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David Poland

By David Poland

The Academy Exclusionary Rule: 5 Standards For Exclusion That Would Make It Fair (#2 of 2)

I have pushed back against The Exclusionary Rule from its first announcement. My last column on it pretty much had the effect I had hoped for, so I retired the fight.

Now, thanks to the New York Times, the official writing on the wall has arrived for what may well lead to a complete elimination of The Exclusionary Rule. In weeks past, The Academy has told members seeking information that there would be no action until March, that the system was being restructured to be based on the judgment of each branch’s Governor, and that there was a dissension from high level members about this element of the announced changes moving forward.

To be honest, there is backlash to the expansion of The Academy based on a search plan at the discretion of the President and CEO only, in order to bring in new members of color and women who might not have otherwise been considered. But no one will say that out loud. This is unfortunate, a combination of the nature of some members and the anger created by the sense that a nasty accusation is being hurled at older members, especially white males.

I believe that the expansive part of the plan is completely appropriate… and will not be easy to accomplish, given the industry composition. I do not think that every actor or director, etc., of color or who is female should be brought in based on diversity after their first film that grosses over $10 million. There are many accomplished people who are reasonable choices for The Academy. And, if the effort runs into trouble with numbers, I believe it would be a service to the industry for The Academy to be open about this and to make it part of a public discussion.

I will stick my neck out here and say that this means, to me, that the newcomer cast of Straight Outta Compton doesn’t belong in The Academy for their first or second recognized roles. This doesn’t mean that these young actors won’t be appropriate invitees within a year or two. But being of color and being part of an excellent movie that wasn’t nominated should not be the standard for entrance.

That said, I would be happy to see veteran filmmakers (some already members, some black, some white) like F. Gary Gray, Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, Billy Fox, Michael Tronick, Ice Cube, Will Packer, Shane Valentino, Kelli Jones, and others invited this summer. Dr. Dre… he is in that iffy category. A deity in the music world. Not a movie guy. He’s done a little acting, but this is his first feature as a producer. Cool, important man who happens to be of color. But a few more movie credits would seem appropriate.

Also, I believe that in an inclusive Academy, every nominee should be invited into the membership. The idea that some are being brought aboard with less clear credentials because of gender or race, while a nominee doesn’t get an invitation is just plain wrong. If you’re opening the doors, open them to all of those vetted by the membership.

I am not a fan of the way The Academy laid out the Exclusionary Rule, but I respect those who feel that there is a layer of membership that is really out of the business and should not vote. I think the number is much smaller than they seem to believe. But any effort to exclude current members should focus on members who are truly out of the game, not just getting older and less attractive to an industry that is already as age-biased as it is biased against color and gender.

In any case, here are five standards that I think would fairly address the issue…

First, The Academy should publicly acknowledge that it was too hasty in the actions taken and that it will re-set and make certain that the rule is aimed at members who truly have moved on from the industry for a significant period. There should be an apology for the conflating of the idea of cutting back on some voting members and the wholly separate issue of the effort to be more inclusive of race and gender.

Alternately, The Academy could say, “Hey… if you are over 75, we don’t value you anymore unless you have an Oscar. Sorry. It’s what Greg Peck would have done. Thanks for your effort. But old people aren’t really cool. You will pay no dues, you can come to most of our screenings, we were glad to have had you.”

But I don’t think they want to do that… at least not in public.

My #1 standard for eliminating members’ voting rights would be that they have not been using their voting rights… but this is supposed to be a secret ballot and The Academy is not supposed to keep track of who votes. That secrecy, of course, becomes less likely as The Academy continues to move towards a 100% online vote. But if there was a way to know who hasn’t voted for, say, the last three years, those members would be at the top of my list for a change of status.

A good place to begin would be a list of members who have not have a credit in film or television in the last decade. Adding television to the relevant credit list is not only in keeping with the industry as it is today, but also speaks to the distinction between movies that are direct-to-DVD or sold to television first vs major studio theatrical distribution. The idea of The Academy parsing these distinctions is counterintuitive, unless this effort is meant to penalize older and female members, for whom working options change.

This likely starts the conversation with 1000-2000 current voting members with votes in jeopardy.

