87th Oscars, and Voting With Your Wallet

I just went on a bit of a rant on Twitter about the public reaction to the Oscar noms.

Before I get into anything else, I’ll voice my personal outrage that The Lego Movie got snubbed. Aaaaaaaaaaaaanyway, with that said:

Yes, Selma got snubbed, clearly. I was sent a well-written article on the subject, and I agree with it on just about all of its points. But I’m hesitant to drop the “old white men” card so quickly.

As the Flavorwire article states, the demographics of the committee (76% white dudes, avg. 63 years old) are pretty obviously a factor in the decision. However, there are other issues at play. The film was released in December, a statistical dry spot for Oscar-bound movies, and issues about the film’s accuracy stained its image. (Read the article linked above for more info.)

I’m not here to comment on the decision; it is what it is. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the organization that distributes the Acadamy awards, is a private organization. Its members (including many of the actors in Hollywood, and most of the big-name producers, writers, and directors) cast votes that determine the nominees and winners. But nowhere in the process does the Academy magically decide what a good movie is. Some of the greatest movies of our generation (and, arguably, some of the best movies of all time) have been shafted or excluded entirely by the Academy. Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, The Godfather (to some degree), A Clockwork Orange, and 2001 come to mind. Yet, with the exception of Forrest Gump (the title that beat out Pulp and Goodfellas that year), you probably wouldn’t even recognize the films that these greats lost to.

What does that mean?

It means that the Academy means jack. Sure, the Oscars are a spectacle that captures the hearts of Americans and moviegoers the world over, but that’s only because the Academy stretches a 20 minute event into four hours to scrape advertising dollars from your precious eyes and ears. Want to send a message? Don’t whine on Twitter and Facebook — I personally doubt the 60-something-white-male boogeymen that your words villify will ever read them. Use the power you have — the power of the purse. TV advertisers pay out based on Nielsen ratings, which are determined, in part, by whether you tune your TV to the show next month. Wouldn’t a boycott be rather poetic?

(On a side note, I don’t believe that the racial issue is necessarily the biggest factor that’s keeping Selma out of the noms. The Academy, and the public at large, generally struggles with movies that break “the formula” – Selma got snubbed this year for the same reason films like Fight Club and Brokeback Mountain fail to perform well – cinema-goers have trouble processing and appreciating films that tackle tough issues or are otherwise uncomfortable for society. To put it another way: there’s a reason Al Gore called his climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth.)

(I guess that last statement is less profound then it could be, since An Inconvenient Truth actually won a few Academy Awards.)