Thursday, January 17, 2008

Well, the panel is over. Again, confidentiality means that can't really talk about it, but one thing happened: i realized that i miss people. Not particular people (though that, too) but people in general.

I was always the type of person who was surrounded by people. When i did my performances, the casts would be huge, just so many people (20 or more) and there would always be the two month period from first rehearsal to the end of the run (usually a three-week Actors Equity showcase). And then there was the whole period of film production, and going to the Apparatus office almost every day, just to help out....

So there were always people. And being on the panel and having to see people every day... i miss that. I miss seeing people on a regular basis, i miss the camaraderie.

Anyway, back to the Academy Awards. I am always amazed at people who wll say that the award "should have gone to" so-and-so. I always ask these people: are you a member of the academy? Can you vote? Do you know people in the Academy? Do you have an idea how they vote?

It's like a few years ago (i don't really care what year)... the year of "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crash" and "Walk the Line"... and Oprah had a pre-Oscar show with Emma Thompson and Diane Keaton (two previous Oscar-winners who are members of the Academy). And Emma Thompson was gushing about "Brokeback Mountain" (and admitted she was busy that year so she didn't get out much to see movies) and then mentioned how she had gone to the London premiere of "Brokeback Mountain" and how brilliant she thought Ang Lee was (of course, he directed her in "Sense and Sensibility"). And Diane Keaton gushed about Reese Witherspoon in "Walk the Line" and then mentioned how she had known Witherspoon since Witherspoon was 13 and was in "Wildflowers" (which is a made-for-TV movie that Keaton directed). And Keaton went on about how she watched Reese Witherspoon grow up, and she's so proud of her, and of course she's going to vote for Reese Witherspoon. Multiply this kind of partisanship by almost 6,000 and you get an idea of how the Academy works.

Another way the Academy used to work was that motion picture people were acutely sensitive to ridicule, so (as an example) if enough people said that Bette Davis's name should have been brought up in 1934 for "Of Human Bondage" (there was not the same system of nominations and then voting on them... it was a faster process of the group meeting, people putting forward certain names, and then seeing if there was a majority in favor of a particular name), then, sure enough, next year she wins.

This is a pattern often repeated. There was a backlash because James Stewart did not win in 1939 for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (that was the performance that was "expected" to win, not Clark Gable's in "Gone With the Wind") so he wins in 1940 for... "The Philadelphia Story"? In the part of the second lead? In 1943, Ingrid Bergman did not win for "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and she was also the star of the very popular "Casablanca" (which won for Best Picture) so, of course, she had to win in 1944 for "Gaslight".

This is certainly a pattern in the 1930s and 1940s.

But it is true that union membership precluded getting an award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But as a (crassly) commercial town, this was put to the test in the late 1930s: James Cagney was the biggest box office star at Warner Brothers, yet he was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild. What to do? Well, he was nominated for "Angels With Dirty Faces" (he won the New York Film Critics Circle award for that film). Box office trumps union-busting! Such are the convictions of Hollywood, as craven a place as you'll ever visit.


Blogger joe baltake said...


The movie business is no different than any other business. It's all about who you know and who you like. So it doesn't surprise me that the same applies to Oscar voting. Another example: When Johnny Depp dropped out of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," he was replaced by the obscure French actor Mathieu Amalric. How on earth did he get this coveted role? Well, Mathieu Amalric was also in "Munich." Kathleen Kennedy produced "Munich" and also ... "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Hmmm.


6:16 PM


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