I love movies. I also love to go on about sustainability, poverty & just sticking it to the man. The truth is I have a sweet spot for the Hollywood Film Industry, among other stuff. Movies are an art form in which humans can both control or fix the world, all while making a buck. In the past timeless masterpieces whether a symphony or a painting have had the ability to change our view of the world. Plus we now in a space where anyone with a smart phone can watch and/or make a movie. The movie lover in me believes the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (or the Academy) is a special institution in movie tradition. A tradition of education, innovation & achievement.
It has been said that the Oscars are “rich people giving rich people awards” This is also a tradition which really dates back to the Academy’s creation. In early 1927, Hollywood’s rich & famous founded an organization to mainly settle labor disputes & improve the new industry’s’ image. They began with building a library, formed film schools & voted on awards. Overtime the studios did well. While interest in the awards themselves drew more attention. Today the Academy has over 5,000 members while the Academy Awards ceremony is seen around the world. Beyond the gold & glamour the Academy does try to use its power for good. The Academy restores & preserves decades of film history, providing access. It pays for scholarships to promising kids who love to waste away fucking with cameras all day. Here’s what stole my heart, the Academy goes to dangerous places. Sanctioned places like Cuba & Iran. Places where a modern film education can truly foster innovation. Places that can provide fresh perspectives about ourselves. But most hopefully places where the Academy can forge a dialogue between film communities and help give peace a chance. The Academy is rich people trying to fix or build a better world, through film.
Now, there is always room for improvement. Many humans only value making more money, as is their right. Good artists eventually find a comfortable balance between art & industry. I am no artist, as a child I enjoyed watching movies with friends. Later I cared about gaining new perspectives & of course celebrating innovation. Now, I’ve come to value expanding greater access & more democratic engagement. So, that’s where I focus. The Academy claims “its purposes include advancing the art and science of motion pictures, promoting cooperation among creative leaders for cultural, educational and technological progress and fostering educational activities between the professional community and the public.”
Any large institution will have powerful interests pulling it unhelpful directions and its easy to lose sight of what matters. I get that, yet to me the right direction is clear. ‘Advancing the art and science’ of film includes rewarding movies & studios that expand access to more not less, because that’s innovation. If the Academy really cared about ‘Promoting cooperation’ among leading filmmakers worldwide than please allow nations to submit more than one film to represent their entire country. One way of ‘fostering activities between the professional community and the public’ could be for the Academy to seek out more public engagement not just into film making but the actual ceremony. Please consider loosening the rules on membership and allow the movie going public to vote in some categories, stuff like that. Not only are these ideas compatible with the Academy’s values it could make more money. More importantly it could provide the chance for some kid somewhere to fall in love with movies and begin their own movie tradition.