Feature Photo: 1965, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors, with President Gregory Peck at head of table, Margaret Herrick to the right, followed by Vice President Elmer Bernstein
By Daniel Smith-Rowsey
Prior to last week, in its century-long history, Hollywood has had two major, conspicuous talent overhauls, one in the late 1920s, and one in the late 1960s. Both historical “purges” were driven by severe, untypical economic and cultural anxieties, and the overhauls were accompanied by alterations to policies of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) that served as key drivers/reflectors of the winds of change blowing through the industry. Presuming that Friday’s announced change in Academy policies pertains, it augurs the industry’s third serious overhaul, and here we take a moment to compare and contrast with the previous two, to see what’s similar, what’s different, and what we might expect in the near future.
Everyone knows about the transition from silent to sound pictures occasioned by the epoch-making success of The Jazz Singer in 1927, and how scores of actors were sidelined or fired; after all, it’s the plot of one of Hollywood’s best movies, Singin’ in the Rain (1952). This transition was “raced” (as we say in academia), meaning laden with racial undertones; for example, the film The Bronze Screen, which is about the history of Latinos in Hollywood, says that the advent of sound turned accent-heavy, leading Latino men into supporting players. This postcard version of history has been challenged, but the consensus is that at least a few hundred contracted actors were forced to change those contracts.
“It’s sort of like the flood’s about to happen and you’re Noah. You’re on the ark. Yeah, you’re okay. But you are not happy looking out at the flood. That’s not a happy moment for Noah.”
― Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
Adam McKay brought The Big Short to Congress yesterday. More Republicans than Democrats showed up, which, as Glenn Whipp writes in his piece, was a positive sign for McKay. Then he said what I hoped he would say, which is the single most important thing to take away from The Big Short – this is not a partisan issue. This is something all Americans have to be concerned with:
“I think the right-left divide is the biggest scam that’s ever been perpetrated on America. Trillions of dollars have been siphoned out of our pockets over this stupid right-left distraction that’s been created by the moneyed interests. We made this movie to transcend the partisan politics.”
Mad Max: Fury Road received 10 Oscar nominations last month. Civilization has collapsed in this post-apocalyptic film directed by George Miller. Tom Hardy plays Mad Max, and Charlize Theron plays Imperator Furiosa. Together they battle their adversaries.
The film took 25 years to develop and was shot using storyboards rather than a traditional script. Aside from receiving a Best Picture nomination, the film also received Best Cinematography and Best Director nominations.
In this Focus On piece, revisit the Case For Mad Max: Fury Road and Sasha’s review of the film.
It might not seem exciting to the average person, but here in awards world we’re waiting on one movie to break up many of the stats upon which we rely to figure out what will win Best Picture. There are two schools of thought when it comes to Oscar predicting. The first is to go on gut and intuition — or to sometimes pad that by speaking to actual voters (which can often be misleading). Intuition says that you jut feel the buzz. You can’t really explain why. You either feel it or you suspect it or you want it really really bad. The second method is to go by stats. Not just any stats, but the informative stats that are based on things like the number of people voting, the kinds of people voting, and the reasons why they are choosing what they choose. I have to admit that this year has confounded both methods. Intuition, because the pundits have been mostly wrong from the outset. And stats, because if pundits are right, this could be the year the stats all went to shit. Like credit default swaps shit.