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David Poland

By David Poland

Excluding Voters: A Closer Look At One New Oscar Rule (#1 of ?)

Ten days ago, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences offered a menu of measures with the avowed goal of accelerating diversity in the organization. We should applaud the effort. But one of the rules strikes me as more likely to be unfair to current membership than it to create a more diverse, unbiased organization.

The plan to strip some members of their right to vote is loaded with unclear goals and genuine questions of basic fairness, regardless of whether people of color and women have suffered institutional bias from the Academy across the decades. If there is no intent to hold basic ideas of what is fair within this organization to bear, what is the point of this effort?

Also, by attaching the removal of voting rights to the idea of equality, The Academy misguided the world. There is no mandatory cap to the size of Academy membership.

If The Academy needs to strip votes from current lifetime members in order to get the numbers to seem more like “the real world”—even with an unlimited freedom to bring in more people of color and women by leadership fiat—then, as has been pointed out, there is an obvious industry problem greater than the number of members who are being expected to sacrifice their established rights, without complaint, for a higher good.

Yes, you can say that any white male member who leaves pushes the percentage towards marginally greater diversity. But at what cost? From anecdotal historical evidence, few members are as out of touch as hype-sters would have you believe.

But I am going to stop arguing about why this is so wrong.

I have been looking for objective data since this began. Of course, The Academy likes secrecy. They could crunch numbers and make them public if they wanted to demonstrate a case in a constructive way. But they have chosen, even as they have made some good choices, to spin rather than respond to serious questions that these actions raise.

I got my hands on a copy of the 2015 membership list of the Academy Writers Branch. So I started to crunch numbers, member by member, credit by credit.

There will be some imperfections. I do not have a list of those members who have already made the choice to give up their vote in exchange for not paying dues. One membership count that I have seen was 392. My list is 429 deep (not including two branch members who passed away this last year). If you see something that looks wrong, I will be happy to research the issue and correct.

It is also worth noting that vague elements of this new rule could make my analysis incorrect. For instance, what is “Active In The Film Industry?” Does development count? Do films that end up being released on TV or on DVD/streaming-only count? What is the cut off for 2006 work? If you work over 30 years, but the decade in the middle has no credits, does it count towards the “three-decade” rule? Someone threatened might suddenly get a project going, etc.

I expect to run similar analysis of other branches in the weeks to come. Please feel free to contribute your branch’s membership list to the effort if you are interested. I would never ask this of anyone under any other circumstance. I don’t believe that media outlets should have these lists… because they will used almost exclusively to solicit members for no purpose other than generating revenues. Not my interest. I just want to be able to produce objective analysis.

Again… The Academy could crunch these numbers a lot faster and with greater complexity than me, doing in days what will take me weeks or months. But have you heard any supporting stats from The Academy on this? No. Why? You tell me.

I am not going to call out the “safe” members who I think are suspect. One, for instance, was invited into The Academy 6 years after their last produced film credit. I assume this was under 2020. I am not here to tear down 2020. But when 2020 is attached to the removal of other members, it becomes something less hopeful and celebratory. It becomes part of an exclusionary process.

Now to the branch analysis…

The Writers branch membership broke cleanly into four groupings, as laid out by The Academy in its explanation of the new rule.

105 members have been nominated for, or won Oscars, and are either working now or have had credits in the most recent decade. These are the unassailable members.

124 members have been nominated or won, but have not worked on produced films in the last 10 years.

116 members are working or have worked in the industry in the last 10 years, but have never been nominated.

The last group of 82 are the ones under threat from this new rule.

26 of these members fit under what The Academy has defined as an exception to the rule of working currently. These members have credits in three separate decades, but have not been credited for produced films in over a decade. These members are no longer under threat.

Two members’ histories are too unclear to make a call about what category to place them are in. I don’t have the needed details.

This leaves 54 members under threat of losing the vote.

