The Very Depressing Thoughts of an Actual Oscar Voter

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 21 2013 12:02 PM

The Very Depressing Thoughts of an Actual Oscar Voter

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John Goodman and Alan Arkin in Argo.

©2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Yesterday, Scott Feinberg at The Hollywood Reporter published the rambling thoughts that one Academy member had as he went over his ballot and decided whom to vote for. Feinberg calls the voter’s stream-of-consciousness mutterings “strong but carefully considered opinions,” but I can only assume he was being kind to a source who was either generous or foolish enough to let a reporter put his frequently ridiculous thought process on the record.

For what it’s worth, this voter is a member of the director’s branch. Over at the Playlist, Kevin Jagernauth says it was the voter’s Best Picture deliberations that he found depressing, but I got downhearted much earlier than that. Specifically, when the man said he doesn’t “vote for anyone whose name I can’t pronounce.” He was thinking, of course, of Quvenzhané Wallis, which makes me wonder if, despite his apparently trouble-free use of the online Oscar ballot, he’s one of the many Academy voters who aren’t very good at the Internet. (Here, let me Google that for you.)

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More evidence that he’s not the most web-savvy guy? He had not seen any of the nominees for Best Animated Short, all of which are, in fact, pretty short, and can be found online. He voted for Paperman anyway, because he “heard good things.” He hadn’t heard anything about the live-action shorts, and he hadn’t watched those either, so he just skipped that category.

Which some may find dispiriting. Personally, I wish he had skipped more categories. Anyone who thinks Amy Adams’ part in The Master is “a total throwaway role,” that Silver Linings Playbook “is a screenplay” and its “direction is not particularly important,” that “Spielberg deserves an Oscar every 10 years or so out of respect for what he does for the industry”—well, this is maybe not the man I want choosing whom to honor in cinema on an annual basis.

To be fair, I think he was probably joking about not voting for someone whose name he can’t pronounce. The guy seems to think he’s pretty funny—and the piece is more amusing if you picture the Academy voter as Alan Arkin’s character in Argo. (For the record, the foolish Academy voter did not care for Arkin’s performance in Argo. He voted for Philip Seymour Hoffman.) It’s not a funny joke, though, and it’s hard not to wonder if there’s a little bit of self-revelation in it.

In any case, if you want some insight into why the Academy makes so many bad choices year after year, read the whole thing at The Hollywood Reporter.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

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