AMPAS Antics

Covered Oscars statues rest under a tent, to guard against rain, along the red carpet ahead of the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California

The Hollywood Reporter says that the Academy are seriously thinking of going back to five. What that really means is that they might finally take the action they’ve been wanting to take for the past five years.

Some time after they switched their voting from five to ten, and then from ten to a number between five and ten (nine for three years, eight for one), an Academy member and publicist told me that they really just wanted to go back to five anyway and this was their way to do that. I think it mostly worked out for them because there were so many films to choose from in 2011, 2012 and 2013. But last year really exposed the problems with the current process of choosing their Best Picture nominees.

I think they should got back to ten nomination slots and ten nominees, as I wrote about earlier this year.  The first reason is that the Academy voters are not evolving. They aren’t really interested in what the public wants. They aren’t interested in what the critics think. They merely vote per the films presented to them each season by the awards strategists. It has created a bubble.

The second reason is that they have not and will not diversify in terms of nominating women or people of color, movies about women or people of color. You think the complaints were bad this year, wait until they go back to five. In fact, what they don’t realize and what many people don’t realize is this: there really is no going back.

The Academy voter who wrote me said having ten nomination slots for members “only invites more mediocrity.” That read to me like a “let them eat cake” moment. If a secret club far removed from reality and “the people” is what they want, that is exactly where they’re headed. Why, well because they are stubbornly holding on to “the Oscar movie.”

The only time they didn’t was with ten nomination slots in 2009 and 2010, wherein a diverse selection of films were nominated — films about women, directed by women, action films, genre films, animation – that reflects what is happening IN HOLLYWOOD. The Producers Guild manages to do it perfectly fine since 2009. But the Academy has to deal with their whiny voters who are too lazy to put down ten and want it to be five, “because it’s ALWAYS BEEN FIVE.”

Those of us in the business of watching Oscar know that this change was inevitable. This is the direction they really want to move in. Thus, that’s likely what’s going to happen. You think it’s white and male now, just you wait.

On the other hand – what I like about five Best Picture nominees is that with the current system more has not equaled better or more interesting. More has just meant “more Oscar movies.” With more than five, the power of the director has been greatly diminished. Even though this year it didn’t split, the two categories Picture and Director are now regarded separately than they were for many decades from the mid 1940s on to 2009.

This year, the problems were in the categories that were limited to five, like Best Director, the acting and writing categories. Though it would make the stodgy older voters annoyed even more, the way to go is more nomination slots throughout, not less. Say, six per category and not five.  Why not? This would especially benefit the Documentary feature category. Just imagine all of the films flooding into the race in that category. It’s absurd to keep them only at five.

They will go back to five and people will complain about them even worse than they do now. I think – ten nomination slots, ten Best Pictures of the year and be done with it.

Read the scoop at HR. 

let them eat cake

let them eat cakeScott Feinberg talks to an Academy voter who reveals her true opinions. As someone on the receiving end of a letter by an Academy voter, these two sound like they sit at the same table. Entitled, pampered, wealthy Hollywood business people. To this voter, money is more important than just about anything, which makes me think she’s an old-school Academy voter. She praises American Sniper for being a film that made a lot of money and praises Grand Budapest Hotel for the same reason. She is applauding success as defined by those in the club who see Hollywood the way it used to be and the way many Academy veterans are determined to see it stay. They do not realize that they look like dinosaurs. She seems to be engaged and smart, and to kind of sort of care, but she sounds like Marie Antoinette to me (or the rumored version of the French queen) – just clueless as to what people are really talking about in the rest of the film community.

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?

I’ve heard these same complaints, but typically from elderly or white middle-aged males – but you don’t often hear it from younger people or anyone engaged in the evolving culture here in this country and in the independent film community. If you don’t care about civil rights you aren’t going to care about Selma. It’s really as simple as that. You either feel the pulse of its urgency or you don’t. If you spend all of your free time deciding which day to wash your hair or which car pick-up company to use to take you to which event you’re certainly going to be far, far removed from the urgency a film like Selma brings.

