Posts Tagged ‘The King’s Speech

20
Feb
12

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.

07
Mar
11

OW 2011: The Awards and Everything Else

So that happened. After weeks and weeks of talk, hype, waiting, and prognosticating the 83rd Academy Awards were handed out last weekend. For the awards themselves, there were no surprises. To steal a sports metaphor from March Madness, it was chalk all the way (the expected winners winning). On the whole though, the show was all right and I was entertained well enough. Here’s a few of my thoughts on the show, starting with the Best Supporting categories since I didn’t get around to posting those before the show . . .

Best Supporting Actor & Actress

Melissa Leo and Christian Bale struck Oscar gold for their roles in The Fighter.

The Fighter was definitely recognized as one of the best films of 2010 with both Christian Bale and Melissa Leo sweeping the Supporting category. I didn’t have a problem with either of these two awards. Melissa Leo was far and away best in that category (sorry, didn’t get a chance to see Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom–though I did hear her performance did rival Leo’s), even better than her co-star Amy Adams. Christian Bale on the other hand I thought had stiffer competition in the Best Supporting Actor category. Bale was still my pick going into the show, but I also thought Geoffrey Rush was right up there with him and was probably a close second. John Hawkes had an outside shot at winning it giving really strong performance as the terrifying uncle in Winter’s Bone and Mark Ruffalo was also generating some buzz as the ‘oh-so-cool’ sperm donor dad from The Kids Are All Right. As with most of the night, both these categories went pretty much as expected.

Oscar Shorts

This year was the first year that I saw the Oscar nominated shorts, both live-action and animated, and I was pretty entertained by all of them. I’m not sure what the criteria on time length for this section is, but each film did a good job of telling a complete story.

God of Love out sang the competition in the Live Action Shorts competition. Other nominees top to bottom: Na Wewe, The Confession, The Crush, Wish 143.

For the live action Oscar shorts, four of the five nominees were on the serious side with eventual winner, God of Love, being providing a lighter comedic fare. I think what surprised me was just how engrossing each of these shorts were. They really were mini-movies that told a complete story in a short amount of time. If I would have had to pick one, I guess it would have been Na Wewe; as it captivated me in the most. I can see why God of Love won though, it was definitely well shot, edited, and a fun film as well.

The Lost Thing hit paydirt in the Animated Short competition. Other nominees top to bottom: Day & Night, Let's Pollute, Madagascar, The Gruffalo.

For the animated shorts, what I liked best about this category was that each nominee had a different style of animation. On one side you had the high end and commercial entry from Pixar with their Day & Night short and on the opposite end you had impressionistic style of Madagascar. Again, as with the live action portion, it was hard for me pick a favorite, but Day & Night, The Gruffalo, or The Lost Thing were the three out of the five that I thought were the best. Day & Night is just Pixar hitting another home run so a win for them would have been fine. Thankfully however, the Academy spread the wealth around (as Pixar won for the feature length category with Toy Story 3) and awarded the Oscar to The Lost Thing. What I liked about The Lost Thing was the anime animation style and the sci-fi tinting of it’s story. I think it was the unexpectedness of this sci-fi type of short winning that made me happy that it did win.

 

Screen writer David Seidler and director Tom Hooper celebrate Best Picture winner, The King's Speech.

Best Picture

Ok, I’ll admit it. I was a little disappointed that my pick The Social Network didn’t snag either of the awards for Best Picture or Best Director. If it had gotten either of those awards, I would have been a little more ok with how things turned out. Don’t get me wrong, The King’s Speech is great (and probably my #2 movie for 2010), but I thought The Social Network was a better film and a better directed one as well. Oh well, nuff said.

 

 

 

The Rest of the Program

The Academy & ABC :: Was it just me, or did anyone else think having an ABC exec and someone from from the Academy coming on stage to announce that ABC had renewed it’s contract to carry The Academy Awards for the foreseeable future a little awkward and out of place? I know it was a short piece and didn’t take too long, but was it really necessary? What makes it ironic is that apparently after the Oscars it was determined that the ratings for this year were down 10% from last year and the drop in viewership from the 18-49 demo were even worse. Talk about bad timing, the Academy renewed it’s contract with ABC, when ABC just produced and televised the lowest rated academy awards in seven years. I hope this isn’t a foreshadowing of Academy Awards broadcasts to come.

The Hosts :: I thought Anne Hathaway and James Franco did a decent job of hosting the awards. I know that a lot of people thought that Franco looked ‘disinterested’ or ‘on something’ most of the time, but I didn’t really care about that. To me the hosts are just gravy and if you get good gravy great, if you get bad gravy–who cares. I mean, when you really think about it, they’re not on screen for much of the show anyway so to me, it’s not that big of a deal. One thing that Franco did that was cool though was to tweet and shoot behind the scenes video during the show. I didn’t know it was going on at the time, but checking on some of the stuff he posted was kind of interesting.