Some of these members may, I should remind, be saved by projects that didn’t get made, but were legitimately in process in other decades. It is impossible to say what The Academy will hold as their standard. (Rumors are that there is already a plan a foot to investigate every never-nominated member for a more subjective set of qualifications… but this is a rumor. The idea of The Academy investigating members is well past scary and inappropriate.) They could also appeal to their branch leadership and keep their vote that way.

There are very few cases of members who have gotten in by what seems to be a reach. The Academy is a country club of industry success. It always has been. And it always will be. That, like it or not, is it’s power… and why so many want to feel included as part of this particular group.

There is only one member of this group of 54 who seems to be there exclusively because of “cronyism.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE, 2/8/16: The following is what was originally published –

That crony is Jane-Howard Hammerstein (aka Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein III, daughter-in-law of Oscar II, aka the one you know). She’s no slouch. But her accomplishments (including an Emmy nomination) were in television.

It has been pointed out by a reader than Mrs. Hammerstein wrote with Robert Carrington under the name Jane-Howard Carrington in the 1960s. Not only wrote, but she and her partner wrote the adapted screenplay of Wait Until Dark, a classic thriller that brought an Oscar nomination for Audrey Hepburn, and the Warren Beatty-starrer Kaleidoscope. This is likely when she entered The Academy. She would still be under threat, but she would not be a “crony” entry by any means.)

There does seem to be a history of couples joining The Academy together, even if one was not accomplished in film. But most of those who came in this way are long gone.

I might also point out at this point that 27 of the 123 members who were Oscar nominated or won would never in their careers get credit for any more than three screenplays in total. (14%) This is true of 15 of the 54 members being threatened with the loss of the vote. (27%) So are the nominees a better group overall than the Gang of 55? Yes. I guess. We can try another stat… Nine Oscar winners in the Writers Branch won for their ONLY film script ever. The only example of this in the Gang of 54? Ms. Hammerstein…

And now, a list of 54 films from the Gang of 54…

3 Men & A Baby
Addams Family Values
Autumn Leaves
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
Carnal Knowledge
Cat People
Cutter’s Way
Dirty Dancing
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Down & Out in Beverly Hills
Eyes of Laura Mars
Frankie and Johnny
Goin’ South
Heartbreak Ridge
High Anxiety
How To Make An American Quilt
In & Out
Indecent Proposal
Life of Brian
Monty Python and The Holy Grail
Moscow on The Hudson
Mystic Pizza
My Cousin Vinny
Naked Gun
Peggy Sue Got Married
Rich & Famous
Ruthless People
Sleepless in Seattle
Smokey & The Bandit
Sons of Katie Elder
Space Jam
Start The Revolution Without Me
Street Smart
Sugarland Express
The Jerk
The Lion King
They Call Me Mr. Tibbs
Thomas Crown Affair
Trading Places
Wall Street
You’ve Got Mail

Not a shabby list, eh?

You want comedy greats? You got Jerry Zucker, Carl Gottleib, Jules Feiffer, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Michael Elias, amongst others.

Disney folks? Noni White, Bob Tzudiker, Andrw Marlowe and Malcolm Marmorstein.

You want playwrights? Lyle Kessler, Terrence McNally, Ron Clark, David Rabe.

Career-makers or Oscar launchers? Danilo Bach (Beverly Hills Cop), Hal Barwood (Sugarland Express), David Freeman (Street Smart), Stanley Weiser (Wall Street), and Raphael Yglesias (Fearless).

A survivor of the blacklist? Jean Rouverol Butler and her husband, was also a screenwriter, who had to flee to Mexico and used fronts to work.

Three members in this group made their last movie in the 1960s. There are five who have no credits beyond the 1970s. Fifteen in the 1980s. That’s not half the group. Movies made in the 90s? It’s not recent, but they can feel current. Time is not always the best measure of cultural significance, whether we’re looking at The Lion King or Jaws, Dirty Dancing or many of the other titles listed above.

Will it really make anyone feel better to be rid of the woman who wrote Gidget or the guy who wrote a bunch of Elvis movies or the team that wrote a lot of TV and a couple of movies, but somehow got into The Academy, or the woman who just won her third Emmy for “Olive Kitteridge”? It’s a conversation.

