Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Motion Picture Academy Criticized in Signed Petition Over Lacking Jewish Influence Exhibit

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has had a day that started with promise but ended with criticism.

Earlier in the day, AMPAS announced their new slate of governing directors, returning and newly installed.

They also announced the A list names that would be honored in October at a dinner to raise money for the newish Academy Museum. They are Rita Moreno, Quentin Tarantino, and oddly, actor Paul Mescal. The latter is rather a new name in Hollywood, and unexpected for any honor yet.

But the real drama concerning the Museum broke a little later when the New York Times revealed the tug of war going on inside the museum over a new exhibit designed to highlight how Jews built Hollywood and the studios. The Times revealed a petition that was signed and sent to the Academy objecting to the shabby presentation of the men who gave us the studios that still roar like turbo engines.

No names were released, but I knew this was going on a few weeks ago when “Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital” opened. That night, I got many phone calls from guests who were severely disappointed that the exhibit was skimpy and bordered on antisemitic. They said that night that the wording on signs was offensive.

What followed was anger among Academy members and the ouster of museum director Jacqueline Stewart. She was instantly replaced by Amy Homma, considered more sympathetic to the actual origin story of Hollywood and not the new woke alternative.

But now the Times reports that the petition has surfaced, signed by over 300 Academy members. Many of them are big stars in their different areas, and many whose names came up on the day after the opening. After all, the Museum first opened last fall there was no nod to Hollywood’s Jewish roots. This was supposed to be an improvement, but it backfired.

“While we acknowledge the value in confronting Hollywood’s problematic past, the despicable double standard of the Jewish Founders exhibit, blaming only the Jews for that problematic past, is unacceptable and, whether intentional or not, antisemitic,” said the letter. “We call on the Academy Museum to thoroughly redo this exhibit so that it celebrates the Jewish founders of Hollywood with the same respect and enthusiasm granted to those celebrated throughout the rest of the museum.”

All of this comes as the Museum itself has been under pressure to raise money and attract visitors. The Form 990 tax filing for the Museum shows ballooning expenses not off set by donations. If the Museum is hoping for influx of revenue from the big names in Hollywood, offending the local community doesn’t seem like a good idea.

So what was wrong with the “Hollywoodland” exhibit? According to the signed petition,it began with the use of words including “tyrant,” “oppressive,” “womanizer” and “predator” in its wall text. They called the exhibit “antisemitic” and described it as “the only section of the museum that vilifies those it purports to celebrate.”

I do know that on opening night, many guests left shaking their heads in disbelief. Hollywood is the town built by Fox, Goldwyn, Mayer, Warner, Wasserstein, Zucker, Cohn et al. Much of the history can be found in Neal Gabler’s terrific book, “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood.” The Museum is now expected to embrace these stories, not denigrate them, and quickly, before that fundraiser in October.

 

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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