Posts Tagged ‘AMPAS


OW 2012: Identifying The Academy

Two of these things are not like the others.

Woody Allen, George Lucas, Meat Loaf, Erik Estrada. If I were to ask you out of these four names which two were members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS aka The Academy), which two would you choose? If you’re like me you might suspect that the obvious answer isn’t right one. And you’d be right. Believe or not the guy that gave us “I’d Do Anything For Love” (Meat Loaf) and one of the most recognizable characters from CHIPs (Erik Estrada) are members of The Academy while two of the biggest directors of the past 30 years are not. Unbelievable right? That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Academy member demographics.

With the Oscars just a week away The Los Angeles Times came out with a great set of articles(here & here) that try to get a handle on just who is in The Academy. Why is this so important? The main reason is because this group determines the top awards in the film industry. When it comes to predicting and understanding the Oscars, throw out your personal preferences about who should win and understand that it’s this set group of people that determines the awards. Knowing who they are can help you understand why they vote the way they do.

Getting an idea of the makeup of Academy members is not an easy task as their membership roster is not made public. However, with some great reporting by the Los Angeles Times, they’ve managed to uncover a number of demographics about Academy membership. Check out these statistics from the Los Angeles Times piece . . .

Data via The Los Angeles Times article cited in this post.

While the numbers are disheartening, I can’t say that it’s all that surprising. Just like any long standing organization in America, a majority of its members are older caucasian males. Independent research cited in the LATimes piece also lends credence to their reporting as “the academy’s demographics mirror the industry’s” (19% female makeup of the academy’s screenwriting branching matching the Writer’s Guild 17% female makeup; same trend follows in both the academy’s producers and directors branches matching their guild counterparts in female makeup).

At the end of the day just what do all these numbers mean? Well for one thing it definitely seems like the Academy isn’t as diverse as we would like it to be. Areas that are grossly under represented are members of different racial backgrounds, female members, and members under the age of 50. With a deficiency in these areas, it’s clearer to see why the Academy votes the way it does–with similar demographic makeup Academy members may be predisposed to voting in a similar way.

Films that skew to younger audiences or cater to a certain racial demographic may not be as easily understood by an Academy made up of mostly older caucasian males. The same could be said of female driven projects or films with strong female leads (like last year’s Bridesmaids).

Do these types of films have a decided disadvantage since they may not be as accessible, relatable, or plain just don’t appeal to an older male demographic? Sadly I think the answer is yes. I mean lots of examples could be cited. Last year Sony executives cited this fact as why their Best Picture nominee, The Social Network, lost out to eventual winner The King’s Speech–older Academy members just didn’t relate to the Internet story. This year a similar fate might have doomed the film Shame, a film with great storytelling and strong performances by two great actors (Michael Fassbender & Carey Mulligan) based around sex-addiction, sadly a topic that I’m sure not everyone is comfortable with discussing let alone watch explicitly play out on screen.

In the grand scheme of things, I think the Academy is a direct reflection of Hollywood–it’s not all that diverse either . . .

“We absolutely recognize that we need to do a better job,” said writer-director Phil Alden Robinson, a longtime academy governor. But “we start off with one hand tied behind our back…. If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job in opening up its ranks, it’s very hard for us to diversify our membership.”

It’s definitely a difficult position to be in when you’d like to diversify membership, but are hard-pressed to find candidates. Then the question becomes, well do we relax our standards of admittance in order to diversify for the greater good? Not everyone in The Academy thinks that’s a good idea . . .

Frank Pierson, a former academy president who won an Oscar for original screenplay for “Dog Day Afternoon” in 1976, said merit is the primary criterion for membership. “I don’t see any reason why the academy should represent the entire American population. That’s what the People’s Choice Awards are for,” said Pierson, who still serves on the board of governors. “We represent the professional filmmakers, and if that doesn’t reflect the general population, so be it.”

At the end of the day The Academy is what it is and it’s what we’ve got right now. They’re the people that decide the Academy Awards. Do I think The Academy should be more diversified? Of course I do! As to how they should go about determining that . . . I have no idea. Some of the current standards that the Academy has in place for membership I do support, standards that require prospective members to have achieved certain milestones in their respective craft. Academy members should definitely be accomplished. I mean when Woody Allen and George Lucas aren’t members and Meat Loaf and Erik Estrada are, that definitely says something.

It says The Academy isn’t who we think it should be.


OW 2012: And the Nominees Are . . .

Academy member Jennifer Lawrence and AMPAS president Tom Sherak announced this morning the Academy Award nominees for last year's films.

The 2011 Academy Award nominations were announced early this morning (3:30am Hawaii Time) and I wanted to give my first impressions on them. Since I’m writing this right after I read the nominations these are literally my first thoughts on this year’s nominees . . .