But the majority of writers in the Gang of 54 have penned movies that I have happily watched multiple times. They may not be the Clever New Kids, but they aren’t deadbeats, hanging on to the one last thing of value in their lives. Most have done great work. A few are legends.

More to come…

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43 Responses to “Excluding Voters: A Closer Look At One New Oscar Rule (#1 of ?)”

  1. YancySkancy says:

    Maybe it’s also worth pointing out that, with or without the votes of these specific people, the writing categories invariably produce a more varied, “progressive” set of nominees. I mean, at least they got Straight Outta Compton into the Oscar race (and do we really think that many of those voters knew that all the writers of that film were white?). Over the last few years, the writing categories have often been the only recognition given to such films as Ghost World, Talk to Her, Dirty Pretty Things, American Splendor, The Squid and the Whale, Borat, Lars and the Real Girl, The Savages, Frozen River, In Bruges, In the Loop, Another Year, A Separation, Moonrise Kingdom, Inherent Vice, Nightcrawler, etc. Few of these titles go to the diversity issue, but FWIW, Philippa Boyens, Sofia Coppola, Diana Ossana, Geoffrey Fletcher, John Ridley, Diablo Cody and the team from Birdman were all winners in that same time period.

    For the life of me, I don’t know why the Academy added this voting rule to their diversity initiative. It will probably end up affecting a fairly negligible percentage of the voting body, who will be rightly pissed about being disenfranchised after years of service. The drive to add more diverse new members should be sufficient to fix the problem, even if it takes a year or two to be apparent.

  2. leahnz says:

    “years of service”, yancy? please. this whole thing is getting ridiculous. they changed the voting rules in an attempt to modernise, it’s been done before, it’ll probably be done again. academy voting is not some human rights issue, and they appear to have gone out of their way to make exceptions. having voting PRIVILEGES removed probably doesn’t feel very good and whether it will be effective is not known, but it’s a step that effects all voting members uniformly according to set criteria.

  3. YancySkancy says:

    I don’t mean to frame it as a human rights issue; more one of common courtesy. These folks were invited in, pay their dues, cast their ballots, may possibly be involved in the Academy’s other programs (Student Oscars, Nicholls Fellowship, the library, the film archive), etc. I know voting privileges have been changed before — I’d be interested to see how many members, of any age or gender, would be on board if this new rule were the same as the 1970 change, which demoted you to non-voting “associate” status if you were inactive in the biz for a mere seven years. But regardless of good intentions, this new change can’t help but smack of ageism, with convoluted and unclear rules in service of disenfranchising a few hundred aging voters who, not to be morbid, would frankly be transitioning out of the voting pool by more natural means soon enough anyway. Given that, I’m not sure why the Academy doesn’t wait and see how adding more diversity works before it starts alienating members who haven’t been proven to be doing anything wrong.

  4. Corey says:

    For the record, I would be outraged if “the woman who just won her third Emmy for Olive Kitteridge” aka Jane Anderson aka a tremendous talent and strong female/queer storyteller was stripped of her vote.

  5. Bob Burns says:

    Good lord, what an entitlement mentality!

    They had the privilege of voting for Academy Awards for decades, now maybe, they don’t. So what?

    Let these awful people think what it would be like to put things they want on layaway at Target because they don’t have money for rent.

  6. Daniella Isaacs says:

    “These awful people?” Jesus. You make it sound like they’re politicians who knowingly let Flint residents drink contaminated water. Any you might want to ask yourself, Bob, just how financially secure these elderly voters who haven’t worked for years actually are. I’d wager that for some of them a voting membership in the academy is the one thing of value they have in their lives. Eh, but let’s just kick em to the curb to try to nip a protest in the bud.

  7. msd says:

    According to the FAQ page, work isn’t limited to the branch you were invited into …

    I think this means Idle and Palin’s acting credits count, Jerry Zucker’s producing credits count etc.