She does have a point when she says:

Birdman is a great job by Fox Searchlight — it’s a weird, quirky movie that they did a really good job of selling. I never thought that it would make it all the way to the finish line like it has — but then I remember that it’s about a tortured actor, and when you think about who is doing the voting, at SAG and the Academy, it’s a lot of other tortured actors. I just don’t know how much it’s resonating out in the world. I mean, American Sniper made more in its third weekend in wide release than Birdman has made in its entirety.

Unfortunately she doesn’t take the thought further to analyze exactly why Birdman is resonating with the film industry as a whole. Doesn’t take rocket science. It won with producers, actors and directors. But it won nowhere else.

And here she shows just how out of touch the voters really are:

On paper, The Imitation Game seemed to be the one to me. It’s a great story, well-crafted, [Benedict Cumberbatch] is really good and it’s been a big success. It’s what you call “prestige filmmaking.” So why isn’t it receiving more recognition? I’d like to believe it’s karma for Harvey [Weinstein]. But I’m going to hold my nose and vote for it anyway because when you vote for best picture, what you should try to do is vote for the movie that, years from now, people will still watch and talk about. For some years, it’s like, “Huh?! Around the World in 80 Days [the winner for 1956] won best picture? Are you kidding me?” So I try to vote in a way so that, in 50 years, people aren’t going to go, “Huh?!” MY VOTE: (1) The Imitation Game; (2) Birdman; (3) American Sniper; (4) Boyhood; (5) The Grand Budapest Hotel

Of all of the movies in the lineup she picks The Imitation Game as the one that will stand the test of time? By the logic of her other remarks, she should have picked American Sniper.

I don’t like this way of thinking but I’m afraid this is how a very large number of Academy members think. This is very representative of who they are, sadly. Sure, there is a smaller percentage of younger, more diverse voters but this kind of mindset — traditional Hollywood – impedes progress.


“It was an honor to work on this wonderful film and collaborate with a brilliant director like Alejandro González Iñárritu on Birdman. I’m deeply disappointed that the music branch of the Academy did not recognize my score as eligible, even after receiving a detailed cue sheet, a letter from the president of music at Fox studios, and a description of the process from both Alejandro and myself. The disqualification seems to stem from the perception that my score was diluted by the incidental music on the film. I strongly disagree with this idea. The music that people remember after watching the movie is the sound, originality, character, and strength of my score, which seems to be the reason it continues to receive attention, nominations, and awards, which I’m deeply humbled by. Some of the finest composers are members of the Academy and I’m saddened my score didn’t resonate with the decision makers.”

– Antonio Sanchez, Composer – Birdman


Birdman Score Accolades

Golden Globe Nominee – Original Score
Critics’ Choice Award Nominee – Best Score
Venice Film Festival – WINNNER – Soundtrack Stars for Best Score Award
Hollywood Music in Media Awards – WINNER – Best Original Score | Feature Film
Austin Film Critics Association – WINNER – Best Score
Las Vegas Film Critics Society – WINNER – Best Score
Phoenix Film Critics Society – WINNER – Best Original Score
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association – WINNER – Best Music Score
Chicago Film Critics Association – Nomination – Best Original Score
Houston Film Critics Association – Nomination – Best Original Score
San Diego Film Critics Society – Nomination – Best Original Score
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association – Nomination – Best Original Score
Satellite Awards – Nominee – Best Original Score


In case you were wondering why Oscar pundits like Scott Feinberg and now, the LA Times’ Glenn Whipp are so cool on Gone Girl’s Oscar chances because stories like this reveal how Academy members think. This has been an ongoing issue for decades, of course, which is why Vertigo – hailed as the greatest film of all time only received two Oscar nominations. One for Art Direction and one for Sound.

The mistake is to listen to what these older middled aged mostly male voters think about movies and somehow deduce that it means something beyond: it’s a divisive film. There are those who love it and those who hate it. And then there are these members who really don’t feel anything about it except to shrug and say “that’s it?”

