Oscar voter speaks out: 'Am I supposed to vote for a movie just because it has black people in it?'

'Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there's no art to it'

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The Independent Culture

Following the furore over not every single demographic being represented in every single Oscar category, an Academy member has cleared a few things up anonymously, saying that if Selma goes home empty-handed it is because it is not as artful as other nominees, not because of racism.

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"First, let me say that I'm tired of all of this talk about "snubs" — I thought for every one of [the snubs] there was a justifiable reason," she told The Hollywood Reporter.

"What no one wants to say out loud is that Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there's no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male, I don't think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were."

Tackling accusations of racism among the academy, she said: "Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance — they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they're not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies.

12 Years A Slave, which won Best Picture at the 2014 Oscars

"When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn't that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it?"

Last year that certainly seemed to be the case, when it emerged that some Academy members had voted for 12 Years A Slave without even having seen it.

The voter was also critical of Boyhood, which she felt was impressive but uneven, and felt that, putting politics aside, American Sniper was a triumph for making a lot of money on a comparatively small budget.

On Boyhood…

If you told me when I saw Boyhood that it would win best picture — or even be in the running — I would have told you that you were insane. Watching it, I thought it was ambitious and a directorial triumph, but the kid was uneven and Patricia Arquette probably was sorry she agreed to let them film her age over 12 years. I never thought, "Wow, this is the one!"

On American Sniper…

American Sniper is the winner of the year, whether or not it gets a single statuette, because for all of us in the movie industry — I don't care what your politics are — it is literally the answer to a prayer for a midrange budget movie directed by an 84-year-old guy [Clint Eastwood] to do this kind of business. It shows that a movie can galvanize America and shows that people will go if you put something out that they want to see. With regard to what it did or didn't leave out, it's a movie, not a documentary. I enjoyed it, I thought it was well done, and I can separate out the politics from the filmmaking.

On Birdman…

Birdman is a great job by Fox Searchlight — it's a weird, quirky movie that they did a really good job of selling. I never thought that it would make it all the way to the finish line like it has — but then I remember that it's about a tortured actor, and when you think about who is doing the voting, at SAG and the Academy, it's a lot of other tortured actors. I just don't know how much it's resonating out in the world. I mean, American Sniper made more in its third weekend in wide release than Birdman has made in its entirety.

On Whiplash…

The funny thing about Whiplash is that while the rest of the world thinks that the J.K. Simmons character is an overbearing, horrible monster, there are many people in Hollywood who would model themselves on that character. As for the film itself, it's a very traditional story, in some ways, about mentoring and excellence — that kind of movie has existed since [the 1933 film] 42nd Street. "You're gonna go out there, and I'm gonna yell at you that you can do better, and you're not gonna like me for it but then you will."

On The Theory of Everything…

The Theory of Everything is, to me, the Merchant-Ivory movie of the year — that and The Imitation Game both occupy that kind of Britishy slot. I liked it, but I didn't love it. They got a good start in Toronto, and [Eddie Redmayne's] performance is very strong. But it's what I call a "filler" nominee: It's one of those movies that people write in but that doesn't stand a chance of winning.

On The Imitation Game…

On paper, The Imitation Game seemed to be the one to me. It's a great story, well-crafted, [Benedict Cumberbatch] is really good and it's been a big success. It's what you call "prestige filmmaking." So why isn't it receiving more recognition? I'd like to believe it's karma for Harvey [Weinstein]. But I'm going to hold my nose and vote for it anyway because when you vote for best picture, what you should try to do is vote for the movie that, years from now, people will still watch and talk about. For some years, it's like, "Huh?! Around the World in 80 Days [the winner for 1956] won best picture? Are you kidding me?" So I try to vote in a way so that, in 50 years, people aren't going to go, "Huh?!"

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