Wednesday, February 10, 2016

OSCAR VOTER ELIGIBILITY RULE CHANGES IN LIGHT OF THE BILL MUMY OPEN-LETTER: THE REAL PROBLEM WITH THE A.M.P.A.S.



Yeah, yeah, yeah, pound sign, OscarsSoWhite, I saw it. (Alright fine, hashtag, OscarsSoWhite) Alright, the Oscars are in full swing and I'll get to predictions later but let's get to this, the Oscars changed certain rules, effective next year, regarding the voters and their eligibility for voting for the Oscars. Okay, so, let's go through these changes one at a time, and I'm taking these off the Academy's own website if you're all wondering:


Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade.  In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three ten-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award.  We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members.  In other words, if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they can still qualify by meeting the other criteria.  Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status.  Emeritus members do not pay dues but enjoy all the privileges of membership, except voting.  This will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars.
At the same time, the Academy will supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.  
In order to immediately increase diversity on the Board of Governors, the Academy will establish three new governor seats that will be nominated by the President for three-year terms and confirmed by the Board.
The Academy will also take immediate action to increase diversity by adding new members who are not Governors to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made. This will allow new members an opportunity to become more active in Academy decision-making and help the organization identify and nurture future leaders.

Okay, there's a few things here, the additional governors seat, fine, the increased in both membership and diversity, now that is important, because the Academy has been notorious for, limiting it's new membership every year and yes, they have improved upon on that in recent years, especially regarding younger members, but it is slow as hell. The Academy, overall has about, 6,000 members, give or take, and they try to add a few hundred new members each year, but the Academy is old, and some years, they end up just replacing a lot of members that passed. Also, this is something that's strange, the sponsoring of members. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is an exclusive club, and members have to be recommended by a current member of the Academy first and then there's a vote, and they they're given eligibility. Now, under normal circumstances it's easy to look at this as simply a formality, and often it is; if there's a former child star that's had even the most modicum of big screen success as an adult, there's a likely possibility that that person will become an Academy member right after they turn 18. That said, there's also numerous incidents where people don't get in, even after working in feature films for, sometimes decades. One of the reasons I often bash the Academy for not giving Werner Herzog a Lifetime Achievement Oscar, on top of the fact that there's a strong argument to be made that he's one of the oldest great living filmmakers alive, next to maybe Jean-Luc Godard, but it's because he didn't get invited into the Academy until 1999. Seriously, that's three decades of legendary films he had made, before he got in! What the fuck Academy? Look, I'm not saying that everybody should be in who even remotely works on a single movie, but if you manage to find yourself in two or three feature films over a few years time, working on them somewhat regularly...- I mean, really, it shouldn't be so difficult to get into the Academy. Seriously, at this point, once a name is recommended, the vetting process should literally just be, "Check their Imdb.com, page, look for a minute, and if it's long enough that it requires you at least two scrolling downs to see everything he/she's done, then they should just be automatically in. That said, the ten-year voter renewership policy, this one is more interesting. 

You see, pretty much in every FB group, you'll find some moronic post about "The Oscars are relevant", or "They never get it right", or "They vote for their friends", "#Oscarssuck", whatever. Look, I'm not gonna pretend the Academy isn't infallible, hell, the Academy itself has NEVER, EVER claimed that itself. Yeah, just because they've become the Oscars, doesn't mean that they claim they're always right, they've never done that. Hell, the Academy was originally started as a way of honoring people in Hollywood who were simply good to the producers systems as a way to combat the threats of the industry unionizing, oh dear, how times have changed. (If you don't know this, here's the abbreviated version, in Hollywood, the Unions run everything, and while it's a bit of a pain in the ass, we're fine with it and that's not gonna change, ever) The Academy isn't a Union per se, but it is made up of people who make the movies, which is the main reason why I've never particularly understood simply bashing the Oscars. Look, all award shows are arbitrary, whether it be, the Unions, the Critics, or whoever's giving them out, but some opinions hold more weight than others, and the people who make the movies, probably a little bit more about how good a film, or the particular skills and talents involved in the making of those films are then the average person. Yeah, they don't see all the movie, yeah, they're voting for their friends, the Weinstein's buy them off,...-, Okay, yes, that's legitimate, although stupid since it's a secret ballot, and you can simply just tell your friends and get all the free everything that Miramax sends you, and then vote for whatever you think the best films are anyway with anybody finding out, but even if you take into all that, this is still for the most part a more qualified collection of people making a decision on a subject they know about more intimately then us. Does that mean they're always right? No. Does that mean you should agree with them? No. But, you know, if Steven Tyler listens to somebody singing and he says that person's talented, do I actually need to here what the rest of the country thinks by phone-in vote to be sure the person can sing? (Yeah, I know he's not on "American Idol" anymore, but it's still...-) 

That's something that I'm not big on, the elimination of the expert opinion, or an educated opinion if you'd rather say that, in pop culture, and award shows are the biggest battleground. That said, is this idea of eliminating the voting rights of people not currently working in motion pictures a good idea or not? Um, yes-an-no, there are quite a bit of people in the Academy, your Hope Holliday's and whathaveyou's, who still vote and cause ruckuses at screening despite not working since the Reagan administration, and yes, this is actually a bit of a problem in Hollywood. I won't give out names, but I met an actor who's known for doing voice-over work, who, years ago, talked about his frustration with SAG, because they wanted to limit the ability for the voice-over section of the branch, to eliminate people from voting on issues, if they hadn't worked in five years. 5 YEARS, they had trouble getting this through. "You haven't done voiceover work in five years, then you don't get to vote," they had to struggle to get that through, and I'm not completely up-to-date on SAG politics somebody can correct me if they wish, but I'm not sure they got through. Could you imagine if you hadn't worked at McDonald's Drive-Thru Attendant for five years, but still had say over the futures of other McDonald's Drive-thru attendants? 

