Cieply: Academy Increasingly Foreign, Indie
Interesting if inconclusive piece in yesterday's NY Times by Hollywood insider (and frequent source of my disappointment) Michael Cieply on the Academy and its battle to reign in new membership.
The battle began in 2004 and has resulted in a slight increase in executive membership, along with decreases in acting and writing memberships, but the biggest change, unnamed in the piece, is a tendency toward political correctness: more foreigners, more indie filmmakers.
Producer Lianne Halfon gets asked to join but not her production partner Russell Smith, who has virtually the same curriculum vitae. Mexican actress Adrianna Barraza, nominated for the nanny role in "Babel," gets asked, but not recent American nominees Ellen Page, Casey Affleck and Amy Ryan. Cieply writes: "...roughly a quarter of the 115 new members invited in 2007, for instance, worked on films like “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Queen” — and those from the independent film world."
Unmentioned, and probably unknown, is whether this percentage (1/4) of new foreign and indie members is unusual. I assume it is.
Unasked is whether the Academy, which is a Hollywood and thus American institution, should lean toward foreign membership, when most countries have their own version of the Academy Awards. What's the point in going international? Does it make sense, and, if so, what kind of sense: cultural (the world is shrinking) or economic (increased viewership abroad at the expense of viewership at home)?
The result of this trend, if it is in fact a trend, is, Cieply writes, the promise of more indie and foreign-flavored movies like "Babel" and "Little Miss Sunshine" getting nom'ed at the expense of mainstream and commercial films.
But is that the question? How's this for a question? Which commercial and mainstream films should've gotten nom'ed in place of "Babel" and "Little Miss Sunshine"? Do the studios make those kinds of films anymore? I'm not talking "Gone with the Wind." I'm talking "Dances with Wolves" and "The Silence of the Lambs" and "A Few Good Men" and "Apollo 13," all of which wound up among the top 5 box office hits for their respective years in the 1990s and all of which got nom'ed. If "Dances with Wolves" was released this year, how many theaters would it wind up in? Enough? Or would it be considered a prestige picture and given to us in dribs and drabs?
The problem isn't just the Academy or its changing membership. What top 10 box office hit of the last five years has been worth nominating?