Roger Ebert Gets the Last Word

Here is Roger Ebert’s reply to my response to his dissing my Oscar night scribble What Did I Tell You. At issue is my citing anecdotal evidence pouring in to me in January about hetero Academy members unwilling to screen Brokeback Mountain and why I predicted Crash would win Best Picture because of it. (See my full February 1st LA Weekly column How Gay Will Oscar Go.) Sorry to spoil your fun, but Roger and I are not having a cat fight. Instead, we’re two journalists able to have a civil discourse during a disagreement. What if this spreads to Washington DC, the world… Result? Roger and I receive the Nobel Peace Prize. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Dear Nikki Finke,

Thanks for your further discussion of this year’s Oscars.

I think your key sentence is: “There was no Finke-Turan agenda. There was no Finke-Turan conspiracy.” I am sure this is true. I was not in cahoots (I love that word) against BBM and you were not in cahoots against Crash. But your observation that some Academy members did not see the film has been translated (not your fault) into the received wisdom that significant numbers refused to, which does not explain how the film was nominated in the first place, and won three Oscars.

You should read my e-mail! I have never said one word against Brokeback Mountain, a film I admire intensely and put on my ten-best list. On the morning after, I received an astonishing deluge of angry e-mail blaming me for the outcome, as if I had such an influence. One message: “Fuck you and all you did to get Crash the best picture!” What did I do? Write a couple of articles that I doubt were studied carefully by a grateful Academy membership.

A lot of my mail was quite persuasive, reasoned and moving, however, and we are running many of those letters on the web site. They came from moviegoers who having suffered from homophobia all their lives found the loss of BBM to be one more cruelty. With them I can empathize.

We agree that Academy voters, in theory at least, should vote for the picture they think is best and not for whatever anybody thinks is the politically correct choice. We also agree that Academy voters cast their ballots for a large number of reasons, of which that may not always be the leading one.

Yes, you heard, at first or second-hand, of some voters who did not want to see the movie because of its homosexual subject matter. There may also have been those uninterested in Israeli reprisals, the writing of a true crime book, or seeing a movie in black and white. It is true you were one of the first to predict a Crash surprise. But as an industry expert, did it not also seem possible that Crash would pick up votes because it used a very large cast of actors, all of them with associates and friends, and was shot in the Valley with a Los Angeles crew instead of in Canada? And is it not possible that the votes gained that way were more numerous than what we might call the Tony Curtis effect? It’s my impression that the movie industry is one of the least homophobic in this country, but one of the most xenophobic when it comes to runaway production.

None of these factors, of course, involve which film was actually the best film, and in your column you correctly did not get into that, other than to wonder if BBM‘s pacing might have worked against it. What bothered me was the theory, expressed by Ken Turan and perhaps indirectly by you, that a vote for Crash was somehow a vote against homosexuals.

Is it possible that enough voters, whether they were right or wrong, simply thought Crash was the better film?

Roger Ebert

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