Now add exceptions that lean toward inclusion, not exclusion.

1. You have been nominated for an Oscar.

This is hard to argue against, even though there are many cases in which an Oscar nomination also represents the only work the person has done in film. Also, over these last few decades, not all nominees have been invited to join. Still, if this is held as the high bar, it is hard to argue for them elimination of rights for these members.

2. You have actively contributed time towards the health and vibrancy of The Academy.

Simple, this. If you have volunteered and fulfilled your duties on any of the Academy boards, committees, screening programs, etc, for two years or more in the last decade, you are safe. Members of any age who have been active participants in The Academy after getting in should not be threatened.

For instance, the group of members who have the time to volunteer to screen foreign-language films is famously heavy in seniors. Why? Because the time commitment is significant and hard to fulfill if you are employed full-time. But these people are not only engaged with a wider range of film than the average voting member, but they are giving back to the organization (above and beyond dues). It would be immoral to remove their voting status, especially while claiming that this is not an effort to socially engineer the organization.

Some have brought up the idea that members who are not currently active in the industry be allowed to mentor others in order to earn their place. This is a great idea, but in order to make this viable, The Academy needs to have an official mentorship structure. It’s a great idea. But I don’t think it should be a “If you set up the rule this way, I will now volunteer and keep my status,” situation. If you have not participated in Academy committees in the last decade, I believe you should stay on the block for voting status change and if you have lost your vote and then volunteer for mentorship of committees for two years, you should then get your vote back.

3. You have at least five film credits, 15 television credits (shows or episodes), three Broadway or Off-Broadway (over 250 seats) show credits, or you have been nominated for an Emmy or a Tony since you joined the organization.

The whole “three decades” idea is too clever by half. If the actual “three decades” standard is as short as 12 years, just cut to the chase. Did you have a productive, lengthy career after becoming a member? For many, the answer will be “no,” even if they remained active. Getting movies made is not easy. Nor a season of television. But keep the math simple. And I have included the theater in this Standard because the idea is to bring the best, most diverse group of artists to the organization and to keep them. Why penalize anyone for working in another medium at the highest level?

4. You have taught about film (not just a single guest lecture) at an accredited institution for at least three years in the last 15 years.

Going from whatever work got you into The Academy to teaching the next generation about film is noble, invaluable work. Those who have chosen that path should not be penalized.

5. The duly elected Governors of your branch feel you are of value to the organization.

This is the wild card. Maybe it’s an appeal from a member who is having their vote stripped, but I think it should all happen long before anyone is told they are having their rights removed. It shouldn’t be, except as a last resort, a member forced to plead for their position. That’s disrespectful. Just not right.

My guess would be that under these guidelines, the group of Academy members with their voting rights threatened would be 500 or fewer. In other words, manageable by each branch.

Does it really serve The Academy well to dump, say, Carl Gottlieb or Jules Feiffer from the voting rolls? Is that what Writers’ Branch Governor Phil Robinson wants? I don’t think so.

Set a date to inform members who may lose voting rights… say April 15… do the vast majority of the heavy lifting before then, and make the notifications with a request for information, such as;

Have you participated in Academy life since 2000 in a way that might nor be showing up in our records?
Have you worked or worked toward the creation of a project since 2000?
Have you taught in the arts since 2000?
Have you contributed to the film industry in some other way since 2000?
Is there anything else we should know about your work?

Give them two weeks to return the request.

Inform them that their voting rights will be suspended if they do not respond.

On May 15, notify anyone whose voting rights have been determined to be appropriate to withdraw.

Set up phone interviews for appeals on the week of May 22.

Resolve any voting rights removals by June 1.

Then, officially grandfather in all pre-2006 members for life and set the standard for the organization moving forward.

Personally, I would suggest that being a member require 100 hours of service to The Academy in each decade of membership moving forward. As noted in Standard #2, these hours should include volunteering and fulfilled obligations to any Academy board, committee, screening programs, etc. Add mentoring programs.

The goal should be to encourage community in the organization, not to create bars for members who have earned entrance into an exclusive organization to hop over to continually prove their value. And the organization should encourage the right kind of participation to make the film industry better – aka, lead – by the ways it builds out participatory opportunities.