I remember walking up to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre with hundreds of people gathered around trying to take her photo and all around me I heard people say: “That’s it?” I thought about that painting a lot the rest of that day wondering whether its greatness depended on what any old person off the street thought versus what art critics thought at the time and now.

Gone Girl isn’t even a critics’ darling by this point but it is entertaining. I remember when Martin Scorsese’s The Departed came out everyone said the same thing: it’s a good movie but it’s not an Oscar movie. Some even said “that’s it?” But The Departed fits more nicely into the Academy’s wheelhouse, in a way, than Gone Girl does. How many films in the Best Picture race can you count that were written by women? Can you even think of a single one that was a female adapting a novel that she wrote?

The success of Gone Girl will be pinned on Fincher but to me I look at this piece by Whipp, and some of the harsher reviews by people like Manohla Dargis and I just think: Same fucking shit, different day. Voters will be inclined to pretend that Fincher is the one who “ruined” the book while neglecting to realize that Flynn wrote the screenplay. Same fucking shit. Different day.

“I didn’t want to know anything about the movie before I saw it, but I kept hearing people talking about Ben Affleck’s penis,” one academy member, a screenwriter, said. “Now I know why. It’s a more fully realized character here than the one Pike plays.”

That complaint was echoed by multiple academy members who had read the book and came away dissatisfied with the character balance in the adaptation.

“It probably couldn’t be helped,” one voter said, “because of the way the book alternates between her story and his. The movie, it’s mostly Affleck. You don’t hear enough of her voice, and it throws the whole thing off.”

“Gone Girl” screened for New York-based academy members Tuesday, with star Rosamund Pike interviewed afterward. There was no Q&A following Saturday’s screening at the Goldwyn. The audience clapped when the closing credits began to roll, but there was no applause when they finished. Contrasted to most movies that go on to win a best picture nomination, it was a rather subdued reaction, particularly given the buzz that was in the room when the film began.

Fincher’s technical prowess – the precise camera work, the immaculately composed shots, the razor-sharp editing – remained unimpeachable for some. “This is first-class filmmaking,” one academy member said. But … “But, like a lot of his other movies, you admire it more than you enjoy it.”

In short, when it comes to the academy, “Gone Girl” could have some issues. Many critics love it. The Internet is obsessed with it, dissecting its gender politics, its ending, its fidelity to the book. But, perhaps owing to the hype, not to mention the aforementioned gender politics and that wackadoodle ending, audiences might be divided between ardent believers, the unimpressed and the nonplussed.

“What did I just see?” one Oscar-nominated producer asked, walking along Wilshire Boulevard to his car. “That’s it? Really? I’ve seen better social commentary in a good episode of ‘Bob’s Burgers.'”

The shame in my business to read stories like this that equate quality with Academy tastes. People who watch the Oscars can’t seem to decide if “they” are worthy of admiration or not. When they want to see a movie fail in the race they act as though it is some kind of great honor to be nominated. When they love a movie that “they” reject they deride the Academy as a bunch of know-nothings. You can’t have it both ways. Believe me, I’ve been trying for 16 years.

Here’s what I know about Academy members. They like you to be good but they don’t like you to be good. Believe me, I was here when Martin Scorsese had not yet won an Oscar. Martin Scorsese who directed Taxi Driver in 1976, who didn’t win a directing Oscar until 2006. And the only reason he finally won for The Departed was because it was a movie voters could kind of get. It was also easily the best of the five that year. The Oscars are really nothing more than a cut above the People’s Choice awards. In fact, the Hollywood Foreign Press has a better track record than the Oscars throughout film history, having awarded such films as A Place in the Sun, Chinatown, etc.

Gone Girl was never meant to be an Oscar movie. The only reason it’s even in the conversation is because of people like me who desperately want it to be in the conversation because the last thing people like me want to do is spend the next few months hand holding a bunch of crybabies. There is nothing more thrilling than having a dark film like Gone Girl in the Best Picture race from my perspective. Ditto Foxcatcher, Birdman, Maps to the Stars, Mommy – bring back the great films, please for the love of all things holy. When did the Oscar race turn into such a mushy, developmentally disabled affair?

