In the wake of #OscarsSoWhite Round Two, there has been a cultural re-examination of all things Oscar.
Wait. Scratch that. When I put it that way it sound like we’re second-guessing the true ingredients of Oscar Mayer wieners and questioning why exactly Oscar the Grouch is indeed so grouchy. Could his long-standing surly demeanor actually be a clinically depressed puppet’s cry for help? Get on that, HBO.
No, what I mean is that there have now been countless thinkpieces weighing in on ways to fix the Academy Awards to be more inclusive which inevitably leads to suggestions for ways to make the entire film industry more inclusive. If you take a deep dive into all of this you begin to notice all the whispers about whether or not everyone in the Academy even watched one of this year’s (mostly) snubbed films Straight Outta Compton, the biopic about the NWA which earned a single nomination for its white writers.
The Hollywood Reporter recently sat down with three non-white industry players: Stephanie Allain, producer of 2005’s Hustle & Flow, prior champion of John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood (1991); Justin Simien, wrote, directed and produced 2014’s Sundance award-winning Dear White People; and Alan Yang, co-creator of the Aziz Ansari-starring series Master of None for Netflix. Here’s what they said when asked, “How much can we interpret the lack of color in the acting nominations as racism versus ‘I just didn’t think that was good enough’?”
ALLAIN Well, you have to pop the movies in [the DVD player], and there’s a lot of movies to watch. If a lot of the Academy had popped in Creed or Straight Outta Compton, perhaps they would have voted for them. You can’t vote for what you don’t see.
SIMIEN It’s interesting that the screenwriting gets nominated, so clearly somebody saw the movie and thought the movie had merit but didn’t think that the people of color involved had anything to do with it. [Both nominated screenwriters are white.]
In fact, there have been multiple Academy members who have spoken to the press (on the record and off) to argue that they simply didn’t think films like Creed or Straight Outta Compton were good enough. However, whether its films featuring actors of color or stories about gay characters or just some random foreign film there’s long since been the suspicion that the people who vote for the Academy Awards don’t actually watch all of the movies. Ernest Borgnine at least owned up to it, admitting that he refused to watch Brokeback Mountain on personal grounds. To be clear, the nominations are determined by each individual branch of the Academy, i.e., actors vote for actors, directors for directors, etc. The actual awards are voted on by everyone, and if you look at their rules only Documentary, Documentary-short subject, Foreign Language Film, Animated Short Film, and Live Action Short Film specify that everyone voting needs to have first seen every film nominated in the category.
In 2010, MovieFone talked to an anonymous Academy member who claimed, “I’ve heard that there are some despicable people who don’t do their own voting. At least half the fun of belonging to the Academy is getting to vote!” The Hollywood Reporter yearly “Brutally Honest” Oscar ballots where they talk to 10 or so anonymous Oscar voters to walk through their ballots verifies that these people don’t actually watch everything, although they’ll often claim that they simply declined to vote in the categories where they hadn’t seen all the nominees.
However, this anonymous quote from an Academy member in the recent EW story “Can the Oscars Solve Its Race Problem?” jumped out at me.
I haven’t seen every movie. Who has that kind of time? Especially when you’ve got to watch Making a Murderer.
I have personally been making a bigger effort this year to see and review every movie nominated for Best Picture, to the point that there are plenty of awesome TV shows I have fallen behind on. Seemingly every person I turn to has a “Hey, have you watched this yet?” suggestion. Making a Murderer is one such show.
This is TV’s second golden age, and we have no idea what to call this current age of movies (Superheroes Or Bust?). However, there have been some amazing films to consider this past year, sci-fi oddities (Ex Machina), small slice-of-life heart-warmers (Brooklyn), big budget experiments (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian) and out-of-nowhere knockouts (Creed). But here’s an actual Academy member admitting that he or she is more interested in Making a Murderer?
That’s how screwed the Oscars are. Even some of the people who vote for the awards recognize that TV is simply the more interesting medium at this point.