Given the number of folks who’ve emailed this to me today, some of you have already read this piece, titled “Oscar Voter Reveals Brutally Honest Ballot,” published earlier today on The Hollywood Reporter’s website, by Scott Feinberg.
The title certainly doesn’t lie, as the polled voter, said to be a longtime member of the Academy, is indeed “brutally honest” with her revelations on why and how and she reached her Oscar voting conclusions.
I wrestled with what to write in response to this, and all I felt was numbness after reading the entire piece. I just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm. Having been following and writing about the industry for 6 years (even though it’s been mostly from the outside, looking in), nothing really surprises me anymore. Over the years, I’ve spent much ink raging against the machine, so to speak, that one reaches a point when there’s just nothing left to say, except recycle old invectives and/or calls for action. So I decided to simply just share what I felt was the most damning section of the conversation with the Oscar voter, and point you to the rest of it to read.
Of course, most of you who visit this site are likely mainly interested in the fate that lies ahead for “Selma,” which is nominated in the Best Picture and Best Original Song categories, and, much to the consternation of many, shunned in other key categories (Best Actor and Best Director, specifically) where many expected the film to receive nominations. Backlash in response to what was seen as a “snub” was wide-reaching and intense, although the filmmaker, Ava DuVernay, took it all in stride.
But if this one voter’s perspective is representative of what a healthy enough number of other members of the Academy believe, then “Selma” certainly doesn’t stand a chance at a win in the Best Picture category. Although, even before today’s Oscar voter exposé, I didn’t think it had much of a chance. It’s a rare occurrence when a film that’s nominated for Best Picture, but isn’t also nominated for Best Director, wins the Best Picture Oscar. The Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director have been very closely linked throughout Oscar history.
So, without further ado, here’s a rather damning portion from the THR conversation with the anonymous Oscar voter, in what will be a series with different members of the Academy, which will be posted on THR’s website daily, leading up to the Oscars ceremony on February 22: “First, let me say that I’m tired of all of this talk about “snubs” — I thought for every one of [the snubs] there was a justifiable reason. What no one wants to say out loud is that Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there’s no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male, I don’t think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were. And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance — they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies. When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it? I’ve got to tell you, having the cast show up in T-shirts saying “I can’t breathe” [at their New York premiere] — I thought that stuff was offensive. Did they want to be known for making the best movie of the year or for stirring up shit?”
And all this time, you thought that Oscar voting was based strictly on the artistic and technical merits of each film and/or performance, right?
It’s actually, dare I say, refreshing to get this kind of honesty (even if it’s anonymous and, we could argue, cowardly); I say that because, much of the time, we are left speculating, banging our heads against walls and each other, wondering what kind of logic influences decisions that are made behind the proverbial curtain, that the majority of us will never be privy to. Well, this is one time when we don’t have to wonder. It’s all right there, in front of us, in plain English.
Read the rest of the conversation here.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, while much of the emphasis has been on “Selma,” other nominees of interest to this blog include: in the Original Song category, a track from Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “Beyond the Lights,” by Diane Warren, titled “Grateful;” and Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu,” representing Mauritania, picked up a nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film competition – the first time that Sissako has been nominated by the Academy, and also the first time that the country (Mauritania) has received an Oscar nomination; and, finally, “Virunga” is nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category.
I’d love to watch a comprehensive report or documentary on the Academy, its voters and process. If anyone can point me to any links, please do. My research returned nothing like what I’m looking for.