Yet the ostensible business of the organization, to recognize and laud fine filmmaking and acting, is clearly a second-tier concern. The idea that there was “too much torture” in a movie about slavery is ignorant; the dismissive “enough already” response is insulting. The idea that movies require “somebody to root for” went out, oh, around about the time Bonnie & Clyde was released — and based on what we know about Oscar voters, there’s a good chance this one hasn’t made a movie since before that anyway. That was certainly the case with the well-reported story of Hope Holiday, an actress inactive for a quarter of a century, who called Wolf “three hours of torture” and joined other members in telling Scorsese “you ought to be ashamed of yourself” after an Academy screening.
The Academy is full of these people. And look, I don’t want to presumptuously classify the entirety of their membership based on this anonymous interview — after all, one must ask what kind of person wants to give that interview, and how enlightened they might be on other matters. Nor is it fair to presume that all Voters Of A Certain Age are immune to the power of daring, difficult pictures.
But the demographics are worth noting. It’s an incredibly homogenous organization; according to the LA Times, Oscar voters are about 94% Caucasian and 77% male. And it skews, well, old. “Oscar voters have a median age of 62,” the paper reports. “People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership… The academy is primarily a group of working professionals, and nearly 50% of the academy’s actors have appeared on screen in the last two years. But membership is generally for life, and hundreds of academy voters haven’t worked on a movie in decades.”
The Academy Awards ceremony is a week from Sunday, and we’ll get just as wrapped up in the glitz and glam as anyone. We’ll gawk at the fashions and laugh at Ellen’s jokes. We’ll enjoy the memes and comment on the controversies. But give this interview a good, hard read, and reflect that this is the mindset of the people bestowing these increasingly overvalued prizes. Here’s an idea: instead of getting worked up about who gets the statues, hash out the categories with the folks at your Oscar party, and vote on them yourselves. You’ll almost certainly make better choices than this sycophantic group of insular, disconnected lunatics.