As I admitted earlier in this piece, there are biases inside The Academy and they will only evolve over time. The same is true about the mindset about The Exclusionary Rule. It is easy to hide behind political correctness. But the reality for many people is that they see an organization of old white men of privilege and are completely comfortable with making that group squirm as minorities and women have forever. Few will say it out loud, but that is the honest bottom line for a lot of younger people on this issue.

To truly lead, The Academy has to do better than that. And I believe the organization can.

I have some real issues with how the organization has been managed for the last few years. But I had different issues under the last regime. People and styles change. But I don’t think Dawn Hudson is uncaring. I think she, like Cheryl Boone Isaacs, are caught up in something that is very real and worthy and important, and lost some perspective on their existing constituency.

The Academy should be focusing less attention on an award show and an overpriced museum and more on being the organization it wants to be… and that is not about being reactive to public fights… but instead about taking steps, when no one is demanding them, to lead 6000 very talented, thoughtful, sometimes crazy, film industry leaders to a higher level. Progress does not happen on a hastily put together Hollywood Reporter cover. That’s publicity, not progress.

Put aside $5 million a year and hire a couple community organizers and with the human asset base of The Academy, not celebrity and and power, just raw talent, about great things can happen. Lead.

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43 Responses to “The Academy Exclusionary Rule: 5 Standards For Exclusion That Would Make It Fair (#2 of 2)”

  1. jspartisan says:

    Yeah. Let the old fuckers squirm. I will once again put forward, that these WHITE PRIVILEGED HAVING SO AND SOs, were on the clock from last year’s nominations. They were on the clock, and what did they do? The same shit they did the year before, because they are an entitled bunch of people, that do not understand the world has changed. This is the hardest thing for Boomers and older to get, that the change is here. These members in particular, ignored the DAMNATION HOISTED UPON THEIR HEADS, so guess what? They’ve gots to go.

    Also, this is a award show watched by a BILLION FUCKING PEOPLE, and you think it shouldn’t be about the show watched about A BILLION FUCKING PEOPLE? Yeah. It’s about the award show that a billion people watch, and having every fucking important category featuring white noms is just… shit. Your friends have to go, Dave. They didn’t get the hint, and now they are getting the boot. Welcome to the new world.

  2. YancySkancy says:

    js, you have no idea how many voters voted for nonwhite performers, only that the math didn’t work out to get any of them nominated this year and last year.

    Also, why is it so hard for people to understand that it’s perfectly possible for voters to appreciate the performances of Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan and Will Smith without considering them among their favorites in the category? Or to rate them only 4th or 5th?

    And yes, I know — why is it so hard for ME to understand that white voters may refrain from voting for nonwhite performers because they can’t relate to their films or have an unconscious bias that favors whites (or in some cases may actually be racists)?

    Well, actually I CAN understand that. How about that? Two opposing scenarios that are perfectly understandable. But we have to act like only the second contains truth?

    As for the voters being “on the clock” from last year — the clock doesn’t mean much if the films aren’t there. People shouldn’t be put in the position of being considered racist or biased just because the three or four “viable” nonwhite-centered films don’t quite do it for them. Diversify the Academy, yes! But give them a better range of choices, too. The nominations will follow.

  3. jspartisan says:

    Yancy, the performances and movies were there. Guess what? EDDIE REDMAYNE GOT ANOTHER GOD DAMN NOMINATION! Seriously, they were put on the clock last year, and they failed to respond to the pressure. These sort of events, no longer live in a world, where you can just keep voting for white people in damn near every category, and not have the people you want WATCHING YOU AWARD SHOW… skewer you. That’s the world, Yancy. You need to check your privilege, because that’s your argument… white privilege, and some of us have had efuckingnough of it.

  4. palmtree says:

    “Diversify the Academy, yes! But give them a better range of choices, too. The nominations will follow.”

    Yancy, that argument is a problem too. I know you’re being very reasonable (and responding to JS), but there is a fatal flaw, which is…it’s a chicken vs. egg thing.

    Academy: Give me more diverse films and I’d nominate them.
    Studio: Well, nominate diverse films for awards and maybe we’d consider making them!

