This Is Why the Academy Awards Voting Process Is Such a Mess


If you’ve ever wanted insight on why the Academy Awards voting process is so screwed up and racist, this insider commentary published today on The Hollywood Reporter explains a lot.

The essay is part of a series of THR interviews with Academy members that breaks down the Oscars voting process. Today’s piece comes from a person the publication describes as “brutally honest” and “a longtime member of the Academy’s 378-member public relations branch.”

THR also made it a point to note that this is “an anonymous female Academy member.”
It starts off with her addressing the year’s biggest snubs, which notably involves the omission of Selma director Ava DuVernay from the Best Director category (bolded emphasis is mine):

First, let me say that I’m tired of all of this talk about “snubs” — I thought for every one of [the snubs] there was a justifiable reason. What no one wants to say out loud is that Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there’s no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male, I don’t think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were. And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance — they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies.

Of course all snubs are relative. But this is a generally short-sighted view of how racism works (all hillbillies are racist?) and totally glosses over the diversity issues within the Academy. The Academy member also steers wrong by introducing the notion of a movie being “good” as the deciding factor in its nomination:

When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it? I’ve got to tell you, having the cast show up in T-shirts saying “I can’t breathe” [at their New York premiere] — I thought that stuff was offensive. Did they want to be known for making the best movie of the year or for stirring up shit?

Wow. In summation, most black films are not good enough and thus not nominated. It can’t have anything to do with politics, can it?
Addressing some of the rage over American Sniper, the anonymous voter defends the film, explaining:

American Sniper is the winner of the year, whether or not it gets a single statuette, because for all of us in the movie industry — I don’t care what your politics are — it is literally the answer to a prayer for a midrange budget movie directed by an 84-year-old guy [Clint Eastwood] to do this kind of business. It shows that a movie can galvanize America and shows that people will go if you put something out that they want to see. With regard to what it did or didn’t leave out, it’s a movie, not a documentary. I enjoyed it, I thought it was well done, and I can separate out the politics from the filmmaking.

So selectively separate the politics from American Sniper, but not Selma. Continue!

If you told me when I saw Boyhood that it would win best picture — or even be in the running — I would have told you that you were insane. Watching it, I thought it was ambitious and a directorial triumph, but the kid was uneven and Patricia Arquette probably was sorry she agreed to let them film her age over 12 years. I never thought, “Wow, this is the one!”

The rest of the piece is equally maddening and further proof that the Academy might want to be more selective in choosing its members. Here’s a sampling of her voting thought process:

Best Director: I’m voting for Richard Linklater. I think that what he did — as a “thing” — is extraordinary.
Best Actor: Michael Keaton because I love him and for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is he seems like a completely sane person who lives in the middle of the country and works when he wants to work. I’ve loved every interview that he’s done. He seems grateful, not particularly needy, and I don’t know when he’ll ever get another chance at this; the other nominees will.
Best Actress: I’m not sorry that Jennifer Aniston isn’t nominated; she was fine, but I thought her movie [Cake] was ridiculous.
Best Supporting Actress: I’m voting for Arquette. She gets points for working on a film for 12 years and bonus points for having no work done during the 12 years. If she had had work done during the 12 years, she would not be collecting these statues. It’s a bravery reward. It says, “You’re braver than me. You didn’t touch your face for 12 years. Way to freakin’ go!

Well, that’s how the Academy works. Whatcha gonna do.

Image via Rodolfo Arpia/Shutterstock

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