  8. Bob Burns says:

    awful for all the whining. awful for their outrageous sense of entitlement.

    Somebody writes a screenplay, or five, and they are entitled to a lifetime of extraordinary respect for their opinions?

    Let them write a screenplay about how they were oppressed by the Academy for putting a time limit on their Oscar voting privileges. They could call it “Spotlight 2, Voterape!”

    Of all the problems in the world, this is number two billion, or higher, on any reasonable person’s list.

    Shame, shame, shame.

  9. Daniella Isaacs says:

    You’re right, Bob. These are minor issues in the larger scheme of things, so why are you even here reading these articles about a silly awards show? Shouldn’t you be on a hunger strike somewhere for #Blacklivesmatter? I know that sounds harsh, but by your logic one could shut up anyone complaining about virtually anything by saying “could be worse. You could be in a concentration camp somewhere.”

  10. David Poland says:

    Leah… the problem with the rule as currently proposed is that it does NOT effect all voting members uniformly according to set criteria. The criteria are ambiguous in many ways and more importantly, do not have a clear, consistent goal. Your argument about why all these people (including many women) should just stop complaining has merit… but does it really speak to fairness regarding this specific rule within an organization that is the country club that it is and intends to remain a country club, only with more reasonable demographics?

  11. David Poland says:

    Bob – If you are invited into an organization under a set of rules that guides the organization, do you have the right to complain if those rules are changed in an unclear, unfocused way that removes something you value (and pay for annually)?

    This, for me, is at the core of the discussion. Your argument is not unreasonable on its face. But these people, most of whom will die in the next 15 years, were invited into the organization and given the entitlement of lifetime membership. I see no problem with changing that permanantly… but not by making it retroactive in some claim of fairness.

    As to the importance of the issue… it is a silly argument. By that argument, there should be no effort to make any changes at AMPAS at all, including any diversity push.

  12. David Poland says:

    Interesting… they have added to the FAQ. Of course, these details are being made up as they go along, not voted on by the board or anyone else.

  13. msd says:

    The info about it not being limited to work in your branch was in the Jan 25 FAQ they put out.

    Saying “active in the film industry” when they first announced changes on Jan 22 was far too vague, it should have been made clear at the beginning. I’m not surprised some members panicked and thought they’d be out. The focus seems to be quite narrow, though; targeted at people who left the industry for good years ago or were only in it briefly, also years ago.

  14. Movielocke says:

    The rule changes to go to varying numbers of nominees was targeted at one branch, animation. I imagine this rule change is also targeted at particular branches, they just can’t say so. There has never been a female cinematographer nominated. That’s the only category that is true in. And when was the last non white or non Asian cinematographer nominated again? They’re not going after the writers, you’re barking up the wrong branch of the tree on this category. They’re going after old male actors like that dope from the godfather whose screener were pirated. Old male actors, old male craft category personnel and the bill cosby esque producers and directors are the likely targets.

  15. YancySkancy says:

    Yeah, but they’re shooting those targets with buckshot that hits a lot of innocent bystanders. Of course the world won’t end because a few hundred older people lose their Oscar voting privileges, but I fail to see why they should be happy or even complacent about it. Or why they might be “awful” for being upset.

  16. Glenn Dunks says:

    Yes, I believe the FAQ sent out means that you can be teaching or even working within TV to classify as still active. In the case of Jane Alexander, I doubt anybody in the writer’s branch would say she isn’t active in her profession, and its the branch governers themselves that decide, I think.

    But, you know what, in the case of, say, Carl Gottlieb? His last produced screenplay was JAWS 3D in 1983. And you mention Stanley Weisler. He wrote W., which was his first cinema screenplay since Wall Street.

  17. YancySkancy says:

    Jane Anderson, you mean?

  18. Geoff says:

    Sorry but you can change the rules of an organization when the members of that organization have FAILED in how they represent that organization plain and simple.