    There’s just a lot of buck passing. And honestly, change has to start somewhere…ANYWHERE. Otherwise it’s an endless vicious cycle.

  5. YancySkancy says:

    palmtree: I don’t think either the Academy or the studios are characterizing the problem the way you put it. I think it’s more like this:

    Academy: We’ve shown we have no problem nominating diverse films and performers, but obviously the more of them that are eligible increases the statistical chance that more of them will be nominated. If we’re not that high on the small handful of viable nominees, we’re not gonna vote for them anyway just to ‘prove’ we’re not racist.

    Studio: Whatever. We mostly make movies we think will make a fortune. We throw in the occasional awards-bait film because we like to win stuff too, but that will never be as big a priority as making that fortune. Sorry Creed and Straight Outta Compton didn’t float your boat.

    That still may look like buck-passing, but it’s hard to tell voters to vote against their subjective opinion, and it’s hard to tell studios how to spend their money. Shaming everyone may move the needle a bit, but diversifying the Academy membership is the most achievable positive change, and diversifying studio production slates equally desirable but more of a challenge to achieve. I just fear that the Academy changes, no matter how sweeping, won’t be enough on their own to affect the nominations. Obviously time will tell.

  6. jspartisan says:

    Palm, I am being just as reasonable, because it’s really easy to get incredibly annoyed by all of this privilege. Seriously. The Academy has needed a shake up for the longest damn time, and this is what will make it happen.

    Sure, at the end of the day it’s about an award, but guess what? It’s the award show, that most people on earth watch. It should be better, and this may be the chance to make it better. If not? Well… get ready for more railing against their stupid shit.

  7. cadavra says:

    And as I’ve said before, there are lots of older people (not just actors) who want to work but simply can’t because they made the mistake of turning 60. Much of my film crew is “old,” and I get the benefit of their decades of wisdom and experience because nobody else wants it. They shouldn’t be punished further.

    (By which I DON’T mean working for me!) 🙂

  8. palmtree says:

    Yancy, I think your view of the studios is a bit sugarcoated. There are legions of stories of the studios recasting roles so that they are not played by people of color in the hopes of making that pile of cash. John Oliver just covered this phenomenon again in his show. Making it seem like race isn’t a consideration for them is not truthful. If putting a person of color in a prestige movie were viable for Oscars, I seriously doubt a studio (especially a smaller boutique one) wouldn’t jump at the chance to produce it. But as it stands, the odds are against that nomination…unless, of course, you’re playing someone being oppressed and subservient.

    JS, yes, I didn’t say you were reasonable too, but that’s only because I happen to agree with you…in this instance.

  9. Bob Burns says:

    Why not just let Academy membership expire after ten years? I’d even recommend a three to five year break before anyone could be re-nominated for membership.

    If anything has come out of this, we can be clear that we aren’t really talking about a meritocracy. If we were, would the writer of Gidget get a vote that counts the same as Steven Spielberg’s?

  10. Mostly Lurking says:

    Am I wrong, or are all of the complaints about lack of diversity focused on five categories for which the nominations are controlled by two branches (actors and director)? Would the new sweeping changes have really been implemented as quickly as they were if two of those five categories had a non-white nominee (e.g., one acting and one for directing) this year? Everyone mentions the two years in a row of all white nominees in the acting categories, so it stands to reason that a more diverse list of nominees in those categories would have kept the issue at bay. Is anyone on a crusade about diversity in the nominations for film editing or sound effects? Not that diversity shouldn’t be the goal in those categories as well, but is it even on anyone’s radar?

    I would have thought that the acting and directing branches, which is where the lack of diversity is most notable, would be the least effected by the proposed changes. Are the directing and acting branches really made up of so many older voters that these changes (not David’s suggestions, but the changes in general) can really make a difference? It seems like alot of members outside of those branches are going to be losing their voting rights over something that has nothing to do with the nominations that they are even currently allowed to take part in.

  11. Stella's Boy says:

    I agree palmtree. Yancy, if your argument were true and if all studios care about is making as much money as humanly possible, then how do you account for this?

    “Movies With Diverse Casts Make More Money, Study Finds”

    So any day now they’ll all be green-lighting films with incredibly diverse casts right? When Gods of Egypt opens with $10 million this weekend, the studio will wish it had gone with a more diverse cast.

