The most fascinating part of Tuesday’s Oscar nominations announcement will be watching to see whether someone, anyone, pops out of the bunker to say something, anything, about the issues afflicting the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of late.
In the best of circumstances, Hollywood’s film Academy is about as transparent as dirty dishwater. Policy blocks the group’s governors from discussing business conducted in their closed-door meetings. Membership assemblies, dabbled with under former president Hawk Koch in 2013, never became a regular thing. Increasingly, under President John Bailey and Chief Executive Dawn Hudson, controversy has met with official silence.
When SAG-AFTRA last week issued an extraordinary public rebuke of the Academy for supposedly pressuring Oscar presenters to stay off the stage at competing awards shows, the complaint passed without a public response.
In early December, Kevin Hart announced his own appointment as the Academy Awards host via Instagram, then two days later resigned, all without the bother of an Academy press release. So far, no replacement has been named. Whether the Oscars, set for broadcast by ABC on Feb. 24, will have one host, a half-dozen, or none at all has been the subject of widespread speculation. But Academy officials have stayed mum, other than an anonymous insider grunt or two indicating that Hart would have been welcomed back had he accepted a third-party, on-air invitation by Ellen DeGeneres to return.
Oscar producers Donna Gigliotti and Glenn Weiss have been virtually invisible. Even those presenting the Tuesday morning nominations – Tracee Ellis Ross and Kumail Nanjiani – weren’t publicly named until late last week.
In fact, the Academy has dribbled out only about 10 routine press releases in the last three months, half the number circulated in the same period last year, according to a listing on its Web site. Oscar winner Kevin Spacey has been charged with felony sexual assault, and CBS chief executive Les Moonves – once overseer of CBS Films – has lost his job over abuse claims. But the Academy, which declared a robust ethical policy and evicted Harvey Weinstein and others not so long ago, has stayed quiet.
Last Tuesday, members got an email from Hudson, thanking them for casting their Oscar nominating votes in record numbers. So the show, apparently, will go on.
But the film Academy, if it doesn’t re-engage its public, soon may not have one.