    If an older white male who has not written a screenplay in more than 20 years is going to be too conservative to consider voting for a nomination for a Michael B. Jordan, Oscar Isaac, or Jason Mitchell….then that voter is not only misrepresenting the film industry, but he is also denying more opportunities to those who look different from him. People forget that Oscar and Oscar nominations can make or break careers, potentially creating new opportunities for those who receive them – EVERY talent agent out there is in a much better position to get better gigs for his or her client if they are “Oscar-nominated.” Unfair or not, a PRIVATE organization can change its rules to ensure more progress – these Academy members are not losing benefits, they are potentially losing the privilege to vote for an award, that’s it.

  19. pat says:

    It’s true. Oscar wins really can break careers. Look at the best supporting actress winners from the past twenty years.

  20. Hallick says:

    “It’s true. Oscar wins really can break careers. Look at the best supporting actress winners from the past twenty years.”

    Which is funny, because it’s so much more the opposite for Best Supporting Actor winners in the last 20 years (AND Best Actress winners, for that matter). It’s the Oscars’ version of the Grammys’ Best New Artist award.

  21. brack says:

    This does reek of ageism. How does getting rid of these “inactive” members going to change who or what is nominated exactly? Some of these people may even have the time to actually watch the films nominated, but no one wants to consider that notion I guess. But whatever, out with the old, in with the “equality.”

  22. js partisan says:

    Okay, the previous version of this may have been too harsh, because this is a very weird fucking thing the Academy finds itself in. It has a very old, white, and male voting block, that doesn’t seem to get how being old, white, and male is no longer a “thing.” It’s fucking ridiculous, and the Academy has to cut them loose to save the show.

    Seriously, the Oscars brings home the bacon, and if the Oscars come across as out of touch. Which they do. The Academy has to fucking change the playing field, to make sure the gravy train doesn’t derail off the tracks.

    Is it ageism? Probably, but these same people are responsible for more than a decades worth of questionable decisions, and now they have MUST GO. If they cared so much about their voting privileges in the first place. They sure as fucking wouldn’t have given a BEST PICTURE AWARD TO THE GOD DAMN ARTIST, and ignored all of the media TWO YEARS IN A ROW!

  23. brack says:

    I haven’t seen even seen The Artist, but it was overwhelmingly well received by film critics and won so many other awards outside of the Oscars, so I don’t see The Artist as a terrible choice for BP on the surface. Maybe I’ll see it someday, but I am in no hurry to do so, so I’m definitely giving you the benefit of the doubt, and I ended up seeing many more of the nominated films and liking those. I still think Gladiator winning BP is the most embarassing thing in the last 15 years. It was a only okay.

  24. YancySkancy says:

    Geoff wrote: “If an older white male who has not written a screenplay in more than 20 years is going to be too conservative to consider voting for a nomination for a Michael B. Jordan, Oscar Isaac, or Jason Mitchell….then that voter is not only misrepresenting the film industry, but he is also denying more opportunities to those who look different from him.”

    First off, writers don’t nominate actors. Secondly, how in the heck do you know who any individual member voted for? Thirdly, how do know they didn’t “consider” voting for nonwhite actors? Fourth, since when is the lack of an Oscar nomination considered a denial of opportunity (most actors never get nominated). Fifth, what about all the older nonwhite actors who could lose their vote, like 78-year-old Robert Hooks? Is he part of the problem? Or just collateral damage?

  25. brack says:

    Stop with your rational arguments Yancy, it has no place here. Kill whitey is the only reasonable action.

  26. jepressman says:

    Sorry but Gladiator is a fine film,and Crowe created an iconic character,and the movie has been influential. It is still a popular film,which a whole lot of folks see as a negative. There have been some dramatic duds over the last ten years,nominees and BP winners,that is the direction the Oscars have been going.

  27. palmtree says:

    I thought AO Scott nailed this entire issue in his recent Slate interview. It’s not that black people need nominations, it’s that there is an “ideology of prestige” which is a liberal perspective, yes, but is still steeped in tokensim.

