The 2015 Academy Awards are all over but the counting, and with voting closed, the brief season of Oscar-voter real talk has officially begun. We’ve already heard from a few prize specimens, like the one who, according to Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone, isn’t voting for “Boyhood” because “it was about people who were garbage and losers.” But the real action is in the Hollywood Reporter’s “Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot” series, which favors Academy members who truly keep it 100.
Today, a “longtime member of the Academy’s 378-member public relations branch” talks to the Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, and offers some of the following rationales:
“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…. Having the cast show up in T-shirts saying ‘I can’t breathe’ — 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?”
Michael Keaton “seems like a completely sane person who lives in the middle of the country and works when he wants to work…. He seems grateful, not particularly needy, and I don’t know when he’ll ever get another chance at this; the other nominees will. What Keaton had to do was harder than what the others had to do because they had the benefit of playing real people. I mean, Eddie Redmayne did an amazing impression of Stephen Hawking, but Keaton created a character from whole cloth.”
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J.K. Simmons gets her supporting actor vote for “Whiplash” “because he was great in the movie — and because he was in 5,000 episodes of ‘Law & Order.’ In other words, he’s been acting forever, I’ve seen enough of his work to know he is a journeyman, and I’m happy to be able to recognize him.”
Patricia Arquette “gets points for working on a film for 12 years and bonus points for having no work done during the 12 years. If she had had work done during the 12 years, she would not be collecting these statues. It’s a bravery reward. It says, ‘You’re braver than me. You didn’t touch your face for 12 years. Way to freakin’ go!'”
The Academy may be overwhelmingly white and male, but “they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies.”
Now look, it would be easy to condemn this unnamed voter for her cockamamie explanations, for the thinly veiled racism underlying her resentment of the political statements made by “Selma’s” cast — which differ how, exactly, from the specious attempts to link her Best Picture choice, “The Imitation Game,” to a repudiation of Britain’s anti-homosexuality laws? — for voting for Michael Keaton in part because he seems nice in interviews; for calling upon the Academy’s historical fondness for beautiful women playing ugly roles to commend Patricia Arquette for keeping her original face; for theorizing that “The Imitation Game” is the choice least likely to embarrass the Academy in 50 years’ time. (Why wait? They can be embarrassed now?) But I come not to bury Brutally Honest Oscar Voter. I come to praise her.
It’s not exactly a secret that Oscar voters often vote the way they do for questionable reasons. (Let’s be fair, too, and acknowledge that voters with sound, non-outrage-inducing rationales don’t exactly fit the “Brutally Honest” brand; who wants to hear from someone who likes all the nominees, but one just a little bit more?) All this particular voter is doing is being honest about them — and, perhaps, giving Fienberg enough juicy stuff to guarantee she’ll be asked next year. You can get mad at her — and probably should, at least a little — but you should also thank her for saying out loud what other voters only say in private, or inside their own heads. As with the voter who told Entertainment Weekly’s Nicole Sperling that the pressure to nominate Ava DuVernay for Best Director was “racist,” she makes plain that Oscars are given out for many reasons, and some of those reasons are utterly insane.
It’s as important to keep this in mind if the movies you favor win as if they don’t. It’s convenient to believe that when your ship comes in it does so because the Oscars have chosen to set aside politics and simply reward what they believe to be the most deserving movie, but that’s a fantasy, just as it is to believe that a given candidate wins a political election based solely on the superior strength of their character. People make bad decisions for good reasons and good decisions for bad ones. The Oscars are no exception.