"It’s a commonplace that the Oscars reflect not the state of the industry, certainly not that of the art, but, rather, the way that Hollywood’s notables want the industry to be seen. But the composition of the body of notables that doles out the awards is changing. That may be due, in part, to a 2012 study of the Academy membership by the Los Angeles Times, whose reporters John Horn, Nicole Sperling, and Doug Smith discovered much about that body despite the fact that “the roster of all 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a closely guarded secret.” Most notably:
Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.
Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.
In 2013, the Academy added an unusually large number of new members (two hundred and seventy-six), with a median age of fifty-one. Far be it from me to suggest that the biological age of the membership is an issue—some of the most youthful artists around, like my colleague Roger Angell or the director Alain Resnais, claim to be over ninety. But activity is a fair question: membership in the Academy is for life, and there are doubtless many members who are no longer involved in the movie business in any significant way but who, nonetheless, are voting. …
If the Academy really wanted its awards to reflect the public self-image of the industry, it could limit voting to members who are still working in the business. But it’s not an organization that seems open to drastic change, any more than Hollywood overall or most big organizations are, except in times of emergency. The paradox is how, in the movies, the sky is always falling. Every movie is a crapshoot, the chance of catastrophe is always imminent, the sense of crisis is permanent, a state of affairs that makes the illusion of normalcy at the Oscars all the more urgent.”
Richard Brody’s Oscar Picks
“History demonstrates, in particular the 1950s McCarthy period, that government officials should not employ their official status and power to attempt to censor, alter or pressure artists to change their expressions, believes, presentations of facts or political viewpoints.”
Alfred Eisenstaedt, New York, 1938
“Gloom is easy, comedy is hard.”