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Oscar Best Picture rule changes require diversity to be eligible (1 Viewer)

Jake Lipson

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Deadline said:
As promised when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its Academy Aperture 2025 initiative in June, new standards of representation and inclusion have been announced by AMPAS today that will gradually be put in place for the 94th (2022) and 95th (2023) Oscars but in full effect beginning with the 96th Academy in 2024. In its most dramatic swing toward true diversity, Oscar is laying down significant requirements in order to be eligible for Hollywood’s most sought-after prize: Best Picture.


Having at least one Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern/North African, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander or unspecified other underrepresented race or ethnicity as a “lead or significant supporting actor” is a potential requirement under the new guidelines, with those ethnicities also mentioned for prominent production and marketing jobs. Additionally, employing women, LGBTQ+, members of a racial or ethnic group, and people with cognitive or physical disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing might be required for at least 30% of actors in secondary and more minor roles; having a storyline centered on an underrepresented group; hiring creative leadership and department heads; maintaining least 30% crew composition; paid internships; and representation in marketing and distribution also are potential areas in order to be a Best Picture contender. Producers don’t have to meet all of the requirements of the new doctrine, just half.

More at the link: https://deadline.com/2020/09/academy-shakes-oscar-best-picture-eligibility-1234573172/

I think this is a terrible idea. To be clear, I absolutely think that diversity in film in front of and behind the camera is important. But the way to have great representation moving forward is to hire talented people to tell the stories they are passionate about in an authentic manner. I don't like the idea of the Academy telling producers what movies have to be like in order to be eligible, because that actually limits potential creativity. It is important that diverse people are hired to do what they are good at because they are good at it, and not because they are a token participant to fill some awards eligibility quota. This is a nice idea in theory, but I'm not sure this plan is the best way to address it.

There were also a bunch of really good movies last year which do meet these eligibility requirements but didn't get nominated for anything, and since some of them were smaller films, I'm not sure they were seen. Queen & Slim, The Farewell, Clemency and Just Mercy come to mind, where they absolutely checked all of these boxes but didn't necessarily have a huge promotional push, and it's very possible that the voters didn't see them. So part of the problem is making sure the voters have access to and awareness of as many different films as possible, and that they want to make time to watch them. It's not that these films didn't exist, but all of the hype around the other contenders made it more difficult for them to cut through the clutter.

We'll see what happens.
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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If you read the criteria, the standards are flexible enough that the vast majority of films will likely qualify.

That being said, if a non-qualifying film is the clear favorite among the Academy membership and is excluded because of these quotas, it will be an uproar that I don't believe the standards will survive. The Academy is a lot more diverse than it was a decade or two ago, but it's still overwhelmingly old and overwhelmingly white. This feels like yet another example where the leadership is too far ahead of where the membership is willing to go.
 

Jake Lipson

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This punishes films that take place in places and times where it would be highly unlikely for there to be major characters of color.

They can have people of color and/or other minorities on the crew and still qualify. But I agree with your larger point. There are certain films, especially the historical epics which the Academy has traditionally lauded, where it would not be accurate to include characters of color.

We need more diverse storytelling in film because diverse creators are hired to tell authentic stories that matter to them, not because the Academy is dictating a quota system for what a movie should be.
 

Jake Lipson

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In 2019, the Academy nominated both Green Book and BlacKkKlansman in the same year.

They chose to reward the movie dealing with race which was directed by a white director, written by a white writer and featuring a white character as the protagonist. They chose this instead of a film looking at race through the perspective of a black writer/director and featuring a black protagonist. The producer actually said that it was for white audiences who needed to be reminded not to be racist.

Their choice is their choice. I do not say this to judge their choice. Green Book looked terrible to me so I elected not to see it. But it is representative of the kinds of choices that their voting body makes.

Even if this initiative works as they intend for it to do, who's to say that they actually think that the most diverse film is the best one?

Also, off the top of my head, the requirement about the casting and storylines would have made 1917, Ford v. Ferrari, and The Irishman ineligible last year unless they had minorities behind-the-scenes. Do those films now lose their value because they're about white men? Joker might have qualified if you count Arthur Fleck as having a cognative disability due to his mental illness, but that feels like a stretch in regards to how that movie turned out. By no means am I saying that movies about white men should be all that are made -- I love seeing a wide variety of stories and perspectives reflected on screen and hope that continues -- but if there is a story about white men, it should not be penalized for that.