  28. VickiH says:

    Who is right in regards to who is ultimately nominated? There five slots in each of the acting categories. Five slots means there will be a lot of actors who do not get nominated. There are people who feel that Michael B. Jordan or Idris Elba should have been nominated in the Best Actor category. Who do you replace of the current nominees?

    I have read discussions about Straight Out of Compton. I have seen opinions ranging from it should have been nominated to it was rightfully not nominated. Who is right? Both, because it is a subjective opinion.

    Art isn’t like sports which is pretty cut and dried. You have a winner and a loser and no disputing the outcome. But art is subjective and no one’s opinion is any more right or wrong than any other person’s opinion.

    I don’t know what the right thing is for the Academy to do or even whether they should do anything beyond adding to their membership to create an influx of younger voices to balance out the older voices. Or you enact new rules altogether making the membership not a lifetime privilege but rather something that has to be renewed every so many years with the clause that existing members are grandfathered in?

  29. Geoff says:

    Yeah Yancy and Brack, REAL rational. Not to get too political here, but here are the two highest voted nominees from the Iowa Republican Caucuses which likely had a very similar demographic make-up to the Academy: Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Those are the “rational” choices when most of your voters are older white men. 😉

  30. Monco says:

    So “older white men” vote for a hispanic Cuban americn and young (white) college kids vote for a 74 year old white guy. What point are you trying to make again?

  31. YancySkancy says:

    Geoff: You either didn’t read what I wrote or didn’t understand it. You didn’t refute any of my points.

    By the way, didn’t the Academy have the same older white male demographic in all those recent years in which numerous nonwhite performers racked up nominations and wins? Did the old white dudes only become “irrational” in the last two years?

  32. palmtree says:

    Yancy, seriously read the interview with AO Scott that I posted above. He explains why all the nonwhite nominations from the past that you mention just reek of tokenism. In fact, they even label argument you’re making “after all that I’ve done for you…”

    And whatever your thoughts were on their artistic merits, Creed and Straight Outta Compton were two films that did not aim for tokenism. Same with Selma last year. How differently those films were treated than The Help or The Blind Side!

  33. Joshua K. says:

    I’m a little confused by the references to Jane-Howard Hammerstein. Based on her IMDb resume, it looks like she was the same person formerly known as Jane-Howard Carrington (and her credits are split between two IMDb pages, presumably because IMDb contributors didn’t realize that she had changed her name).

    But David wrote, “Nine Oscar winners in the Writers Branch won for their ONLY film script ever. The only example of this in the Gang of 54? Ms. Hammerstein…”

    Jane-Howard Carrington co-wrote both Wait Until Dark and Kaleidoscope, so she didn’t have just one film script.

  34. YancySkancy says:

    palmtree: That’s all well and good, but my response was a rhetorical question specific to Geoff’s comparison of white males in the Academy to those in the Republican caucuses. While some Academy members may well have previously voted for black performers out of the kind of tokenism Scott talks about (old school liberalism that rewards black performers only for certain types of roles), that’s not what Geoff was referring to. He seems to think they’re too conservative to vote for black performers at all, which is very different.

    I agree with Scott’s theory, but don’t think it applies to every white voter, and hopefully not the nonwhite voters, though I suppose it’s possible.

  35. YancySkancy says:

    “And whatever your thoughts were on their artistic merits, Creed and Straight Outta Compton were two films that did not aim for tokenism. Same with Selma last year. How differently those films were treated than The Help or The Blind Side!”

    And in regards to this, I agree with what you’re saying about tokenism, but I guess there’s something in me that refuses to assume an Oscar nomination or lack thereof is some sort of smoking gun. We may assume the newer films were “treated differently” from the earlier ones, but we have no idea how close any of the films in question came to being nominated or not. We don’t know vote totals and percentages and preferential rankings on the ballots. Perhaps Creed actually got more votes this year than Selma did last year, but missed a nomination because of the distribution of the vote totals. If we learned that The Help got a nomination with only a handful more votes than Straight Outta Compton got, would we still think tokenism was the deciding factor? I don’t know the answer — I’m not saying this scenario trumps your assumption, only that it strikes me as an equally plausible factor when considering why one film gets nominated and another doesn’t.