The complaints seem to vary (as they do with ticket buyers and critics) that they didn’t think Rosamund Pike was given enough screen time, that she was more fully realized in the novel. The same could be said for Wendy in The Shining, Mrs. Brody in Jaws and on and on it goes. A cinematic rendition of a novel is different from a novel. The experience is different. When I read The English Patient it forever turned me off of the movie. The book is so wonderfully written, and the Kristen Scott-Thomas character is so different than she is in the book. But you know what? In the end, a movie is a movie and a book is a book and these voters should know that.

Whipp calls Gone Girl’s Cinemascore of “B” “middling.” And indeed, to WIN Best Picture you really need an A. Shit movies get A grades but Best Picture winners often do too. Argo got an A+. The King’s Speech an A or A+. Titanic got an A+. The Departed got an A-. But hey, Dolphin Tale 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy both got Cinemascores of A — let’s nominate them for Best Picture. Cinemascore really measures audiences expectations versus how those expectations were met. Expectations for Gone Girl were upended, by design.

BUT – all of this to say that Gone Girl’s chances of winning Best Picture are nil. And it’s too early in the race to decide whether the industry will count it among the best pictures of the year for a nomination.

But here’s what I will tell you:

If you’re a smart pundit you will cross Gone Girl and everything about it off your list. Don’t you be like me. Don’t measure your hopes and dreams by a consensus vote. If they’re already shrugging at this point in the race, trust me, you don’t want to see how this thing will play out.

However, please also do me this favor: delide what’s best on your own, without hugging up close to the Academy because their little gold statues must mean something. They don’t. What they mean is power and popularity in Hollywood. Nothing more, nothing less. They can sometimes make careers, especially in categories like Documentary Feature and the Shorts. Overall, though? This is the Homecoming Dance with a little taste.

2014 will likely be filled with great movies, more than enough soft weepies to fill the Academy’s slate of nine. Forgive me if I continue to write about a film that thrilled me from start to finish. I don’t write about films I think the Academy will pick. I would shoot myself in the face if I did.

But you should follow more objective “Oscar pundits” like Scott Feinberg, Anne Thompson, Kris Tapley, Pete Hammond — they don’t get their hearts involved and they will help you win your office pool. They can tolerate Academy members, too, so they talk to them. Me, I’d much rather talk to the bartenders and waitresses at Academy parties.

To recap: This is me telling you not to predict Gone Girl for anything. Nothing. That way you can’t blame me when it fails to receive a nomination. As for me, I can’t imagine any group with the honor of bestowing high achievements in film not honoring this movie as one of the best (if not the best) of 2014.

David Fincher, like Stanley Kubrick, like Steven Spielberg, like Martin Scorsese, like John Ford makes America proud. His canon speaks for itself, though these Academy members are right. He’s never going to make the kind of movie they want him to make to win one of their ornaments. He’s never going to make a movie that makes us all feel good about ourselves and our world. Please tell me Oscar voters still get that.

So if the worst you can say about Gone Girl is that the Academy members didn’t like it and it only got a Cinemascore of a B? Well, that isn’t so bad.

And with that, the scene that has always summed up the Oscar race for me.



It’s never a pretty picture to look inside the mind of your average Oscar voter, especially those who have nothing better to do than blab about their choices.  Back when I first started covering the Oscar race it was considered a rookie move to post or advertise what one Oscar voter was choosing – simply because there were so many pretending to be Oscar voters.  No one is easier to fool than an Oscar blogger because they’re always looking to do three things, 1) pretend that they are rubbing elbows with Academy members, and 2) that they are the person Academy members talk to, and 3) generate filler.

You have to wonder why an Academy member would share this info with an online site.  A while back, a LONG while back, the Wall Street Journal took out an Oscar poll in order to predict the Oscars. They got it mostly right but not 100%.  The guilds themselves mostly serve as polls because you can get almost as close to predicting their winners just by looking at the guilds. Hey, that’s what most of us predictors do.

