by Coop Cooper
At this time each year the Academy voters cast their ballots to determine which nominees will win the coveted gold statue and each year controversies threaten to factor into that process. Here are a couple of famous examples: In 1999, only half of the award attendees stood and clapped for producer Elia Kazan when he received a Lifetime Achievement Award due to his turning over names of colleagues to the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952 resulting in many of them being ‘blacklisted’ as suspected communists. In 2002, Roman Polanski won an Oscar for Best Director for “The Pianist” despite being wanted in America for a statutory rape charge dating back to 1977, discouraging him from entering the country to attend the ceremony.
This year, new controversies could once again overshadow the awards themselves. The first arose from the nominations for Best Original Song in which the song “Alone Yet Not Alone” – from the movie of the same name – stood out because it was from an obscure Christian-based film that very few people had seen. It had also been written by Bruce Broughton, a former Academy Governor and currently an executive committee member of the Academy’s Music Branch. A quick investigation discovered that Broughton had illegally lobbied voters to nominate the song, leading to the Academy rescinding its nomination. While this appears to be a clear case of ethical misconduct, some are claiming the stripping of the nomination as Hollywood issuing a referendum on the Christian faith, given the religious nature of the film. Whatever the case, the controversy is sure to boost the profile of the film and increase its viewings.
Another controversy involving the war film “Lone Survivor” has arisen in which some fans and critics believe the Academy snubbed the film from nominations because it did not take a strong anti-war stance. While many left-leaning critics and activists have blasted the film as American military propaganda, it doesn’t explain why Academy voters would snub it when they had been so generous to similarly-themed war films like “The Hurt Locker” in 2009 and “Zero Dark Thirty” last year. More likely fans and critics overestimated the film which was quickly lost in a sea of stiff competition.
There is always some measure of bitterness during the Academy Awards segment that honors actors and high-profile industry professionals who died the previous year. Sometimes important individuals are snubbed (such as Brad Renfro in 2008 and Corey Haim in 2011) and others are pushed to next year’s ceremony because their death inconveniently surpassed the January 31st cut-off date (such as Roy Scheider in 2008). Does this mean that the highly popular Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died this past Sunday, February 2nd won’t get any sort of recognition at this year’s ceremony? Highly unlikely, as it would only confuse and enrage viewers of the show. How about Oscar-winning actor Maximilian Schell who died Saturday, February 1st, only hours past the cut-off date? Surely if Hoffman is to be included, Schell who died a day earlier should be. Perhaps if the Academy wants to retain credibility, they should use common sense when organizing the yearly tribute instead of adhering to draconian deadlines and allowing the tribute to devolve into a crass popularity contest. Muting the audience applause during this segment might help give it more dignity.
Finally, the most disturbing controversy stems from Woody Allen’s highly-acclaimed film “Blue Jasmine”. While no one disputes Cate Blanchett’s deserving Oscar nomination for Best Actress, the problem surrounds Allen himself who was recently given the 2014 Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes. Although Allen did not attend the event, his ex-wife Mia Farrow and her children Ronan and Dylan publicly denounced the award by resurrecting old accusations that Allen sexually assaulted Dylan repeatedly when she was a child. Dylan Farrow herself recently released a letter to the media revealing shocking details about Allen’s alleged assaults. While Allen was never actually charged with sexual assault, these revelations have created a firestorm that could taint “Blue Jasmine” for the public and for Academy voters.
The Academy Awards will air on Sunday, March 2nd on the ABC network.