The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a mysterious organisation. Aside from its board members, the voting membership of the Academy remains largely unknown.
However, make no mistake, this mysterious group are the most powerful people in the world of film.
It is they who decide which films get the major awards, which actors are the most eligible, and which directors are the most visionary. There’s a lot of power behind that little golden statue.
However, despite their all-powerful status, the Academy doesn’t meet very often. In their entire history the Academy has held just two meetings with all its members on the invite list.
The first was in September 2013 and concerned the future of the Academy, where members were allowed to ask the governors questions that hadn’t been screened. The second was just last week.
This time around, the meeting was similar. It also outlined the future plans for the Academy. However, this time, questions were screened beforehand. Also, the invite specified, that it was members-only and no guests were permitted.
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So what are the Academy up to? Well, according to Deadline, only around 300 of the 8,427 members showed up the meeting.
Still, they report from conversations with attendees that the conversation was interesting and full of hints about the future of the Oscars, and the Academy.
The Academy vs Netflix
There’s no denying that Netflix has changed the film industry. The way we consume films has completely changed.
Why take a trip to your local cinema when you can enjoy a streaming film from the comfort of your own home?
This presents something of a problem for the Academy.
Apparently, at the general meeting, one governor said “We’ve got to define what is a movie,” in reference to streaming. Evidently, there is some concern about streaming and its impact on film within the Academy.
However, that’s not to say the Academy doesn’t recognise streaming services. In all, Netflix has been nominated for seven Oscars: five for documentaries and two for short-form documentaries.
Meanwhile Manchester By The Sea, made by Amazon Studios, won Academy awards for Best Actor and Best Screenplay.
The trouble, for some Academy members, is that streaming services don’t deserve to be compared to normal theatrical releases.
Essentially, to be eligible for an Oscar a film must “complete both a seven-day theatrical release in Los Angeles County and a seven-day theatrical release in the City of New York during the eligibility period.” If these films went straight to consumers through streaming services, they wouldn’t qualify.
However, in the past, streaming services have got around that restriction by simply buying slots in theatres for a couple of weeks to make themselves eligible.
The Academy created a committee to look at the rules on this and decide whether to include streaming services.
That committee’s special focus will be on whether these films could potentially win both an Oscar and an Emmy in the same year.
According to Deadline, one prominent Academy member said Netflix might prove to be “a cheapening of the Oscar”.
In addition to the furore over streaming services, another issue arose.
A substantial number of members are allegedly impatient with the Academy’s defensive attitude towards the issue of diversity. The general feeling within the Academy seems to be that they’ve done enough.
Some apparently pointed to the success of recent diversity drives. Others thought it was a mistake to link emeritus status with the new members drive. This was an idea in 2016 which changed the rules on which members could vote in the Academy Awards.
Essentially, certain members who didn’t fit the criteria couldn’t vote and became emeritus members rather than active members. This was seen as disproportionately affecting older voters to make way for new ones.
One governor apparently said “we don’t make movies, we celebrate them” thus washing the Academy’s hands of responsibility for diversity in film.
90th Academy Awards Ceremony
As award show fans will know, the 90th Academy Awards Ceremony (The Oscars) will take place on 4 March 2018.
Last year’s Oscar co-producers Jennifer Todd and Michael de Luca are on board again to organise the show. So far details are scarce.
However, they said that they will aim to devise new stunts for next year’s ceremony.
Last year they had snacks parachuting from the ceiling and a sketch involving a local tour bus operator, so expect more of that. They also confirmed they’ll be making even wider use of classic movie clips in their next show.
Also, interestingly, despite their embarrassing Best Picture mistake which saw La La Land being briefly crowned before Moonlight rightfully took the award, PricewaterhouseCoopers will be in charge of the voting again.
However, this time around they will have a third accountant to triple check everything.
There was plenty of interesting talk at this member’s meeting. Perhaps it is best summarised by one new member saying:
The ground is shifting beneath us. It’s good to be part of an organization with continuity and tradition.