For the past two years The Academy has nominated ten films for the Best Picture category. After last year’s ceremony it was announced that going forward (starting with the 2012 ceremony) there would be between five to ten nominations for the category, provided that a film earned 5% of first-place votes during the nomination process. Going in to this year’s nomination announcement, Oscar pundits weren’t exactly sure which films would be nominated since there was no set nomination number. Granted, at minimum there would be a minimum of five, but would five other films gather enough first place votes to give the category the full ten nominations?

If I had to say, I don’t think anyone was thinking we would have nine nominees, especially since most people considered 2011 to be a down year in cinema. While there are some titles on the nominee list that were to be expected (The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo), I definitely know of two that I think will be considered “surprises” by Oscar prognosticators.

The 9 nominees for Best Picture.

*6 of 9 nominees viewed*

Those two surprises being The Help and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. The reason I say that The Help may be considered a “surprise” is because I hadn’t heard it being mentioned at all as potentially snagging a nomination in the Best Picture category. However, going back to having nine nominations, obviously the more nominations there are the more chance there is for surprises like The Help to be nominated. While we’re on the subject of The Help, it definitely is the most mainstream nomination in the group as it is the only nominee in the group to have brought in over $100 million in box office grosses ($169 million to be exact). That distinction definitely makes it a mainstream pick since it’s the nominee that has been seen by the most people.

The other surprise I think is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I’ve been saying that this film has Oscar bait written all over it, however, there has been almost zero Oscar buzz on this film since its limited release last month. The film also failed to snag any Golden Globe, Directors Guild, Writers Guild, or Producers Guild nominations (usually good indicators of what films will be nominated for Academy Awards) and so I’m sure many will consider Extremely Loud’s Best Picture nomination to be a surprise.

The rest of the field though I feel is pretty standard Oscar nominee fare and a pretty good mix with films by great directors (Spielberg’s War Horse and Scorsese’s Hugo), art house faves (The Artist, The Tree of Life), big studio pictures (Moneyball), and art house crossovers (Midnight in Paris, The Descendants) all in the mix for the top prize.

BEST DIRECTOR *3 of 5 viewed*

  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants*
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo*
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris*
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

The Artist is definitely the one big blind spot in my Oscar viewing that I need to rectify sometime soon. Though my heart is with Alexander Payne (this is going to be a recurring theme here in my support for The Descendants) I can definitely see Woody snagging this award as I thought he wonderfully brought to life a number of different characters.


  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Viola Davis, The Help*
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo*
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Ugh, a category that I’m grossly unqualified to talk about since I’ve only seen two of the nominees in action: Viola Davis in The Help and Rooney Mara in Dragon Tattoo. However, you have the always great Meryl Streep also nominated and even though I haven’t seen her performance, I’m sure it’s worthy to be listed in this category.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE *3 of 5 viewed*

  • Demián Bichir, A Better Life
  • George Clooney, The Descendants*
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
  • Brad Pitt, Moneyball*

Despite the media circus surrounding Clooney & Pitt and their “at odds” storyline that the media is hyping between the two, I do think they are the front runners having not seen anyone else in the category. I won’t be surprised if I see either of these two win.


  • Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa Mccarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help

Ok, what even sadder about my viewing of performances for this category is that I actually only seen one film, The Help, which has two supporting noms. Octavia Spencer is probably the front runner since she did already pick up a Golden Globe just last week for this same category. Hopefully I’ll have more to report back after seeing The Artist and maybe Netflixing Bridesmaids.


  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball*
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior*
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners*
  • Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

What I love about this category is the variety of films that these nominees come from. While Jonah Hill and Christopher Plummer were somewhat expected, seeing Nick Nolte nominated for Warrior is great to see as his performance was pretty good in that film. Max von Sydow’s nomination is also contributing to the Extremely Loud “surprise” that I mentioned earlier. Again, a nomination for that film seemingly coming out of the blue.


To view a complete list of this year’s nominees, head over to ceremony website (PDF, printable)

Hugo led the way in receiving 11 nominations with The Artist close behind at 10. Close to my heart, The Descendants picked up five.

The one nomination that I was hoping for that seemed like an outside chance of happening was for Shailene Woodley to pick up a nod for best supporting actress. I thought she was really great in The Descendants and there was some early buzz for her performance.

Another favorite for me from this year that didn’t fair well with the Academy was Drive, picking only a lone nomination for Sound Editing.

One big thing to remember is that not everyone in Hollywood gets to vote for The Academy Awards. Only members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) get to nominate and vote in the Academy Awards process. Who’s in the Academy? An official listing has never been disclosed, but just being nominated for an Academy Award gets you in (for a better idea, here’s a link to the AMPAS entry on Wikipedia) Having said that, Academy members are not your average moviegoers so predicting the nominations and then the awards does have quasi-science to it since you’re trying to get inside the head of Academy voters. This is also a reason why Oscar winners and nominations never fully match up with the expectations of critics and your average moviegoers.

Look for Oscar coverage to continue here at the Red Band Project during the next month as we gear up for the awards ceremony on Sunday, February 26. Until then I leave you with one of only two of the nominees for Original Song for this year’s awards . . . Man or Muppet from The Muppets.

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