  12. Movielocke says:


  13. Hallick says:

    Stella’s Boy, all you’ve got there is a news report on one study that comes from a source with a rooting interest in the conclusion they’re presenting. I have a rooting interest in that conclusion myself, but this study still reeks of campaigning more than science.

  14. Hallick says:

    Because #oldlivermatter just sounds gross.

  15. Hallick says:

    “Why not just let Academy membership expire after ten years?”

    Bob, smash your face up against the screen so I can kiss you because that would be PERFECT.

  16. Pietro says:

    If a member has not voted, he/she has already as much as resigned from the Academy, unless illness was the reason for not voting.

    These heated indictments of the older members are reprehensible. All predicated on nominations that commentators did not like. It is saying that the Acting Branch is full of racists and bigots.

    Are you prepared to argue that older Americans should be excluded from the electoral process?

  17. Hallick says:

    Almost everyone on Earth is a racist in one way or another by dint of human nature and the culture they’re born into, which is different from a bigot who’s actively and consciously discriminatory. That being said, the Acting Branch IS by default full of racists, but they’re not full of bigots.

    If you exclude older Americans from the electoral process, the phrase “one man, one vote” would almost be literally true (save for the fact that it could just as well be “one woman, one vote”).

  18. Bob Burns says:

    The crafts and techs are just as bad, or worse, and should be discussed along with the acting categories.

  19. YancySkancy says:

    Stella’sBoy wrote: Yancy, if your argument were true and if all studios care about is making as much money as humanly possible, then how do you account for this?

    “Movies With Diverse Casts Make More Money, Study Finds”

    Not getting your point. Are you saying that the studios’ comparative lack of diverse projects means their primary concern is NOT making money? Plus, I only scanned the story, but I agree with Hallick that the study doesn’t seem very authoritative. Plus, the examples it gives includes two animated films, plus Lucy and the remake of Annie, and the article is illustrated with a photo from one of the Fast and Furious films (though it’s not mentioned in the article). None of these fit the on-point part of my comments, which were about why the studios aren’t making enough projects that are both diverse and awards-bait.

    Palmtree: I’m not seeing where I suggested that race isn’t a consideration for the studios. My point was that profit trumps everything. If they’re changing nonwhite roles into white roles in an effort to improve box office prospects, then that proves my point. As I said, diversifying studio slates is desirable but difficult to achieve. As for your other point, I know some have asserted that only “oppressed and subservient” roles get Oscar attention, but is it that cut and dried? I don’t think a look at the list of black nominees and winners bears that out, though there are certainly many that do fit the description. We’d have to look at the non-oppressed roles that were theoretically “snubbed” to get a fuller picture. But it would be pure guesswork — David Oyelewo snubbed for SELMA? Then how did the movie get enough support from the overall membership to rate a nomination? Is the actors branch more racist than the others?

  20. palmtree says:

    “I’m not seeing where I suggested that race isn’t a consideration for the studios.”

    That’s because I never said you suggested that. I said you were sugarcoating the studio view, because you didn’t mention the conclusion they often come to, which is let’s make everyone white even when it makes no sense for the story.

    “If they’re changing nonwhite roles into white roles in an effort to improve box office prospects, then that proves my point.”

    No, it doesn’t, because the awards movies is what we’re talking about here. Yes, the profit motive trumps all, but if a nomination seemed likely for a role, the project could have a chance at being greenlit on that basis as well. It is those smaller films that an Academy with new rules could help.

    “I don’t think a look at the list of black nominees and winners bears that out…”

    The video linked below doesn’t analyze the nominees, but the analysis of the winners is still pretty interesting.

  21. Geoff says:

    JS, you’re the most reasonable person on this blog right now…..seriously every Academy member is now sent screeners for every film directly so they…..wait for it…..don’t even have to LEAVE THEIR HOMES to watch them and a lot can’t even be bothered to watch these movies?! 🙂 Ten years and out unless you’re actively working sounds pretty reasonable to me – it’s not as if they’re losing any money or benefits, ONLY the privilege to vote for the Oscars. Nothing ageist about that – you can show respect for your elders and the veterans within the industry WITHOUT completely skewing your largest platform for recognition to their whims.