What I’m a little surprised by is that the producers, the powers that be, or whoever thought it was a good idea to have them host; thought so because they’re younger and would draw in younger eyeballs. I really don’t know how they came up with this correlation. Younger hosts do not equal younger viewers. If you look at Hathaway and Franco’s filmography you’d see that the films they make definitely cater to an over 30 audience.

The ‘Hipness’ of It All :: There were two bits during the show that I thought were genius that apparently a lot of other bloggers and movie media types didn’t like: the opening montage where Hathaway and Franco were inserted into some of the Best Picture nominees and the auto tune segment where a few films from 2010 got songified. I thought they were both funny and entertaining and lightened the mood of the show. What can I say, I’m a sucker for those MTV spoofs and the work of the The Gregory Brothers (the Auto Tune the News guys).

Franco and Hathaway dialed up Doc Brown, Marty McFly, Morgan Freeman, and Alec Baldwin in the Academy Awards opening montage.

 

And finally, to kind of put a bow on all of this Oscar talk, here are a few posts that I thought were worth a read:

 

19
Feb
11

OW 2011: Best Picture Nominees

When the Oscar noms came out at the end of last month there weren’t really any surprises as far as I was concerned. 2010 wasn’t exactly the greatest year for cinema and it kind of shows as none of the nominations really stands head and shoulders above the crowd. There was good work and performances to be sure, but nothing Earth shatteringly great.

Here’s a look at this year’s nominees for Best Picture:

The Academy’s ten Best Picture nomination experiment moves into it’s second year, and as last year, by virtue of nominating some mainstream films it may in fact lure in viewers despite the fact that all Hollywood buzz points to a two horse race between The King’s Speech and The Social Network. I have to agree, these are the best two films of last year that I saw. In my forthcoming ‘Best of 2010’ post, I have these two at the top of the list and both are going back and forth as my number one.

With The King’s Speech you have two really great performances by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush as King George VI and his speech therapist (respectively). Even though Firth plays a king, his circumstance is ultimately relatable to us commoners–he has trouble with public speaking. On the other side of the coin you have a story that’s as old as time, but yet so relevant to today’s generation in The Social Network. Jesse Eisenberg heads up some pretty good performances backed by some stellar directing and writing (David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin respectively) that takes on a journey of inspiration, jealousy, greed, betrayal, and more. Just another day on The Facebook I guess.

As for the other nominees, don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty great films in here, it’s just that they don’t stand as high as our first two. Here’s a few quick thoughts on the rest of the nominees that I did see:

Black Swan: Awesome performance demonstrating madness by Natelie Portman which really gets under your skin by showing you how someone loses their grip on reality.

The Fighter: A good all around film, but I think it’s just that, a film that’s pretty decent all around. While Christian Bale’s performance is noteworthy, there’s nothing overly exciting about this film. Would I recommend you go see it? Definitely. I could recommend this movie to anyone. However I wasn’t totally sucked in or enthralled by the fight story.

Inception: It’s the summer studio tentpole that defined a summer. Christopher Nolan’s Inception definitely incepted the minds of moviegoers this summer and was an awesome sight to behold. However, awesome movies with great effects need to be better to nab Oscar.

The Kids Are All Right: The indie darling that critics loved that I’m not sure the rest of America saw. There’s a ton of great performances in this film between Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo; while on the whole everyone in this film makes it feel as if they could be a family just like yours. I don’t know, I don’t have any complaints, but I don’t have too much high praise either.

Toy Story 3: Was this film overly sentimental towards the end? Yes, there’s no denying that. However, Pixar did it again and actually made me believe that they would do something I thought would never happen in a Disney released Pixar film (sorry no spoilers here). The danger that Woody, Buzz, and the gang feel is all real and that’s what sucked me in and made me enjoy the story.

True Grit: The Coen Brothers biggest commercial hit is definitely an entertaining ride and a worthy edition to the Western genre. However, while I did enjoy it, I didn’t feel as if it was classic Coen Brothers work. I’m not saying I’m an aficionado of the Coens, but it did reminded me of when indie musical groups you love start doing more mainstream work–it sounds kind of the same, but a little different.

Winter’s Bone: I wanted more from this film. More story, more explanation, more time for the film to play out. However, like most of the characters in the film, it just didn’t give me what I was looking for. John Hawkes and Jennifer Lawrence give stellar performances to be sure, but just as the film was really starting to go somewhere, it ended.

We’ll just have to tune in on Oscar night to see who wins.
(127 Hours not viewed)

 




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