  36. leahnz says:

    yancy the “something in you” causing your tenacious refusal to assume anything ever is a smoking gun and thus battling like hell for the status quo is quite fascinating, but did you stop to consider for a moment that while you yourself don’t know vote totals and the like, there actually is an organisation with an accurate record of vote totals and patterns, how close nominations are, who missed out on what and by how much indicating the type of roles and films that get nominated, and that organisation is the academy, you know, the one who makes the rules and puts on the silly show. it’s a private institution making a general rule change that effects everyone across all the branches equally, including members of the very demographics they are hoping to embrace more inclusively in the future, because that’s the only ‘fair’ way to change the rules, the tough love approach. i’d think it’s an entirely inadequate ‘solution’ to a corrupted system but it’s undeniably even-handed.

  37. YancySkancy says:

    Very interesting, but leaves all my specific points hanging unanswered. Or I should say the answer is always “We just KNOW why these voters vote the way they do, and it’s racism or unintentional bias or cultural cluelessness.”

    I’m no fan of the status quo here. I support diversifying the Academy via the addition of new members. And I appreciate that some factions of the Academy think this voting rule change is fair and will positively impact the diversity issue. But I’m not happy with how it affects some of the potentially disenfranchised members, even though it’s not the end of the world. Intentionally or not, it smells of a witch hunt, and for all practical purposes implies that all older voters are biased, with the only “evidence” being educated guesses and assumptions about what’s in their hearts when they vote. The Academy can study all the stats they want, but they’ll never be able to determine with any certainty whether a voter left Straight Outta Compton off his ballot because he hated it, didn’t relate to it, didn’t understand it, or liked it fine but didn’t think it rated among the year’s best. That’s why I agree that it’s an inadequate ‘solution;’ I guess our only real difference about it then is that I don’t think it should be implemented, whereas you don’t mind it. Which is fine, of course. And it’s their club, their rules. They’ll do what they want. I’ve just been fascinated by the way everyone is parsing this (or refusing to parse it), and I’ve enjoyed holding this thing up to the light and trying to understand all the motives, assumptions, intentions and effects involved. It has caused so much contention and is likely to continue doing so for a while, especially if even after all this mess, nonwhite performers are still unrepresented at nomination time, which may well happen unless changes also occur at the studios and production companies.

  38. js partisan says:

    Yancy, let me point this out to you again. The Academy, were fucking EMBARRASSED beyond belief last year, with #OscarsSoWhite. They went through a lot of fucking steps to make sure, that it didn’t happen again? Guess what? THESE SAME MOTHERFUCKERS DID IT… AGAIN!

    Seriously man, go check out the nominees from the 90s. Look at the films being nominated, and the actors being nominated. These fuckers, and the Academy obviously knows it’s this fucking voting block, who have gotten weird and more “PRESTIGE” over the last 20 years, that it’s staggering in it’s ludicrousness.

    It’s this older block, that loves Harvey’s campaigns, and giving that dude awards. It’s this voting block, that like most Boomers and older, are out of fucking touch with where culture is today. It’s this voting block, that hurts the fucking show. If you hurt the show, then you gots to go. They are gone, and the Academy will hopefully, dear sweet lord may they be, hopefully better for it.

    If we have #OSCARSSOWHITE again next year, after kicking all of these people out, then shit is really fucked. If not? If things get better, then it worked. We will have to see, but I have a feeling shit will not be as fucking tired as it’s been. Which has as much to do with them ignoring Compton, as much as it has to do with the stale ass shit they base a 3h30m show around each year. If you nominate films, that barely combine to make a THIRD of the gross Star Wars made this year, and expect people to sit through a show about it. Well, you must enjoy drinking that privilege through a pretty big fucking straw.