  22. brack says:

    That video argument pretty much could be used for any acting category, of any race. Tropic Thunder pretty much covered how to win, and not to win, an Oscar.

  23. Daniella Isaacs says:

    They’ve certainly gone about all this wrong, but let’s face it, if Gregory Peck hadn’t done his version of this back in the late sixties, films like A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE EXORCIST and DELIVERANCE likely wouldn’t have been nominated for Best Picture (or in other major categories), MIDNIGHT COWBOY and THE GODFATHER probably wouldn’t have won Best Picture, and instead we’d have things like Best Picture Winner: NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDER and TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT. As a result the Academy would have slid into irrelevance in one of the greatest decades in Hollywood history.

  24. Geoff says:

    Great point Daniella!

  25. Fitzcarraldo says:

    So much of this discussion has been focused on the acting, writing, producing and directing branches. Many, many well-regarded pros can’t get in because they work in the “wrong” kind of films (comedies, action movies) whether they are some of the most knowledgeable students and lovers of the craft of film in town. Which should be at least part of the point in something called “the Academy.”? Especially problematic in the writers branch, where it is near impossible to read credits as a referendum, good or bad, on a career.

    However, if you look at the executive branch? You will find good ones there, but you will find many, many current and former execs who are brutally dismissive of the craft of film, proud to do their job by crushing creatives who they deal with. I suppose this is to say that Academy membership does not mean exactly what one would hope it meant.

  26. YancySkancy says:

    Me: “I’m not seeing where I suggested that race isn’t a consideration for the studios.”

    palmtree: “That’s because I never said you suggested that.”

    Well, you did say the following, so maybe you can at least understand my confusion:

    “Making it seem like race isn’t a consideration for them is not truthful.”

  27. YancySkancy says:

    The video didn’t do too much for me, mostly because I didn’t find the guy as funny as he seemed to find himself. His points aren’t wrong exactly (except when he’s stretching to make them — Louis Gossett’s win is somehow undermined by having Joe Cocker on the soundtrack?), but they’re reductive. He focuses on the supporting categories, where many of the roles are “two-dimensional” because they’re, you know, supporting roles. He often acknowledges that the performances are great, so it seems churlish to gripe too much. I’d be more impressed if he listed a bunch of alternative nominations that don’t fit the subservient and oppressed categories. Is Oscar being biased or racist for awarding slaves, mammies, etc., or just rewarding the best work that was eligible? In the years these actors won, were there “preferable” performances that didn’t get nominated? Maybe so, but that’s never looked at in these things.

    I’m now imagining a scenario where a newly diverse Academy declines to vote for the “wrong” kind of roles, thereby leading to another round of OscarsSoWhite because the studios didn’t make enough eligible films with the “right” kind of roles. How would that be for irony?

  28. palmtree says:

    I do understand your confusion, which is why I bothered to clarify in the first place. Sorry if it came off as anything other than that.

  29. palmtree says:

    “Is Oscar being biased or racist for awarding slaves, mammies, etc., or just rewarding the best work that was eligible?”

    Both. Chicken AND egg. It’s a vicious cycle. Change has to come from somewhere to stop the cycle. That’s why the Academy making changes is great step (even if the changes have flaws).

  30. YancySkancy says:

    We don’t disagree about the need for change. I think what gets lost sometime in all my verbiage is that my only beef is with the flaws in the new voting eligibility rules. I don’t want status quo; I just don’t agree with the way they’re handling that one change.

  31. palmtree says:

    Yancy, really? But you’re also saying that the Academy doesn’t have a race issue and would happily reward strong roles for African Americans if there were only enough of them. But after all the questions you raised that are answered with statistics and studies, your only response is that there could be some hypothetical situation in which those statistics and studies are rendered meaningless…and because no one can prove your hypothetical wrong, you take it your case is legit. You enjoy “imagining scenarios” where change has damaged rather than helped the cause. That’s all well and good, but it’s not a legit case to think you’re right just because I can’t prove that imagined scenario wrong.

