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

  • Tatiana Maslany on pressures of playing a real person in 'Stronger'

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- After juggling the nuances of numerous clones on TV's "Orphan Black," Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany tried to strike a different balance for the Boston Marathon bombing drama "Stronger." The Regina-raised actress plays Erin Hurley, a real person who helped her boyfriend Jeff Bauman through physical therapy and drinking problems after he lost his legs in the explosion more than four years ago. Source
  • 'The Punisher' trailer tries to eliminate bad memories of previous adaptations

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Netflix has released the first full trailer for "Marvel's The Punisher" series starring Jon Bernthal. Bernthal returns to the role he made his own (Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson all starred in "Punisher" movies; none were able to merit a sequel) when he initially debuted as Frank Castle/The Punisher (one of Marvel Comics most violent characters) in Season 2 of "Daredevil. Source
  • Olivia Munn talks Lego and reveals why she may never film another cameo after 'Ocean's Eight'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Olivia Munn has brawn, brains and beauty, but that doesn’t mean she was always the cool kid. “I moved around a lot as a kid, so I was always the new girl in school,” she replies when asked what she was like in high school. Source
  • Don Henley, Lyle Lovett, Clint Black plan Harvey benefit

    Entertainment CTV News
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- Don Henley, Lyle Lovett and Clint Black are the latest musicians planning a concert to raise money for victims of Harvey. The trio on Tuesday announced a Nov. 28 show at Bass Hall in Fort Worth. Source
  • 'This was not ok:' Alvvays singer dodges kiss after fan jumps onstage

    Entertainment CBC News
    ?Alvvays frontwoman Molly Rankin was left stunned during a recent show when a male fan bolted onto the stage and attempted to kiss her. The Toronto-based indie band, known for dreamy pop songs including Archie, Marry Me, was performing at a venue in Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday when the incident was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube. Source
  • 'This is not just a bit of fun:' Alvvays singer Molly Rankin harassed in onstage incident

    Entertainment CBC News
    ?Alvvays frontwoman Molly Rankin was left stunned during a recent show when a male fan bolted onto the stage and attempted to kiss her. The Toronto-based indie band, known for dreamy pop songs including Archie, Marry Me, was performing at a venue in Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday when the incident was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube. Source
  • Woman linked to Kevin Hart's cheating scandal denies being an extortionist

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — A woman has come forward to say she was involved with Kevin Hart a month ago but she is not an extortionist. Montia Sabbag spoke to reporters at her lawyer’s Los Angeles office Wednesday following Hart’s weekend apology to his pregnant wife and children via an Instagram video for what he called an error in judgment. Source
  • Woman linked to Kevin Hart denies being an extortionist

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- A woman has come forward to say she was involved with Kevin Hart a month ago but she is not an extortionist. Montia Sabbag spoke to reporters at her lawyer's Los Angeles office Wednesday following Hart's weekend apology to his pregnant wife and children via an Instagram video for what he called an error in judgment. Source
  • 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' review: Sequel lacks punch and vibe of first film

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    In the first film about a secret spy group known as Kingsman, we learned they are well-dressed, courtly and perfectly groomed. But by the second film, there’s a decidedly ungentlemanly whiff about them — of desperation. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” comes three years after the first leg in the Matthew Vaughn-directed franchise — and it bodes poorly for the expected third. Source
  • Jimmy Kimmel: Senator 'lied right to my face' on health care

    Entertainment CTV News
    Jimmy Kimmel sharply criticized U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy on his late-night show, saying the Louisiana Republican "lied right to my face" by going back on his word to ensure any health care overhaul passes a test named for the host. Source