I would imagine that there is a large section of Academy members who like being the center of all of this puffery this time of year, and maybe they aren’t exactly working on a movie set, or showing up at an office making their assistant, wife, child, grandchild, mistress, UPS guy fill out their ballot. Maybe they have a lot of time on their hands and they’re looking at all of the coverage now of the Oscar race. There is so much coverage it looks like No Face in Spirited Away, a churning beast that always wants MORE.

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One of the hardest parts of Oscar watching is the inevitable truths that come out every year about the behavior of Academy voters, who are more like your average movie-goer than they are like film critics. A friend of mine said, after seeing 12 Years a Slave, that if the Academy chose that film for Best Picture it would be a step forward for a group that tends to pick more comforting, uplifting fare. Probably the two most challenging Best Picture winners in recent years have been Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and Joel and Ethan Coen’s No Country for Old Men. Both of these wins had the rooting factor included – the first woman to win, and finally rewarding the beloved Coens. Regardless of what Academy voters are doing now, regardless of their resistance to “difficult” movies, there is a very strong added element to this year’s race: making Oscar history. And not just because Brad Pitt will finally win an Oscar.

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Scott Feinberg went and hung out with a prickly director who gave him his honest picks in the various categories. You can tell 2012 is a very strong year because everyone’s “should wins” are all over the place. One thing I can say with a certainty is that I feel a groundswell not for Silver Linings for Best Picture but for Zero Dark Thirty and that will be my No Guts, No Glory for Best Picture. Here is the funniest paragraph but you should read the whole article:

“This is a preferential system. I’m putting Amour at No. 9 because I’m just pissed off at that film. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie that I just didn’t understand, so that’s my No. 8. Les Miserables goes in seventh place — it’s not just the most disappointing film of the year but the most disappointing film in many years. Above that I’m putting Silver Linings Playbook, which is just a “blah” film. Django Unchained will go into my fifth slot — it’s a fun movie, but it’s basically just Quentin Tarantino masturbating for almost three hours. Next up is Life of Pi because of how unique it is and for holding my attention up until its irritating ending. Argo is gonna go in third place, but I don’t want it to win because I don’t think it deserves to win and am annoyed that it is on track to win for the wrong reasons. Actually, come to think of it, do we have to put a film in every slot? Because what I want is for my best picture choice to have the best possible shot, so why even give any support to the others? [He has his assistant call the Oscar voting helpline, finds out that voters can leave slots blank and promptly removes all of the aforementioned selections.] I’m basically OK with one of two films winning. Lincoln is going in my second slot; it’s a bore, but it’s Spielberg, it’s well-meaning, and it’s important. Zero Dark Thirty is my No 1.”

Jimmy Fallon, freshest of late late night talk show hosts, is in talks to host the 85th Academy Awards. ABC is reportedly raising objections because Fallon has the audacity to be brilliant on a program not owned by ABC. The network has no authority in choice of Oscar host so what good can come of Disney/ABC kicking up a stink? The LATimes has details.

ABC is owned by Disney, and Disney chief executive Bob Iger is said to be unhappy with the idea of showcasing Fallon, whose show competes with ABC’s late-night show featuring Jimmy Kimmel. Fallon and Kimmel are in a neck-and-neck competition for viewers.

Disney declined to comment. The people briefed on the talks cautioned that they could still fall apart. While in the last few years the academy has primarily turned to film stars to host its biggest night, talk show hosts such as Jon Stewart and David Letterman have hosted the telecast before. But Letterman took the Oscar stage in mid-1990s, before ABC had a late-night show of its own, and Stewart’s show airs on Comedy Central, a cable outlet with a smaller audience.

Jimmy Kimmel is hosting this year’s Emmy Awards, and he’ll be a great fit. Personally, I think Kimmel’s style is all wrong for the classier Academy. Does ABC seriously think part of its privilege as Oscar broadcaster is to showcase its own TV talent? Shabby attitude.

