Film academy reforms spark new wave of protests

NEW YORK - Since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it was altering membership rules in response to an outcry over the diversity of its voters and nominees, another uproar has erupted around Hollywood.

See Full Article

Many academy members are protesting that the new measures unjustly scapegoat older academy members and imply they're racist.

Fiery letters have poured into the academy. Trade magazines are littered with critical op-eds from members. Meanwhile, civil rights leaders and others say the academy's actions didn't go far enough. More steps are needed, they say, to make the Oscars and the industry more inclusive.

Reforms meant to calm a crisis seem to have only further enflamed it. This year's Feb. 28 Academy Awards are looking less like a glitzy gala and more like a battlefield.

"We all have to calm down a bit. The conversation has become unduly vitriolic," says Rod Lurie, the writer-director of "Straw Dogs" and "The Contender" and a member of the academy's directors' branch. "Nobody in the academy should dignify any accusations of racism," Lurie said in an interview, "but there obviously are biases that are created by the demographics of the academy."

The typically slow-moving academy acted swiftly last week, holding an emergency meeting of its Board of Governors. In the wake of a second straight year of all-white acting nominees - and calls for a boycott of the Oscars broadcast - the 51-member board unanimously voted to revamp membership rules in an effort to change the makeup of the largely white, male and older association of some 7,000 exclusive members.

Though Oscar voting was previously for life, it will now be restricted to members who have been active in the industry within the past 10 years, with a few exceptions like for previous Oscar nominees. The academy also set a goal to double minority and female members by 2020.

Some academy members, while applauding efforts to diversify the academy, said taking away voting rights from older members smacks of ageism, and that they aren't to blame for the dearth of minority nominees in the past two years; the industry is.

Studies have proven that minorities remain underrepresented in all levels of the movie business, from protagonists on screen to executives who can green-light a film. But the last two years are something of an aberration in recent Oscar history. In the 10 years prior, 24 of the 200 acting nominees were black. (Far less is the rate of nods for Hispanics or Asian-Americans, however.)

William Goldstein, a composer and longtime academy member, chastised the academy in a Los Angeles Times editorial for "capitulating to political correctness" while missing the bigger picture. He believes outreach and mentor programs will make a difference, not manipulating demographics.

"The set of voters that they're going to get rid of have seen more movies and have more context in which to judge something than any newbie coming into the academy," Goldstein told The Associated Press. "You can bring in more women, you can bring in more anybody. Everybody's a human being. They're going to vote what they're going to vote. Nothing's going to change."

In a letter to the academy, Stephen Geller, a member of the writers branch and screenwriter of "Slaughterhouse-Five," accused academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs of "grey-listing" its older members. Stephen Furst, the 60-year-old actor and academy member best known as Flounder from "Animal House," wrote to the academy lamenting "the insulting and unfounded generalities the academy has made about the character and judgment of older academy members."

James Woods, the 68-year-old, twice-nominated actor, went further: "The motion picture academy announced separate bathroom facilities today: one for Members and one for Old White People," he mocked on Twitter.

The academy indirectly responded to the furor in the "frequently asked questions" section of its website on Monday. "We're not excluding older members," it reads. "These rules are not about age. In fact, under the new rules many veteran Academy members will retain voting privileges."

Others, though, maintained that the academy's steps don't address the real problems of the industry. Directors Guild of America president Paris Barclay in a statement said "structural changes" were needed in Hollywood to change hiring practices.

"Many times, with the best of intentions, a subject that is a symptom of this industry plague, but not the root cause, is targeted," said Barclay. "This alone will do little to create more choices and get more films and television made that reflect the diversity we all deserve."

In a letter to Isaacs requesting a meeting, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, Rev. Al Sharpton and Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civil Participation, called the academy's plan "anemic and inadequate."

Part of their frustration, Morial said in an interview, is that he's seen previous declarations made on diversity come and go. He specifically cited conversations that didn't lead anywhere with Sony Pictures after leaked emails led then co-chairman Amy Pascal to apologize for private comments denounced as racist.

Morial is seeking wider, systemic change from the academy and the studios.

"Hollywood wants to deal with this as a communications crisis, not a crisis of substance," said Morial. "We've got to do something different. The industry has seen commitments made and then they just get beyond the crisis."



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Cyberattack on Sundance film fest briefly shuts down box office

    Entertainment CBC News
    Representatives for the Sundance Film Festival say that their network systems were subject to a cyberattack that caused its box offices to shut down briefly Saturday afternoon. The Festival issued updates to attendees via their official account and say that online ticketing for future shows is currently back up and running. Source
  • Celebrities out in full force for Women's Marches

    Entertainment CBC News
    If you wondered where many of Hollywood's A-list celebrities had gone during U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration, you didn't have to wonder any longer on Saturday, when scores of them showed up at huge women's marches in Washington and other cities to send the new president a pointed message that he was in for a fight. Source
  • Ryan Gosling and Denis Villeneuve make waves ahead of Oscar nominations

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- When this year's Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday there's a good chance some Canadians will be prominently in the mix, most notably Quebec director Denis Villeneuve and London, Ont.-born actor Ryan Gosling. Source
  • 'Cardinal', 'Mary Kills People', 'Scandal' and 'Suits' top this week's TV must-sees

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Bill Harris' TV must-sees for the week of Jan. 22 1. Cardinal Debut When the body of a missing girl is found in a wintry Northern Canadian town, detectives John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) and Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse) investigate. Source
  • Oliver Hudson pokes fun at sister Kate Hudson and Brad Pitt dating rumours

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Oliver Hudson made fun of rumours his sister Kate Hudson is dating Brad Pitt. On Friday, Oliver came across a Star magazine cover that claimed Brad was moving into Kate’s house, just a few months after his split from wife Angelina Jolie. Source
  • With Oscars in sight, Amazon, Netflix look to Sundance to secure streaming rights

    Entertainment CBC News
    After revolutionizing television with bold, award-winning original content, streaming networks are on the cusp of their first potential Oscar wins, and are back at the Sundance film festival looking for more awards-worthy fare. Amazon.com Inc raised eyebrows when it paid $10 million US for the North American distribution rights to Sundance drama Manchester By the Sea last year. Source
  • From Cher to Madonna, celebs out in force for women's marches

    Entertainment CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- If you wondered where many of Hollywood's A-list celebrities had gone during President Donald Trump's inauguration, you didn't have to wonder any longer on Saturday, when scores of them showed up at women's marches in Washington and other cities to send the new president a pointed message that he was in for a fight -- and that, as so many signs said, women's rights are human rights. Source
  • String theory + a capella = A Montrealer's formula for online fame

    Entertainment CBC News
    This story is part of CBC Homerun's series on Montrealers who have made it big on YouTube. When Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield covered Space Oddity from space, he may have created a new genre of music: science rock. Source
  • String theory + a capella = 3 million YouTube views: A Montrealer's formula for online fame

    Entertainment CBC News
    This story is part of CBC Homerun's series on Montrealers who have made it big on YouTube. When Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield covered Space Oddity from space, he may have created a new genre of music: science rock. Source
  • Maggie Roche of The Roches sister vocal trio dies at 65

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Maggie Roche, the folk-rock singer-songwriter who since the mid-1970s had performed and recorded as a trio and in pairs with her two sisters, has died. Roche died of cancer, according to a statement posted online Saturday by her sister and bandmate Suzzy Roche. Source