    That’s the logical fallacy of asking someone to prove a negative. Honestly, if you want to know which great black performances were snubbed in favor of the subservient roles, you have the power to look that up yourself. If that’s the case you want to make, then you make it…don’t just ask someone else to refute your hypothetical.

    People agree on change, because there’s a pattern in Hollywood that doesn’t bode well in any way, financially, artistically, and even morally. In statistic after statistic and study after study, these things are shown in greater and greater detail. If there are a few bruised egos in making changes, I’m not the least bit surprised, because as much as people say they want change, they don’t really want change. And that’s the point.

  32. YancySkancy says:

    That works both ways, palmtree. The studies still engage in guesswork about what the statistics mean. Beyond the stats, “imagined scenarios” is all we have, on both sides of the argument. I don’t see why my guesses are less valid than theirs. And I don’t even say I’m right; only that I don’t accept that the other speculations are unassailable. Saying “I don’t have any special knowledge about how the voters make their choices, but neither do you” is not the same as saying I’m right.

    And I’m not asking anyone to refute my hypothetical about snubbed black performances. I was responding to that video, in which the guy included only examples that he thought supported his case. I think a fair piece would address that point.

    What I can prove is that in the last 15 years, 15% of acting nominees and winners have been black (if I’m remembering correctly — I don’t feel like looking it up again at the moment). That may not be great, and several of the roles may be subservient/oppressed ones, and whatever other mitigating factors you may want to add, but it ain’t chopped liver, and it doesn’t strike me as a “race problem” for the Academy per se, except as it reflects the larger problem of non-diversity in the films that get made. That problem will exist regardless of Academy rule changes unless the industry at large commits to change.

  33. palmtree says:

    An imagined scenario does not have the same weight as a statistic or a study. Yes, you can say they cannot prove causality, but statistics are a little bit more than speculation.

    15% in 15 years is fantastic. But the past two years has shown a negative growth. If you believe that people are unchanging, then yeah I can see how you believe the past two years are just anomalies. But knowing that people do change and that they are influenced by culture, the negative growth points to a decline in acceptance.

    “That problem will exist regardless of Academy rule changes unless the industry at large commits to change.”

    Spurring the industry at large to change is the very thing the Academy rule change is designed to do. That you think it paints a few Academy members as racially biased is unfortunate, but ANY change for more diversity does imply that the people before were not as much for diversity, right? There’s no way around this.

  34. YancySkancy says:

    But statistics have to be interpreted. We’re both talking about what the statistics imply, and that involves guesswork. The studies do not prove that voters are biased or racist. They present stats about the racial makeup of nominated performers and assume there’s a correlation to the age and racial makeup of Academy voters. And it can only be an assumption, because the ballots are secret. The only study I can think of that would be valuable to this debate is if the Academy would approve someone to see how many ballots contained votes for nonwhite performers. Of course even that wouldn’t make it clear if a voter left off a performance because of bias or because they simply didn’t think it worthy of a nomination.

    Is the “negative growth” of the past two years due to changes in voters’ acceptance levels? Or is it tied to the comparative dearth of viable nonwhite candidates in those years? Or is it because most votes for nonwhites were not in the first two positions on the voters’ weighted ballots? All of the above? In what percentage? It’s these questions that make the exclusionary rule problematic for me. It’s like a decision was made that certain members are not to be given the benefit of the doubt. “You’re older, you’re white, so you probably don’t give fair consideration to nonwhite actors. Or hey, maybe you do, but let’s err on the side of caution and make a new rule that allows us to thin the old white herd a little bit. It can’t hurt, and maybe it’ll help.” What an awesome strategy for fighting diversity.

  35. palmtree says:

    The statistics are being interpreted through the lens of the extensive research and studies into the way bias works. If you are really interested in this, I recommend reading about it and looking it up. Otherwise, we are simply debating the imaginary scenarios that you are conjuring up.

    As for the rule change, maybe they’re trying to do what the new rules state…which is to make the voters who are currently voting to also be relatively currently employed in the film industry of today. Seems reasonable to me. To me, this isn’t about having more diversity per se so much as having better nominees that reflect the tastes of today. But a side-effect of that should be more films made that reflect the world of today trying to get nominations, which then does lead to diversity in the nominations.

