“People will think…” “What I tell them to think.” — Citizen Kane
This year has set up a situation where it really does test the influence of the growing guilds. So much so that you have to wonder whether there is any point to having an Academy at all. Why bother inviting members or creating an exclusivity when anyone can basically join these other large guilds if they work in the industry and they get to decide what the Best Picture of the Year is. In a way, it’s the reverse of 2010, when the critics unanimously chose The Social Network but the guilds said no. And the Academy followed suit. The Oscar directors branch is the single most important group in the Oscar race. To override them is to break with Academy history in such a significant way that it would signal a power shift in Hollywood away from the Academy and towards the guilds.
When Oscar announced that they were pushing back their ballot deadline to occur before the guilds announced, it was the rare opportunity to see what the Academy, unfettered by the guilds’ influence, really thought about the films in the conversation. My pundit friends said oh no, they think the same way the guilds do so there won’t be any noticeable difference. Except that there was. The directors everyone thought should be there weren’t there.
When the Oscar nominations came out and suddenly, Ben Affleck, the popular movie star in the race was what the public likes to call “snubbed.” At the same time Argo won the Critics Choice and the Golden Globe, making the “snub” seem even more unfair. Two standing ovations at the Critics Choice awards around the same time as the PGA, SAG and WGA ballots were turned in signaled a near unanimous decision by the guilds to “correct” the Academy’s mistake. Now it’s up to the Academy to decide if yes, they made a mistake leaving off Ben Affleck. Or no, they didn’t.