I have no beef against Nikki Finke, like many do. In fact, I’ve always admired her throughout the years for her tenacity and fortitude forging a path in a mostly male dominated industry. But something went a little funny when I started seeing more and more news breaks coming from the Motion Picture Academy to Deadline exclusively.  The Academy then releases a pointless, redundant news item which no one bothers to post because, well, it’s already been broken by Deadline.  Well, all that is fine and well if Deadline weren’t in the Oscar business. But they are squarely in the Oscar business, with Pete Hammond who makes a lot of money doing Q&A’s for the Academy during Oscar season while also writing Deadline’s Oscar column.  Deadline takes For Your Consideration ads.  So far, so good – this is pretty much what Variety and Hollywood Reporter did back in the day – except for one key difference and that difference, I believe, lies with what I just saw on Deadline just now — apparently David Poland has been writing about it for a while now but I, with my head in the sand, did not see it. In the end, by giving exclusive news breaks to Deadline, and employing Pete Hammond from Deadline, the Academy is, to my mind, endorsing Deadline. And from what I know about them that is not usually how they do business. So it was worth noting.


The thing is, again, fine — the LA Times and The Wrap and other outlets do similar stuff but come on, “personal perspectives in the Oscar race” with Nikki Finke calling Scott Rudin a “baby” or whatever it was?  I’m sorry but that’s about as objective as having me moderate it.  And finally, all of this would mean nothing were it not for Deadline’s connection to the Academy. Surely this must violate their rules and yet no one seems to be noticing – no New York Times, no Los Angeles Times. Only David Poland.

The Academy once asked me if they could use my site to deliver news to their App. And I said “Sure but do you know my site?” I knew that one look and they would flat out say no because my site takes sides. So does Deadline Hollywood.  The Academy should be aware of this.

It’s one thing to be a biased advocating site — to campaign for films because you believe they are good.  It’s one thing to reach Academy members with what you write — there is no way of really controlling that. But when the Academy aligns themselves so throughly with a news outlet like that and they dip themselves into the Oscar race as this event clearly is doing – I don’t know.  Seems rather slippery, Agent Starling.

Thanks to this essay by Mark Harris at I feel a lot less like a fuming hothead for suggesting earlier that Brett Ratner’s behavior shouldn’t be pardoned.

…at a Los Angeles Q&A after a screening of Tower Heist, the film’s director Brett Ratner dismissed a question about his process by saying, “Rehearsing is for fags.” Since Ratner has been signed to produce this year’s Oscars, I would say he has a problem. There are many public responses that can follow an incident like this: The Sincere Apology, The Twelve-Step Apology (“My intemperate remarks have led me to understand that I need to seek treatment for…”), the Non-Apology Apology (“I’m sorry if my choice of words offended…”), the Can’t-You-Take-A-Joke Apology (“All my gay friends know that I don’t use P.C. language…”) or the Sidestep Apology (“I didn’t mean anything homophobic, I was just using ‘fags’ to mean, you know, losers!”)

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Thanks to this essay by Mark Harris at I feel a lot less like a fuming hothead for suggesting earlier that Brett Ratner’s behavior shouldn’t be pardoned.

…at a Los Angeles Q&A after a screening of Tower Heist, the film’s director Brett Ratner dismissed a question about his process by saying, “Rehearsing is for fags.” Since Ratner has been signed to produce this year’s Oscars, I would say he has a problem. There are many public responses that can follow an incident like this: The Sincere Apology, The Twelve-Step Apology (“My intemperate remarks have led me to understand that I need to seek treatment for…”), the Non-Apology Apology (“I’m sorry if my choice of words offended…”), the Can’t-You-Take-A-Joke Apology (“All my gay friends know that I don’t use P.C. language…”) or the Sidestep Apology (“I didn’t mean anything homophobic, I was just using ‘fags’ to mean, you know, losers!”)

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I sincerely believe the Academy needs to fire Brett Ratner.

