Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

February 19, 2013

CALLERI: Controversy surrounds the Oscars as Hollywood prepares for its big night

Niagara Gazette — It’s a common misconception that the Academy Awards, which have been given out for 85 years, are a motion picture industry event in which everyone connected to movies participates. Except for the fact that a lot of film people watch the Oscars on television, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Academy Awards are a closed affair, a party held for an elite group, the privileged members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences. AMPAS does not reveal the identities of its members, but in 2012, the Los Angeles Times broke through the secrecy and came up with some interesting information. It researched the Academy’s own glossy publications, insider biographies, Hollywood history from trade newspapers, and conducted conversations with people who make movies.

The Academy projects the illusion that the Oscars are voted on by the “industry,” but the truth is that becoming a member is difficult. You have to be invited to join and not every nominee or winner gets invited. In 2012, the Academy claimed a membership of 5,765. This year it is thought that 5,857 belong. Members are the only people who get to vote for the nominees and winners of the Academy Awards. Invitations to join are voted on by a board of directors that is believed to number 43 people, six of whom are women. Only one board member is a person of color and it’s one of the women.

According to the Times, the Academy membership is 94 percent white, 2 percent black, 2 percent Latino, with the other 2 percent possibly being Asian and Native-American. 77 percent of the members are men. The median age is 62, and only 14 percent are under the age of 50. Some other figures are equally surprising. Only 14 percent are Oscar winners. 64 percent have never been nominated or won an Oscar. 19 percent have been nominated, but didn’t win. The status of the remaining 3 percent is unknown.

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