  39. leahnz says:

    ftr i think the oscars are a silly ‘contest’ and i really couldn’t give a shit about it – and in this era where an award for supposed artistic/technical excellence requires mounting a costly political campaign for nominations/wins it’s just a sham. the fascination has always been not in that the show actually rewards ‘the best’ of any year but that it thinks it does. the academy fancies itself the most culturally relevant movie awards, the ‘highest acclaim’ and yet it’s hilariously still mostly stuck-in-the-past fuddy-duddy-ish with such a glaring old white male bias it’s like a relic trying desperately to be hip.
    i’m not particularly in favour of these voting changes, the academy does what it does, if they want to be less overwhelmingly a bunch of old white dudes (94% white, 77% male, 63 the median age if i remember right) then how they do it is how they do it. waiting for the membership to ‘die off’ isn’t a solution, even with the influx of new voters it would take like a half-century for anything resembling balance so i guess the academy is keener than that to get out of the white grandpa zone at the airport.

    but calling some academy members losing their voting privileges based on industry inactivity a ‘witch hunt’ is pretty extreme rhetoric yancy. what’s clear from your posts in these discussions of industry sexism/racism is your need for ‘proof’ of what’s in people’s hearts in order to justify any change in the way things are run, and it just doesn’t work that way (and such thinking results in an entrenched status quo, the thing you claim to be against). example after example, study after study, extensive research, it all shows and confirms this, so at some point if you want to actually address and enact change you have to move beyond the requirement for people to admit to you out loud their overt-to-unconscious sexism/racism, and with thoughtfulness, attention and consideration find meaningful ways to take action. this is indeed happening, albeit very slowly. i was reading somewhere recently about a CEO who was dismayed by the overwhelming white maleness of his large company and instituted a simple change wherein all new hires or advancements within the ranks have all information re gender and race removed before hiring/advancement decisions are made, and low and behold in just a few short years the company was exceedingly better balanced, and also performed better financially as a result. because this is statistically true time and time again, ‘diversity’ translates to a healthier bottom line. that the film industry absolutely refuses to take note of this in spite of all evidence to the contrary speaks volumes about the attitudes and practices of the decision-makers (the same attitudes and practices reflected in the academy membership and voting patterns, funny that, it’s as if it’s all related)

  40. YancySkancy says:

    “Witch hunt” may not have been the best analogy. I was just assuming that’s how some of the potentially disenfranchised voters feel about it. Maybe I shouldn’t have read their letters to the trades, because I can’t help but feel sympathy for people who fear this brouhaha has, in effect, branded them as racists in the eyes of many people who are reading these stories. That’s so upsetting I can’t help but wish the Academy had come up with a better way to handle it.

  41. cadavra says:

    This is an unwinnable battle. Remember last year when everyone freaked out because Jordan was cast in FANTASTIC FOUR? “OMG! The Human Torch is white! He can’t be black!” Or when Samuel L. Jackson became Nick Fury? Or Laurence Fishburne played Perry White? (“Even his name is White!”) And now everyone’s dumping on SUPERGIRL because Jimmy Olsen is black.

    And they’re all comic book characters!

    But cast them with white actors, and everybody freaks out about “racism.” And if Idris Elba does become the next 007, expect a level 5 shitstorm of outrage.

    Like I said, you can never win. People are always gonna find something to bitch about, even if it means reversing themselves.

  42. brack says:

    What’s interesting is that the box office didn’t reflect a liking or disliking for those movies based on a particular character’s race. Plus who doesn’t like an actor who once played a character named Eggs? I personally don’t watch Supergirl because of how annoying CBS is with on demand/streaming stuff. That, and I didn’t care for the show in comparison to the CW superhero shows, which is practically all I watch from prime time broadcast television anymore.

  43. Hallick says:

    “Like I said, you can never win. People are always gonna find something to bitch about, even if it means reversing themselves.”

    You’re talking about the complaints of two different camps entirely, Cadavra. The people who pound their keyboards when people of color are cast as white characters aren’t the same people who get the vapors when they see an all-white movie like “Hail Caesar”.

    And as far as winning goes, you get the win by doing what you set out to do. Trying to please all of the people all of the time in the same go isn’t even a possibility.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon