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Academy Awards welcomes controversy, ratings

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The Academy Awards is this Sunday night. We will hear about the fact that the 20 people nominated for major awards are all white. This is just the latest controversy in the years the Academy Awards have been in existence.

I guess I’m not all wrapped up in this debate. I know Jada Pinkett Smith, the wife of actor Will Smith, is going to boycott the Academy Awards. She is appalled that no African-American is up for an award. She does not mention her husband, who was passed up for his role in “Concussion.” Smith plays the doctor who discovers a link to lifelong brain damage of former NFL football players who have suffered repeated concussions.

“Concussion” is supposed to a good film. I know some people who have seen it when it was released near Christmas. The fact of the matter is I have not seen it. That symbolizes some of the problems of the Academy Award voting process. Other members of the voting academy have not seen it either.

I recall hearing about this years ago. You would think that would be a requirement but it isn’t. The academy provides an honor to many of these voters that they can take part in the process for life. The only problem with that is how engaged are some of these voters as they age? Many of them vote on previous formulas that they believe makes a good film.

The Academy Awards, despite the controversy and hoopla surrounding this event, will still draw huge ratings on Sunday. Black comedian and actor Chris Rock serves as host this year. No doubt he will take aim at the “so-white” Academy Awards with a series of jokes. Even when the academy is criticized, it draws more attention. Maybe more people will be watching this year.

That’s the amazing thing about the Academy Awards. The motion picture industry puts on an awards show every year for the world to see and then they proceed to congratulate themselves on being so significant and relevant. And then there are speeches by some of the winners who take themselves much too seriously. This year, nominees will provide to the academy a series of names of people they would like to thank. The names will scroll past our TV sets. That’s good news. Many of these winners in the past insist of thanking everyone from stagehands to first-grade teachers as they ramble on past their designated 45 seconds.

That’s why we often tune out the Academy Awards as it drags past three hours. A little brevity along with humility can go a long way.

In regards to a lack of minorities being nominated, the Academy is sensitive to being criticized for being, well insensitive An effort is being made to have a larger minority presence among the academy voters. Critics would also like to see more women in roles as directors and studio executives, along with more representation of Asians and Hispanics.

It may take a few years before these changes have any real impact. A lot of those old white guys will still be around for a few more years. They will be replaced in part by more white men who will become old white guys.

But the Academy Awards, even with it faults, is still interesting when they pick up the pace. I can recall when the independent film “Crash” won Best Picture for 2005 over some heavy contenders like “Good Night. Good Luck” and “Brokeback Mountain.” Maybe “Crash” was not really the best film but had people talking about it.

Those are the things that make a movie memorable. I mean was “Titanic” really the greatest film of 1997? That can be debated. The special effects were great but the story line was like a predictable Lifetime movie. But it moved people and got them talking about the Titanic again.

And was “Ordinary People” the best movie of 1980? I thought it was a solid movie with Mary Tyler Moore playing a cold and distant mother, a surprising twist. But was this better than Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull?” I’ve seen both movies and Robert De Niro’s portrayal of self-destructive boxer Jake La Motta was magnificent.

Regardless of the ethnicity and race of the nominees, the Academy Awards are consistent. They love lavish productions and often vote for actors who portray someone with a disability. Musicals are also hailed by academy members. The Academy likes to be important, but not to controversial.

So, enjoy the Academy Awards on Sunday. If the show tends to drag, you can always turn the channel to let’s say, HBO’s “Vinyl.” I will be watching because I actually saw two movies that are up for Best Picture – “The Big Short” and “Spotlight.”

And the winner is…

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .