Scott 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.