  36. YancySkancy says:

    I don’t doubt that there are persuasive studies about how bias works. But I don’t see how they can be applied to the results of a secret ballot without examining the ballots, ideally in combination with interviewing a sampling of voters and studying their answers for conscious and unconscious signs of bias. And maybe we should stop referring to “imaginary scenarios” when they’re actually just “possible” ones (my guess is that they’re “probable,” but I don’t claim they’re the whole story).

    Even if the rule change is reasonable for the reasons you state, the way the Academy has handled it is insulting to a fair percentage of its own membership and should have been broached with more tact.

    We certainly agree that more and better films should be made that “reflect the world of today.” I contend that if the studios make them, the Academy will follow, but I admit it’s conjecture and based on no study. Others may think the studios would make more such films if the Academy would nominate the few that are trickling out now. But that’s letting a lot ride on a handful of films.

  37. YancySkancy says:

    Anyway, good debate. I think we’re both using the opportunity to refine our points, which I at least find fruitful.

  38. palmtree says:

    Well the awards are already given to only a few films anyway, so having it ride on a handful seems par for the course.

    Yeah, good debating you. Hope one of us is right.

  39. TOM says:

    If there’s not a diverse selection of performances/movies to vote for, it’s not the Academy’s fault, it’s the moneymen at the studios who greenlight & market these ‘products.’
    The Idris snub – that’s a Netflix snub, not a racial snub. Here’s Netflix looking to kill the moviegoing experience by releasing a film the same day that it can be ordered on television. Let’s kill that idea asap and not acknowlege it.
    Will Smith/McJordan – (and possibly Idris) – even if the votes were revealed, I’m sure that all 3 of these actors would’ve been eclipsed by the children in Room (when had more industry supporter.) It just wasn’t clear if he’d be in Lead or Supporting, but that child’s acting was a triumph.
    Straight Outta Compton snub – there’s a complete memory loss about movies released in the summer by the time nomination season has arrived with new films bombarding your senses. Not a single technical nomination for the summer smash Jurassic World?
    Screeners – if voters are bombarding with freee movie screeners during the holiday season – don’t people have Christmas stuff to deal with (parties, writing cards, decorating, hunting for presents, wrapping presents, baking…then, taking down decorations, putting stuff away, ) Who has time to sit down and concentrate on a stack of DVDs? If I’m squeezed for time, would I rather watch Room or Straight Outta Compton? Hmm, Bridge of Spies or Concussion? Spectre or Beasts of No Nation? Inside Out or Concussion? Joy, 45 Years, Carol or Beasts of No Nation? The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Hateful Eight or Concussion. In the end, I suspect that White voters will watch whatever appeals to their taste buds and think it’s great, and blacks will select what appeals to them and think it’s great.

  40. YancySkancy says:

    Essentially, diversifying the Academy membership will ensure that a wider range of biases are accommodated. I don’t suppose anyone would phrase it that way officially, but that’s the upshot. People will vote for the things that appeal to them most, and sometimes that’s informed by bias.

  41. Hallick says:

    “Essentially, diversifying the Academy membership will ensure that a wider range of biases are accommodated.”

    This is the obvious point that never gets talked about. It is not automatically true that a person of color has a more diverse point of view and that they’ll select from the full spectrum of hopefuls when they cast their votes. More likely than not, they wind up leaning towards their own tribe just as much as white people do. For one recent example, instead of going from “Oscarssowhite” to diverse, this year’s ceremony skewed heavily towards the race of the producers and the host.

  42. palmtree says:

    False equivalence. Since most of the films that are available to be seen are about and star white people, people of color have probably seen more films about white people than even films about their “tribe.”

    And the elimination of bias is not required for each individual, it’s required for the institution if it is to remain relevant. I don’t remember anyone claiming people of color have more eclectic tastes or anything like that.

  43. YancySkancy says:

    I assume all Hallick meant was that nonwhite viewers will be more likely than white voters to vote for films with nonwhite subjects, not that they will ignore films about white subjects, which as you note make up the majority of releases.

    Elimination of individual bias is not only not required, it’s not possible. But the influx of different biases will at least provide some balance to the institution.

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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