The best way to increase diversity is to hire talented people from a variety of backgrounds to tell their stories. It should not be that difficult.

From the bottom of The Hollywood Reporter's article on these new changes:

The Hollywood Reporter said:
Films in specialty categories submitted for Best Picture/General Entry consideration (e.g. Animated Feature, Documentary Feature and International Feature Film) will be addressed separately.

Huh? That is very unclear and I do not understand what it means.
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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Huh? That is very unclear and I do not understand what it means.
I think what the article is getting at is that only the Best Picture category is subject to the quota system, so presumably an exception would be made if a picture nominated for Best Animated Feature or Best International Feature was also in contention for Best Picture.

Oh, so, tokenism, then.
It seems like the opposite of tokenism to me. Tokenism will get you one of the needed criteria, but for any of the other criteria the diversity will need to be broader.

Again, not a fan of this decision -- the Academy voters' choice for best picture should be Best Picture, without any other considerations getting in the way. But I can understand the goals behind it.
 

Ejanss

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I think what the article is getting at is that only the Best Picture category is subject to the quota system, so presumably an exception would be made if a picture nominated for Best Animated Feature or Best International Feature was also in contention for Best Picture.

And I remember when they were just one step away from finally getting rid of the 10-Nomination rule, but it also allowed one token vote for an animated Best Picture, and Pixar's "Inside Out" was the first lead Picture front-runner of the year.
So, they kept the rule around for one more year, and then...forgot it was still there.

Again, not a fan of this decision -- the Academy voters' choice for best picture should be Best Picture, without any other considerations getting in the way. But I can understand the goals behind it.

It's another attempt to grab Last Year's Complaint and leap to the conclusion that THAT'S the "secret reason" why Best Pictures have been going down the toilet since 2005.
(Instead of the new Ranked Voting system causing the #2 second-place winner to get more votes, or the 10-nomination rule--that was supposed to appeal to the Batman and Pixar fans--strangling the Best Picture race with pointless indies and one-Actor nominees.)

A few years ago it was "Oscars so old and white!" when Creed wasn't nominated, so they overhauled committee membership, and last year it was "Oscars so male!" when women directors couldn't make the cut.
Um, I got a better idea: How about if we make our OWN nominations, and stop paying attention to the danged Golden Globes and snooty NBOR's?
That's what we used to do, before they shortened the voting period, but now the voters are too rushed, can't think of any, and do what all the other fanboys do when the first November lists come out.

Given the dearth of theatrically released films this year, Chris Nolan must have a good chance at the AAs.

Remember when we joked that the only way Dark Knight or Inception would get Best Picture was "if they were the only ones nominated"?
 
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Jake Lipson

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Given the dearth of theatrically released films this year, Chris Nolan must have a good chance at the AAs.

I love Nolan -- if it had been my choice, I would have nominated The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar for Besrt Picture. But I really don't want him to win by default. I want him to win because the members recognize his film as the best film of the year.

Also, remember, theatrical release is not required this year. Films that debut on streaming as a result of the pandemic are still going to be eligible as long as they were intended for theatrical release prior to the advent of the virus.
 

jcroy

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Besides bragging rights and/or advertising, are there any huge benefits for something winning an Oscar award(s) ?
 

Chuck Mayer

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Certainly a lot of period pieces would now be ineligible.

I am of several minds on this, trying to see the good, the bad, and the self-serving.

1) The Oscars do not have the cachet they once did. Thinking that studios will change how they do business in order to chase a BP nomination is almost certainly wishful thinking.
2) The Oscars desperately want to glom onto this enormous movement, because their membership has historically believed how culturally impactful their work is (even when it most often is NOT).
3) The Oscars know that for all of the "on-screen" preaching, their business lags so many other businesses in inclusivity metrics.

Expanding the diversity on both sides of the camera is both a noble and artistically meaningful goal. And I think the business of Hollywood should pursue it. You want to be eligible for industry awards? Either ensure that some of your talent is diverse OR ensure that the filmmaking team is actively mentoring diverse up-and-comers in their craft, on set. PAs, set designers, editors, cinematographers, etc. Build the talent up, don't mandate it at the end.

At this point, it demeans the BP pool because it'll be nothing but dramatic, message-driven Oscar bait (which routinely tanks at today's theaters). A year or two ago, they floated that absurd and pandering Best Popular Film category, without ever being able to explain the necessary criteria or distinction from BP.

They are continuing to flail for relevance without understanding what they actually want or how to achieve it.
 

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