Last week, Brett Ratner told the world that yes, he did “bang” Olivia Munn, but it was “before she was Asian” (an admission he made not while under questioning by Howard Stern but as a guest on a basic cable talk show). Ratner grew no less shy this weekend, according to Twitter and several Vulture sources: After a screening of his film Tower Heist at L.A.’s Arclight Cinemas, the director came out for a Q&A, and when asked by the moderator whether he prepares and rehearses with his actors before shooting a scene, Ratner waved his hand dismissively and said, “Rehearsing is for fags.” Let’s hope Ratner revises that attitude prior to producing this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, or at least before he lands the next pitch meeting for his dream project, an adaptation of the Broadway musical Wicked. (Vulture)

Swift frantic backpedaling apology after the cut.

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I sincerely believe the Academy needs to fire Brett Ratner.

Last week, Brett Ratner told the world that yes, he did “bang” Olivia Munn, but it was “before she was Asian” (an admission he made not while under questioning by Howard Stern but as a guest on a basic cable talk show). Ratner grew no less shy this weekend, according to Twitter and several Vulture sources: After a screening of his film Tower Heist at L.A.’s Arclight Cinemas, the director came out for a Q&A, and when asked by the moderator whether he prepares and rehearses with his actors before shooting a scene, Ratner waved his hand dismissively and said, “Rehearsing is for fags.” Let’s hope Ratner revises that attitude prior to producing this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, or at least before he lands the next pitch meeting for his dream project, an adaptation of the Broadway musical Wicked. (Vulture)

Swift frantic backpedaling apology after the cut.

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The Forgiveness of Blood


Like a snake eating its own tail, Mark Harris, over at Grantland, suggests that as we wait out the lull (read: as we wait for the Big Oscar Movies to drop), perhaps it’s time to scrutinize the group we love to hate:

So while we wait, perhaps it’s time to turn to the Academy itself. As Oscar-watchers, we all root for excellence to be rewarded. Sometimes that doesn’t happen because of collective bad taste, or sentimentality, or blind spots, or irrational exuberance, but it’s particularly galling when it doesn’t happen because the Academy’s own rules prevent it.

Mark writes up three things, all well worth the read.  I’m going to have a pretend conversation with him for the hell of it.

1. Mark says: I hate to beat up on the Academy’s foreign-film selection system because in recent years, some intelligent and helpful reforms have actually been instituted. Nobody can say they’re not trying. Unfortunately, the Oscars still obstruct, rather than encourage, the honoring of the best of world cinema.
I say: when you’re right, you’re right. The process of selecting a “foreign language film” is itself outdated.  Yes, maybe they’re trying to honor World Cinema, but the truth is, World Cinema is kicking American Cinema’s ass year after year. Hell, the Koreans alone…the Foreign Language race is as ludicrous as the Animated Feature race.  Good movies are good movies.  It does kind of say to the world: we are going to honor “our” movies (“ours” meaning America and England, one presumes) and then over here we’ll honor movies that don’t have the chance to play over here as much and perhaps it will bring more eyeballs, and more money, to those productions.  Unfortunately, the little box they’ve tried to put foreign language film into is just too damned small by this point.  But what is the solution?  The Oscars, I do believe, should honor the best and I am inclined to think they should do what they were invented to do: help promote the American studio system.    Mark lays out the biggest problem:

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Press release:

Beverly Hills, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today issued regulations for how movies and achievements eligible for the 84th Academy Awards may be marketed to Academy members. The most notable change affects screening events that include filmmaker participation. Additional changes address digital delivery of movies to Academy members and public references to competing films or achievements via social media platforms.

“These campaign regulations play an important role in protecting the integrity of the Academy Awards process and the distinction of the Oscar®,” said Academy President Tom Sherak. “Above all, we want Academy members to see movies as they were meant to be seen, in a theatrical setting.”

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Jackie Weaver, Rooney Mara, Gerard Butler, Bradley Cooper, Vince Cassel, David Duchovny, John Hawkes – just some of the names invited to join the Academy – wow, does this mean they are actually evolving forward just a wee bit?  Maybe.

