The Academy seems to have a big target this year. We are looking at why.
When 76-year-old filmmaker John Bailey was elected to the presidency of the Academy of Arts and Film Sciences, he did so by promising to serve his followers – the craft industry . This week, they attacked him, which was the last thing he was waiting for.
The AMPAS Board of Governors is comprised of three senior leaders from each of the 17 branches, as well as three additional minority representatives, Bailey, and Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy. Put 54 voices in a room and you will raise cats. Many board members complain of the inability to make decisions with so many differing opinions. (Bill Mechanic, Kathleen Kennedy and Cheryl Boone Isaacs are among the former governors who have voluntarily resigned.) Some have suggested that a smaller board could help solve the problem by reducing the number of reps to two for each branch. .
In any event, Bailey did not know what he was doing when he took office. An alpha man used to stepping on a plateau with authority, he tried to run the Academy. However, it has become difficult to reach consensus within a group that is difficult to handle. Bailey lacks media skills: an hour after a hearty interview in Telluride, Bailey passed as if he had never met me.
A year later, in a telephone interview, I congratulated him for not yielding to his pressure for the Best Popular Film category; he became apoplectic. He did not realize (until it was too late) that not defining it initially would pose a risk, leaving everyone free to speculate and fear the worst. The retreat of the members was intense. At a recent event at the Academy Museum, Peter Bart, former editor-in-chief of Variety, told Bailey, in a crowded elevator, that he was the most cunning man he had ever met . Bailey had no idea who he was.
"The concept of these awards is not an iconic ritual set up year after year in the same way," Bailey told me in September. "The history of the Academy and this award is an entity in perpetual mutation, prices have been added and removed, branches have been created and removed. It is a living entity, as is the whole concept of all forms of art, particularly cinema, because of its technological definition. "
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Attempts by the 2019 Oscar producers to modernize the show with a three-hour shorter program were also short-lived. They suggested playing two of the five songs (Lady Gaga reversed the trend) or not having the winners of last year presented the awards for the best performer this year. It turns out that there is a respect for tradition, after all. Who could take away that honor from Allison Janney?
Twitter Movie was every time the incubator of dissent, a place where hardcore film buffs and Oscars show, discuss, analyze and foment discord. Once something has started there, it spreads – quickly. In the case of Kevin Hart, the old offensive homophobic tweets were new. In this case, the Academy's CEO, Dawn Hudson, called to ask Hart to apologize if he did not realize he would bail himself. (A sort of arrangement could have been negotiated.) What could be more important than hosting the Oscars? The fans of Hart, who had first attracted the Academy.
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Most of the craft acceptance speeches recorded during the commercial breaks, alternating those which accept each year, were first published in August; at the time, he had been eclipsed by the debate on the best popular film. Bailey, convinced to be able to give the example, showed all branches of the art what the short excerpt of an acceptance speech would look like – and the governors all agreed to the to follow.
It was only when he named the actual categories (including his own cinematography and editor, Carol Middleton, governor) that shit hit the public. Last year, Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón, this year's Oscar nominee, demonstrated in front of Twitter, and their fans took note of it. Russell Crowe shared with his millions of followers, thinking, like many, that the categories were completely circumcised.
Again, messaging was the problem. The change was not communicated properly, which turned into a public relations disaster that became uncontrollable. A careful deployment of the plan, with the help of the press, could have allowed a clear and smooth landing for the post. But Bailey has just released an e-mail to members, which many have not understood. Often, once things start to go south, the momentum continues.
"This bad management team does not manage anything well," said a voter at the Academy. "It's really upsetting to me, they're so incompetent in areas like the facilitator, the way it's been handled. Now we do not have a master of ceremonies anymore. These musical numbers are void. The songs are not designed as musical numbers; they are designed to be shown in a movie. When you take it out of this context for a ridiculous song and dance routine, they hang out. "
Several Academy voters agreed that everyone was on board with the modified Oscar speech prototype intended for the manufacture of branches. They understood the need to shorten the issue and increase the ratings. The Cinematography and Editing branches took the lead in a magnanimous effort. The plan was to present the four awards during an early commercial break and broadcast the edited montage of the four speeches (in their entirety) in the last third of the show. "You'll hardly notice," said a costume designer.
But the protest against the behemoths was not going to stop and a letter originally signed by leading directors and directors of photography, including Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino and Roger Deakins, increased to more than 14,000 signatures when it been made public. At that time, the Academy sent an e-mail outlining more details, stressing that manual work would be treated with respect – and blamed the press and social media for the problem of public relations. And producer Donna Gigliotti insisted that no speech would be interrupted if they stayed in their 90-second hall.
I'm told that what Bailey did not expect is the dissension of his own branch. The directors of photography broke ranks under pressure from the CSA, which awarded Bailey an award for all of his accomplishments. Needless to say, this humiliation was more than Bailey had ever negotiated. And he is very angry. The initiates of the Academy were waiting for everyone to follow Bailey's initiative.
"He was beaten," said a governor. "Who knows if the show will last three hours? These are the big movies, and the show that Glenn Weiss and Donna Gigliotti are going to do, whatever. "
It is doubtful that big hitters have threatened to withdraw from the Oscar series, although many members have complained to the Academy from afar. The increasing pressure of the reaction persuaded the Academy to finally yield.
"It's very gratifying to know that people who have devoted all their adult lives to their jobs will not be left out," said a grateful editor, willing not to vote for the Oscars in protest this year. He will vote now.
One thing is certain: Bailey no longer has to deal with this next year, because the governor's term means his term will be over this summer. The question now is: who wants to register for this nonsense?
Bill Desowitz contributed to this story.