female director, Eliza Hittman. It seems odd that Beach Rats like The Florida Project has been ignored considering it has a female director and deals with a similar subject matter as Call Me by Your Name. I can only have a stab at a guess why this is the case. And I believe it’s because of the working, lower income characters it focuses upon.
The problem is that Hollywood very rarely presents the working class, blue collar and low income individual accurately. They seem to present the working class as a negative thing, with character being poorly educated and lazy. Or they go the other way and make their working class hero a victim who is suffering from every prejudice under the sun. In an interview director Scott Cooper stated the following:
I grew up in a blue collar sentiment, but so often these people are stereotyped and mythologized in film. They come across as cliché.
It seems that Hollywood are conflicted on how to approach the subject of class. And as a result they ignore the redeeming qualities of the lower classes, the determination, the will power and the down to earth approach to life. All of these aspects feature in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project.
Simply put, the Academy are snobs and they have shown that they are out of touch with a lot of aspects of society. The Florida Project is a great film, a masterpiece if you will, and it doesn’t need awards to prove that. The Academy may have ignored it, but I will never forget The Florida Project.