Russell Brand!  Russell Brand!  Russell Brand! This was Helen Mirren’s doing.

Full release after the cut.

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The AMPAS rocked the Oscar blogging world …cough cough, sputter sputter.  Let’s start that again.  The mildly interesting news announced overnight that the AMPAS has decided that they will not be beholden to a solid number of ten Best Picture nominees.   And will instead choose an arbitrary number.  It could be somewhere between five and ten.

The truth that those of us who have been following them for these many years know that the Oscar race is a game.  It’s a game of winners and losers.  It’s a game of very astute publicists, popular stars, good looks, the occasional naked lady, and a lot of people whose greatest moments of revolutionary thinking happened back in the 1970s.  They can keep tinkering with the plumbing but it’s never going to make the shit not stink.  Nevertheless, there is some maybe interesting fallout from this and that’s their loose admission here that picking ten, for them, was probably a mistake.

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The Academy members will now have the opportunity to vote electronically, Nikki Finke just confirmed.  I’m not sure what this means exactly – but one assumes they mean online voting?

As Mark Zuckerberg would say, “let the hacking begin.”  Just kidding.  But correct me if I’m wrong – these are the same people who didn’t really know what Facebook was last year? The same people who couldn’t figure out how to use those machines – what were they called?  Those things that replaced DVD players?  At least we know they can put a stamp on an envelope and mail the thing.  I  hope they will give them the choice.  Raise your hand if you’ve opted to “go paperless” lately on any of your important bills?

Here is what was written on Deadline.  It’s only mildly interesting until you get to the last sentence.

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just confirmed to me that it sent out a letter Thursday to all members that electronic voting for Oscars will be implemented “as early as this year, and will certainly by in effect by next year. … At some point, once the system is up and running, mailed ballots will be eliminated.” The letter from AMPAS director of membership Kimberly Roush asked members for a personal email address that goes directly to them and not to an assistant or agent or manager or other intermediary. This is the first step towards the Academy moving up the Oscars to January so it won’t be the last awards show televised. Of course, other awards shows could move even earlier.

Key word here is COULD. Does anyone really think that the SAG, BFCA, Globes etc would think about having their shows after the Oscars? Don’t they know how it all works?  Every other group wants to be the big influencer of the Oscars.   The only show that really stands on its own merit, where it wouldn’t have to be before the Oscars, are the Golden Globes.  The rest of them exist ONLY to influence the Oscar race.  They always move their dates according to the Oscar calendar.

If that did happen, by the way, why would anyone give a hoot about the Oscars?  They’d care about whatever show is the last of the year.  Right? Right.

How exciting that a woman has actually risen in the ranks at the AMPAS. Says Gold Derby’s Paul Sheehan:

Dawn Hudson, long-time head of Film Independent, becomes the ultimate Hollywood insider as CEO of the motion picture academy. She replaces departing executive director Bruce Davis. His long-time lieutenant Ric Robertson will be COO in the revamped structure which will be put in place June 1.

In making the announcement, academy president Tom Sherakexplained the revised hierarchy thus: “We’re a different organization than we used to be with a range of activities that couldn’t have been conceived of when the present structure came into place. Now, with the leadership team of Dawn as our CEO and Ric as our COO, we have the ideal combination of new vision and institutional continuity to move us forward.”

Great, now let’s see if the voters themselves can actually move the AMPAS forward. ¬†They seem to be at least trying to drag the AMPAS kicking and screaming into the modern era.

The key concept at play here seems to be “the future,” with this move being a “next chapter” in the ongoing saga of the 84 years the AMPAS has been in business. ¬†The film awards, which mean less and less as the decade wears on but never meant so little as they did this past year, are only part of what the AMPAS does. ¬†Still, let’s see if Ms. Hudson can shake things up a bit.

Comment trolling grousing after the cut (cue the “you’re so bitter, get over it” refrains).

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AMPAS’ press release announces that Kathryn Bigelow, editor Anne Coates and Michael Moore will be the first time electees to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences‚Äô Board of Governors.

The rest of the release after the cut.

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