Ye-ah, so this isn't terribly unreasonable, right? You work on one movie every ten years and you get to keep the right to vote for the Oscars, (And even if you don't you still get Academy Emeritus status anyway) sounds very reasonable doesn't it. And I was going to not write this blogpost and go ahead with that and say that it is reasonable, until..., until I read Bill Mumy's open-letter to the Academy. For those who don't know, Bill Mumy is a very talented actor/musician/voice-over artist, etc., I think I, and most everybody else knows him as Will Robinson in the original "Lost in Space", although he was pretty well-regarded even years before that, he was on "Babylon 5", apparently, yeah, he's considered among the all-time great child actors and he still works regularly in the industry. Yet, because of these new rule changes, he was actually dismissed as an Oscar voter, so he wrote an open-letter to the Academy about it, you can read it, a few different places, but here's the Hollywood Reporter's link to the letter below: 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/oscar-voter-dont-capitulate-a-860243

Now, you see, I don't quite know whether to agree or disagree with the Academy's stance on the ten-year-rule they're implementing, even after Mumy's article, because here's the thing that this open-letter and Mumy's dismissal actually reveals about the Academy. It's got nothing to do with Academy racism, or sexism (Which is something I consider a far bigger issue than racism I might add) or anything, it's that,... well, the Academy is too...- what's-the-word, um,... outdated? Behind the times? Eh, no. The thesaurus in my mind is failing me, but yeah, the Academy is just incapable of adapting to the modern world of films and filmmaking.

Okay, let's think of it this way. The Oscars this year are in they're what, 88th Academy Awards? Yeah, 88th Academy Awards, back then, there only was motion pictures. Even if you just made shorts or newsreels or whatever, in order to see any kind of moving pictures, you had to go to a motion picture theater. Basically movies were the update to nickelodeons. And that's fine, that's where we were at, and then television came along and while there was a certain division between film people and television people for awhile, in reality, especially today, that line is basically erased. I mean, there's just more opportunities for people working in the film industry to have work in the film industry, they're just not working on motion pictures, or theatrically-released in L.A. County ones. (In due respects, most theatrically-released pictures that don't play in L.A. County, aren't worth watching nowadays, foreign films exceptioned, usually) But, you know, this is the problem with the Academy Awards, motion pictures are just, not the special, unique product that they were and, I don't know how, this may require something drastic, like, maybe combining forces with the Emmys or something, but feature films are just not the only way people tell stories visually now, and it's already a dying art form. Okay, let's forget, internet people, streaming sources, whatever, I mean, look at last year's Oscar winners: Julianne Moore, used to play twins in a soap opera, Patricia Arquette, already had an Emmy for one drama series, now she's staring in another, J.K. Simmons was a regular on "Law & Order" and "The Closer", Eddie Redmayne, um, a couple miniseries,-, okay not the greatest example here, but basically everybody works in every medium now. The Oscars and the entertainment press tend to play up the glitz and glamour of movie business, but there aren't movie stars anymore, and everybody does everything. Steven Spielberg has a BAFTA Award for Video Games, look it up, not kidding. He also has more Emmys than Oscars, and he's been working in television even before he ever did films. Everybody has. And now there's the internet and....-

This is the problem with the Academy Awards, they have to fundamentally realize that, not only is there more to their world then, the demographics that they are, subliminally racist or sexist, whatever,- (And I do think Mumy was right about that, whatever your thoughts on the nominees, or lack of diversity thereof, I don't think it was at all anything intentional that all the acting nominees are white) the problem isn't that the Academy of Motion Pictures are out of touch with us, the problem is that motion pictures, are out of touch with the rest of the academy. And, yeah, maybe we should begin adapting a BAFTA-like catch-all group to honor everything in the art of filmmaking. That's the real problem, the Academy is based on the notion of how exclusive of the world of Hollywood and filmmaking is, and even as, arguably the era of theatrical released films are dying and turning into Broadway-priced spectacles, they're still remaining true to this exclusiveness area of theatrical films, and not only is it leading to the public being a little outraged when certain things aren't or are nominated, it's leading to the rejection of it's own members, who actually, despite our objections are way more qualified to judge movies then most really are. We don't need, a more diverse group, (Okay, we do, but that's not the problem) what we need in order to fix the Oscars, is to have finally give in, and expand their voting base beyond the limited world of motion pictures. We've moved beyond that, and now it's time for the Academy to begin doing that as well, and I hate to break it to you people, but making sure the Oscar nominees are more than just white men, that's barely step one. You see, the way I'm figuring, the more the Academy begins to expand their concept of motion pictures, at least in terms of their eligible voting base, then eventually, the more we'll not only get diversity at the Oscars, but we'll probably also get more of a diverse collection of feature films as well.


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