Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Motion Picture Academy tries to rise above its limitations.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has entered Consecutive Year Two of all-white acting nominations--mentioned quite a bit in the last few days.  And, of course, there's the noticeable failure to recognize independent films not distributed by major studios/studio-run specialty units; this includes Netflix's BEASTS OF NO NATION, Spike Lee's Amazon-backed CHI-RAQ and Roadside Attractions' Brian Wilson biopic LOVE AND MERCY.

Let's take a brief look at the nomination process:

Excerpted from Wikipedia's "Academy Awards" article:
In late December ballots and copies of the Reminder List of Eligible Releases are mailed to around 6,000 active members. For most categories, members from each of the branches vote to determine the nominees only in their respective categories (i.e. only directors vote for directors, writers for writers, actors for actors, etc.). In all major categories, voters use an instant run-off voting ballot, with potential nominees rewarded in the single transferable vote tally for having strong supporters who rank them first.[34] There are some exceptions in the case of certain categories, like Foreign Film, Documentary and Animated Feature Film, in which movies are selected by special screening committees made up of members from all branches. In the special case of Best Picture, all voting members are eligible to select the nominees for that category. Foreign films must include English subtitles, and each country can submit only one film per year.[35]
The winners are then determined by a second round of voting in which all members are then allowed to vote in most categories, including Best Picture.[36]
Thanks in part to the #OscarsSoWhite protests, the Academy recently announced some "we hear you, but we're moving at our own pace" attempts at correction.
But, as noted by Michael Cieply in THE NEW YORK TIMES--
"....action on possible changes to Oscar balloting was deferred for later consideration."

Likely results of the Academy's wake-up call:
1. Fearful grumbling (with various degrees of racial prejudice exhibited) from rank-and-file Academy members uncomfortable with being pushed into Emeritus no-voting status by not working/not being an Oscar nominee/winner.
2. The number of Best Picture nominees may be set at ten every year, instead of the current "anywhere between five and ten pictures."  This may be the most notable nod to expanding racial diversity and acknowledging popular commercial films (the Academy has done some backsliding on the latter).
3. Unlike what Tom O'Neil of GOLD DERBY proposed recently (a dramatic increase in the number of Academy members), the current Status Quo will only see slight alterations--with future protests being countered with the "we'll get it done by 2020" Academy talking point.

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