Let’s deal with the elephant in the room.
As of a few weeks ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had 6,261 voting members. All of them submit nominations for best picture.
|Alejandro González Iñárritu, left, and Leonardo DiCaprio are certain to win Oscars for|
Best Director and Best Actor. But will their film, The Revenant, also take Best Picture?
Nominees in most of the remaining categories are selected via balloting by various Academy branches: editors for editing, cinematographers for cinematography, and so forth. The same is true of the four acting categories, where — again, as of this year’s balloting — 1,138 Academy members, all actors, determined the nominees.
So: 6,261 overall voting members, 1,138 of whom are in the actors branch. And all of whom are limited by one incontrovertible fact: They’re only able to consider the product booked into U.S. movie theaters during the previous calendar year. To put it another way, not one of those Academy actor members is, was, or ever will be in a position to determine which movies get made and/or released, in order to be voted upon.
Those decisions come from a couple dozen different studio heads: almost all male, and white, and young, and guided entirely by bean counters, focus groups and the panicked certainty that more than one flop in a row likely will cost them their jobs. Ergo, they all too frequently stick to the tried and true.
So why — why — is everybody so upset with the Academy, when an absence of diversity clearly isn’t their fault?
If people are unhappy about racial diversity in any category — and yes, I share their absolutely legitimate frustration — then the anger needs to be channeled toward Hollywood’s studio board rooms, and nowhere else. It’s a separate conversation.
The Oscars, one hopes, are presented to honor the best work in the best movies available during a given year. Anything else would be quota pandering, which would make a mockery of an institution celebrating its 88th anniversary this year.
So let’s embrace the tradition for what it is, and what it does — and should — represent. And let’s also enjoy the time-honored pastime of trying to predict what’ll win this year.
But before we get down to cases, some fun facts:
• The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road are only the fourth and fifth films ever to receive nods in all seven technical categories — cinematography, costume design, editing, production design, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects — after Titanic, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and Hugo.
• Bridge of Spies brought Steven Spielberg his 11th nomination for best director, a category he won twice, for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Director William Wyler still holds the record, at 13 nominations and three wins: Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of Our Lives and Ben-Hur. (But Spielberg still has plenty of time!)
• On the other hand, the total number of nominations accrued by Spielberg’s various films now sits at 128 ... to Wyler’s 127. That makes Spielberg the top nomination-gathering director of all time.
• All six of director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s films have earned at least one Oscar nomination.
• Jennifer Lawrence has become the youngest actress to earn four Oscar nominations, having snatched that honor from Kate Winslet.
• With a span of 39 years between Sylvester Stallone’s Oscar nod for 1976’s Rocky and last year’s Creed, he has broken the previous record of 38 years, held by Helen Hayes, Jack Palance and Alan Arkin. Stallone also has become only the sixth actor to be nominated twice for playing the same character, after Bing Crosby (Father O’Malley), Peter O’Toole (King Henry II), Paul Newman (“Fast Eddie” Felson), Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) and Cate Blanchett (Queen Elizabeth II).