After an Academy Awards ceremony that seemed to be programmed out of the conviction that the best way to improve the relevance of the movies is to emphasize its most profitable work rather than its most, well, relevant, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seems to have surprised a number of its members by sending out invitations to meetings in three cities to discuss what the Academy does and ought to do. That this is happening seems entirely reasonable and sensible, and so the really newsworthy element surrounding all of this is that Academy members the New York Times talked to seem to be surprised and disconcerted that it’s happening:
In the last few years the Academy, which presents the Oscars, has been the subject of almost constant hand-wringing concerning the quality and ratings of its annual awards show, the age and ethnic diversity of its membership, and efforts to shore up the cultural relevance of film. Still, the group has rarely, if ever, opened the door for a global discussion of its aims or operation. Mr. Koch did not respond to a query about the meeting on Friday, and a spokeswoman for the Academy declined to comment. Several Academy members who have been active in the awards process said on Friday that they were puzzled by the announcement. One highly placed studio executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid conflict with the Academy, said he believed it was an attempt by Ms. Hudson, who has held her post for about two years, to get input from members as she and others plot their agenda.
I guess it doesn’t necessarily surprise me that the 94 percent of Academy voters who are white and the 77 percent of them who are men might not really want to talk about the fact that they’re an overwhelming majority. But it’s a nice test of how committed actual folks are to their values to see if they’re willing to discuss their privilege and to consider measures that would dilute them. And after the Academy Awards’ schizophrenic pendulum swings between hosts from different generations and senses of what are the most effective ways to emphasize the importance of the movies, it makes sense to stage an actual conversation rather than leaving things in the hands of producers who don’t seem to be coming up with good solutions on their own. Good on Academy president Hawk Koch and chief executive Dawn Hudson for saving the dates. Now it’ll be up to their members to actually contribute, rather than act like it’s bizarre that an organization would attempt to reassess itself.