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Darkest Secrets the Oscars Don’t Want You to Know

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Throughout the past 91 years, there hasn’t been a bigger name in Hollywood than Oscar. As iconic as Oscar is, though, there’s a fair deal that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has strived to keep behind closed curtains. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re looking at Secrets the Oscars Don’t Want You to Know.

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Secrets the Oscars Don’t Want You to Know

Throughout the past 91 years, there hasn’t been a bigger name in Hollywood than Oscar. Many consider this gold statuette the pinnacle of artistic achievement, particularly for those who work in the film industry. As iconic as Oscar is, though, there’s a fair deal that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has strived to keep behind closed curtains. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll discussing Secrets the Oscars Don’t Want You to Know.

The Academy attracted controversy in 2015 and especially 2016 when no actors of color were nominated, which hadn’t happened since 1998. This led to boycotts from big names like Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Spike Lee, and the trending social media hashtag of #OscarsSoWhite. Given that the organization prides itself on being inclusive, #OscarsSoWhite inspired people to evaluate just how diverse the Academy is. A mere sixteen black performers have won acting Oscars, the first of whom was Hattie McDaniel for “Gone with the Wind” in 1940, although she was required to sit at a segregated table during the ceremony. The lack of representation doesn’t solely apply to black performers, as acting Oscars have only gone to five Latino actors and three actors of Asian descent.

Granted, the Academy and America in general has come a long way since the days of segregation. Some would also argue that the quote unquote diversity problem isn’t restricted to theAcademy either, as movie studios should be taking more chances on performers and filmmakers of color. In 2012, it was reported that 94% of Oscars voters were white and 77% were male. The Academy has attempted to bring more diversity to the Oscars, inviting over 900 new members at the beginning of 2018. With 49% of these new invitees female, and 38% people of color, we seem to be moving towards a more diverse Academy, but the fact that it’s taken nine decades just to get to this point is something the Oscars probably doesn’t want you to dwell on.

Speaking of inclusion, it’s clear that the Academy has a bias against certain genres, at least when it comes to the Best Picture race. Only three animated films have been nominated for Oscar’s top prize while a documentary has never been able to break into the category. Nine foreign-language films have been nominated for Best Picture and none have ever won, which only feeds into the accusations of discrimination by the Academy. While animation, documentaries, and foreign-language films all have their own separate categories, it’s debatable if this makes theOscars more or less inclusive.

We annually entrust the Academy to single out the very best in film, regardless of genre or personal bias. Of course, in a world where “Citizen Kane” didn’t win Best Picture, exactly how reliable are Oscar voters? Some Academy members don’t even watch all of the nominated films, which is understandable since there’s only so much time to thoroughly evaluate a couple dozen movies. What’s concerning is when a member actually votes for a movie without watching it. Two anonymous Academy members confessed to not seeing the Best Picture-winning “12 Years a Slave,” but voted for it nonetheless. [6] It was also reported in 2018 than some Academy voters refused to watch the Best Picture-nominated “Get Out” because it “was not an Oscar film.” This mentality among some Oscar voters explains why genre films are often overlooked.

Speaking of shocking snubs, a year typically doesn’t go by without at least one notable name being omitted from the Oscar’s “In Memoriam” segment. [7] Red carpet icon Joan Rivers was one of the most contested oversights from the 2015 telecast, which the Academy later responded to in a statement. What might surprise some people is that there’s a committee that decides who’s honored during this annual tribute. [8] The group is reportedly tasked with reducing a list of roughly 300 potential names down to about 40, meaning quite a few artists are bound to be absent.

The “In Memoriam” committee isn’t the only fraction of the Academy that’s gotten little attention. The Dolby Theatre may look like it’s packed with stars on camera, but the Academy actually enlists about 300 seat fillers to keep chairs occupied when a celeb goes to the bathroom or bar. These people are usually either Academy members, ABC employees, or just somebody who knows somebody in the business. As cool as this gig sounds, it comes with a series of strict guidelines that are explained during orientation. Seat fillers reportedly aren’t allowed to speak until spoken to and are even given instructions on how to enter and exit aisles.

Academy rules in general can be difficult to follow, especially when it comes to their voting process. Although we usually think of the Academy as one entity, it’s made up of seventeen branches, each of which is tasked with nominating the films in their respective categories. For example, actors vote in acting categories, writers vote on the best screenplays, and so on. Once all of the nominations are announced, the floodgate is open for all Academy members to vote in every category. This voting system can sometimes give a contender an unfair advantage, however.

In 2014, “Alone yet Not Alone” received a Best Original Song nomination, although this honor was revoked two weeks following the announcement. Why? Because it was revealed that one of the songwriters, Bruce Broughton, emailed several branch members about his submission during the voting period. Since Broughton was an executive committee member of the music branch, as well as a former Academy governor, this was widely seen as an abuse of his position.

While Broughton perhaps didn’t go about it the right way, there’s little doubt that campaigning matters when it comes to winning an Oscar. Sometimes giving a great performance isn’t enough, requiring nominees to make friends with as many Oscar voters as possible and to be in the public eye. There are exceptions, as Mo’Nique won Best Supporting Actress for “Precious” despite refusing to campaign. In a majority of cases, though, being personally liked by your peers can make the difference between a win and a loss.

Considering how political the Oscar race is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that campaigning for one can cost the studio a pretty penny, up to $25 million to be precise. According to GoldDerby founder Tom O’Neil, “Hollywood spends on average about $150 million dollars a year to win an Oscar that costs $400 to manufacture.” Producer Stephen Follows estimates that a Best Picture winner will invest $10 million towards campaigning on average. Ironically, that’s more than twice what it cost to produce Best Picture winner “Moonlight.”

Even after all that campaigning and spending, you’re not guaranteed the gold. That doesn’t mean the losers are left empty handed, however. In 2018, the company Distinctive Assets, although not affiliated with the Academy, sent “Everyone Wins” gift bags to acting and directing Oscar nominees with an estimated value of $100,000. Believe or not, the 2016 gift bags were worth even more at an estimated $230,000. Some of the most notable goodies inside included a $55,000 trip to Israel, a $54,000 walking tour of Japan, and a $1,900 Vampire breast lift. After all, if anyone needs a free holiday or breast lift, it’s people who are already insanely wealthy and glamorous. Not a bad consolation prize at all.


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