Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Academy Members, Oscar Voters: Skew Older, Vote Hip, Know What They’re Doing


I’m really appalled by a stupid article in today’s New York Post about Oscar voters being old and out of touch. It’s quite the contrary. The Post writer–surprise–had an agenda and went for it. But she obviously knows nothing about the Motion Picture Academy. This is not the Hollywood Foreign Press.

This past December I made two trips to Los Angeles. Each time I went to small receptions, cocktail parties, and screenings for various Oscar-buzzed movies. It is the time of the year when older Academy members whom you don’t ordinarily get to meet– they’re retired, or not going to nightclubs with Lindsay Lohan–get to come and learn what’s happening this year with the Oscars.

These people invariably surprise me. They are sharp, bright, with it. They know all the movies, who’s in what, what every actor and director has done in the past. They can be charming, irascible, curmudgeonly, and supportive. You sit down at a table of white or gray haired folks and they start telling you what they did: danced in MGM musicals, always played the neighbor in Doris Day films, etc. They’ve seen everything, and they have a high standard. The highest.

So I wasn’t surprised a few weeks later, for example, when “Life of Pi” was nominated and so was Ang Lee. The people I’d interviewed in December had loved it. Adored it. What else had they liked? Jennifer Lawrence and”Silver Linings.” They were not so keen on “Les Miserables.” Ditto “Lincoln,” which I thought they’d go for in a big way. They liked the second half of it. Everyone said “Argo” then, and we weren’t listening.

Walter Bernstein was interviewed for the Post piece. I don’t think the writer knew who he was, only that he was the oldest member of the New York branch at 93. Walter, whom I admire greatly, was blacklisted in the 1950s– still a very sore subject. He was accused of being a Communist and had to use other people’s names to get his scripts produced. He was not a Communist. (And who cares if he was?) Aside from Walters’s thoughts on “Silver Linings,” I agree with him. But Walter’s perspective is definitely colored by what was done to him.  The Blacklist remains Hollywood’s lowest moment in history.

As for “buying” Oscars: I think I received a candy bar or something for “Silver Linings.” Contrast that with the massive amount of merchandise accompanying “Lincoln”– books galore, a cookbook, and the CD came in an expensive white box with photo inlays. “Les Miz” also had a book that cost a fortune. There’s a rumor the soundtrack came on an iPod nano. (I wish they’d sent me that!) Luckily, no one sent grenades for “Zero Dark Thirty.”

But back to the age thing: don’t for a minute think the age of Oscar voters means they don’t know what’s going on. This “old” group just devoured the hippest movie of the year, “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Everyone who saw it, dug it. I couldn’t believe it when they told me. So there.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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