While we at The A.V. Club can only discuss the Oscar race, make predictions, and complain about snubs, The Hollywood Reporter is running a new series of “brutally honest” interviews with the people who actually pick the Oscar winners. So far two interviews have been released, and under the protection of anonymity these Academy members are very honest about who they’re voting for and why, not to mention very defensive about perceived insults to the Academy.
“I didn’t think Selma was a particularly good film, apart from the main actor [David Oyelowo], and I think the outcry about the Academy being racists for not nominating it for more awards is offensive,” explained one male member of the Academy’s animation branch. A female member of the public relations branch (who is hopefully more tactful in her day job) adds:
What no one wants to say out loud is that Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there’s no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male, I don’t think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were. And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance—they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies. When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it? I’ve got to tell you, having the cast show up in T-shirts saying “I can’t breathe” [at their New York premiere]—I thought that stuff was offensive. Did they want to be known for making the best movie of the year or for stirring up shit?
But it’s not all just vaguely racist, classist insults that suggest wealthy intellectuals are immune to prejudice (“We have a two-term president who is a black woman [Cheryl Boone Isaacs] and we give out awards to black people when they deserve them,” the male voter adds). There’s plenty more to scoff at as well.
The PR member felt Boyhood was “ambitious and a directorial triumph, but the kid was uneven and Patricia Arquette probably was sorry she agreed to let them film her age over 12 years.” She also notes, “If [Arquette] had had work done during the 12 years, she would not be collecting these statues.” She plans to vote for Michael Keaton for Best Actor because “He seems like a completely sane person who lives in the middle of the country and… I’ve loved every interview that he’s done.” Plus she’s really impressed by American Sniper’s massive box office success and calls it, “literally the answer to a prayer for a midrange budget movie directed by an 84-year-old guy [Clint Eastwood] to do this kind of business.” (Finally, a win for famous 84-year-old white guys!)
Meanwhile the animation member reveals he’s only filling in two of the five potential Best Picture slots on his preferential ballot (for The Theory Of Everything and Boyhood), humblebrags about meeting Stephen Hawking, explains he can’t separate a good performance from a bad movie (before, ironically, voting for Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones), and explains he will be abstaining from voting for Best Song because none of the nominees are up to the caliber of Paul McCartney or Bob Dylan.
In other words, it turns out the Academy members are just as horrible as you imagined. THR is releasing a new interview every day leading up to the Oscars on Sunday, and it remains to be seen whether any of the upcoming interviews will offer hope for those who still imagine the Academy has a semblance of integrity or an interest in art. But as former A.V. Club contributor Sam Adams points out for CriticWire, while it’s easy to mock these voters, at least they’re willing to openly confirm the insanity of the Oscar voting process.
And, hey, now we can all rest easy knowing that Academy members are definitely not racist, they just find it deeply offensive when black filmmakers stand up for racial equality.