So as you may recall a few weeks back here at 3WM we wrote an article, of the same title, critically analyzing the authenticity of the Oscar nomination process and its validity in the vast ever changing world that is film. I will be the first to admit that these theories and critiques were based solely upon our own skepticism’s and informed by looking at both the past and present nominated and winning films. This approach was of course a by product of the secrecy which shrouds those that actually nominate, the process of which is by definition not publicly available. This furthermore mystifying many of us as to just how so many great films seem to get snubbed and so many seemingly less worthy ones seem to win / are nominated in the first place.
Well that ladies and gentleman is up until now. Courtesy of Michael Musto and flavorwire, this interview with an anonymous Oscar voter unfortunately confirms all of the ignorant, misogynistic, misguided and contradictory things that go on in the inner circle of about 6,000 Academy Voters, of which 94% are Caucasian, 77% are male and that between them have “a median age of 62” (LA Times).
The interview starts off with a sentiment which actually gave me some hope. When asked about whether the scandal involving Woody Allen would scupper his chances of winning Best Screenplay and comparing it to the scandal involving Roman Polanski at the time The Pianist was up for awards consideration. The anonymous insider responded with:
“I’m not crazy about what he did, but on the other hand, you do a movie, and if it’s a good movie, it’s a good movie, and if it isn’t, it isn’t.”
That seems like a fair and balanced view, separating the personal controversies of the real world from the artistic intent of the film universe. However this idealist intention is then scuppered by his next thought, which, if I understand it correctly, escalates the matter into a personal attack on Woody Allen and gives confirmation that voters very much take into consideration personal feelings about those involved in making the films:
“I think some voters are not going to vote for Woody because of that. I know a couple of people who think he’s disgusting. He’s the most unpleasant person to work for. The assistant director tells you, “You are not to talk to Woody Allen.” Except for the major stars. One woman actor I know tried to approach Woody on the set and she was fired.”
Don’t be alarmed though, the personal gripes voters have with Allen won’t affect the chances of his actors:
“I don’t think so. She wasn’t there at the time. There are people that genuinely don’t like Woody, but it has nothing to do with not liking Cate.”
On the subject of American Hustle’s chances of winning awards, it wouldn’t have been right to leave out the brilliant Amy Adams, leading lady of the film:
“By the way, Amy had no boobs in that dress. A beautiful dress, but she’s flat chested.”
Aside from the fact that I couldn’t disagree with that statement more, what the fuck does it have to do with the merits of American Hustle and why, unless you have some form of turrets syndrome, would you bring it up in an interview about Oscar nominations? And so begins the rapid decline into unnecessary tangents which unfortunately reveal the deep dark layers of ignorance and idiocy within the ranks of the academy. On whether or not The Wolf Of Wall Street promotes “bad boy behavior”:
“I just thought it was a soulless movie. There was nobody to root for … It’s a promotional for this sleazebag, a person without a conscience who stole from poor people and never paid them back.”
At least this critique has something to do with the actual movie and not accessing whether an actresses breast size was adequate, but in a subtle way this sentiment is as horrifying as the previous. It’s the part where he says “there was nobody to root for” that I find most concerning. It is exactly this kind of old school idealism that is completely detrimental to what are hailed as the biggest awards in the film world because, from this statement its not that big a leap to assume that the people voting and nominating are stuck in some kind of ‘golden age’ of cinema mind set, whereby there has to be a hero to route for, a villain to despise and a damsel in distress in need of saving. This I feel is one of the main issues with the aforementioned voters having a median age of 62 and mostly being white men, but more on that later. When asked about the violence in 12 Years A Slave and whether that would impact votes, the anonymous voter responded:
“To some degree, it will [be a factor] because a lot of people call it “torture porn.” Too much torture in that film. Enough already, we got it, we got it.”
Right so apparently by the Academy’s standards, a film about slavery shouldn’t show too much torture so as not to offend the sensibilities of the voters. Not to mention the fact that it is very much through the depiction of such vile acts that makes the film such a powerful and important piece of cinema (read our review on here). If he were referring to one of the 20 or so Saw movies getting made twice a year, then yes I would say “torture porn” would be a very apt description, but not for a film which presents us with violence not to be gratuitous but to confront us in unequivocal fashion and to make us confront it ourselves whether we want to or not. Yes it is uncomfortable to watch such heinous acts but surely that is the point and one of the most important things about the film and about the power of cinema. And finally as he tries and once again fails to persuade us that voters are not affected by personal feeling toward an individual or swayed one way or the other by fancy luncheons, he said this:
“No. Zero. Unless somebody’s really nasty. You know who was really nasty? Hugh Jackman. He was at an Academy screening of Prisoners and people stayed afterwards for the meet and greet. He whizzed right by us. “Hello, Mr. Jackman.”
With his feelings clearly hurt he becomes further enraged by the fact that Wolverine wouldn’t give them the time of day:
“I thought, “He’s here with his peers, people in the Academy, and he can’t even bother to say hello?”
If only Mr Jackman had known he was completely being judged by whether he gave “people of the Academy” the time they deserve and that he should have been more like Alfonso Cuaron:
“When I met Alfonso Cuaron at the Academy Q&A, he was so down to earth and wonderful and so was Barkhad [at the Captain Phillips event]. Maybe in that case with Cuaron, if there were a thing between two directors, that would have tipped me over. He was so wonderful, gave each person a lot of time, and was so authentic.”
I’m not really sure what the authenticity of Alfonso Cuaron means let alone what it has to do with whether or not he wins an Academy Award for Gravity, but apparently this is a very big part of Oscar consideration. By the end of the interview Mr anonymous seems to throw caution to the wind with his feeble attempt at convincing us that it is only the merits of the films themselves taken into consideration, by again going off on a rather odd but revealing tangent:
“I love going to the lunches because I go to places I could never afford, but the important thing is the opportunity to talk to them. It’s the meet and greet, not the food. If they’re nasty, it does affect me.”
So there you have it an admittedly brief glimpse into the mind of an Oscar voters but a terrifyingly revealing one all the same, confirming what I have long believed but always hoped not to have been true. Of course this is just one individuals view but I can’t shake the fact that all the signs point toward this one man spouting the view of the overwhelming majority. These views may well be shared by a particular demographic of people, which is fine, everyone should be allowed their own opinions on film, no matter how ludicrous I think they are, others may agree. However how can we only have this small insular group voting on behalf of what was once the most sought after and prestigious accolade in the film world.
The system is outdated and doesn’t make sense in the modern day progressive and exciting landscape film presents us with. Why is it that a small jury made up of mostly middle aged and elderly men, who care more about their tender sensibilities being offended or what the juiciest gossip is, like 14 year old boys in a school playground, get to make these decisions. Why in what I like to think of as a progressive industry, which it still clearly isn’t, is there not a system whereby equal amounts of people vote from all demographics, be it by age, sex and ethnicity, to garner the full spectrum of peoples thoughts on films. Lets face it, it can’t get any worse than what this guy had to say.
Let us know what you think, whether the Academy system is one which is a Hollywood institution that should never be changed or whether it needs a big shake up to get rid of some of the cobwebs and bring in a new lease of life?
The Oscars air Sunday March 2nd.