Mark Harris on the Oscars and Diversity


I collated some tweets by @MarkHarrisNYC on the Oscars situation; I didn’t exert too much editorial control, so most relevant tweets were preserved.

It’s fine not to be interested in the Oscars. PREENING about not being interested, however….

10:19 PM - 13 Jan 2016

If your interest stops because the Oscars aren’t an objective measure of quality, fine. But that’s where my interest starts.

10:27 PM - 13 Jan 2016

Bad things the Oscars don’t actually do: Undercut critics. Suck up all the air in the room. Prevent good movies from being discussed.

10:28 PM - 13 Jan 2016

Big disappointments for me in the nominations: Zero independent thinking from the actors branch; all-white lineup; Carol/Haynes yawned at.

01:47 PM - 14 Jan 2016

No black acting nominees two years in a row is the first time that’s happened since 1997-98–so more a dip than a longstanding pattern.

01:52 PM - 14 Jan 2016

The older, white, male votership doesn’t hate women, gays, black people. They’re just not as interested in their/our stories.>>

02:20 PM - 14 Jan 2016

That’s changing, as the membership changes. A good year can disguise the fact that they have a way to go. A year like this lays it bare.>>

02:22 PM - 14 Jan 2016

Last thing on this point: This is an Oscar problem ONLY as a reflection of an industry problem. The nominations change when the films do,>>

02:25 PM - 14 Jan 2016

but that said, the fact that the only nominations for Straight Outta Compton and Creed went to white people shoiuld not go unnoticed.

02:27 PM - 14 Jan 2016

Note: “The Academy” doesn’t watch COMPTON & say, “Ehh, give the white people screenplay.” WRITERS honor the movie; other branches ignore it.

02:43 PM - 14 Jan 2016

While we seethe, let’s note that women won (or co-won) 4 of the 10 writing slots–for Room, Carol, Inside Out, & Compton. Not bad.

02:49 PM - 14 Jan 2016

BTW: Writers’ names are not on the nom ballot–only the movie title. So it’s a blind vote for excellence, not for old faves or pets.

02:53 PM - 14 Jan 2016

In terms of race: For men, be mad for Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, Jason Mitchell, Idris Elba. For women: Be angry I can’t make a list.

02:57 PM - 14 Jan 2016

I’m seeing “institutional racism/homophobia” a lot. But bad demographics is more the issue. AMPAS isn’t like a corp. w/ internal culture.

03:17 PM - 14 Jan 2016

Just in case “let’s fix the Oscars” talk starts to focus on adding a 6th nominee in each category: That is a bad, mis-aimed, insulting idea.

07:04 PM - 14 Jan 2016

Last Oscar thing (for now): Best early call I heard was from @adambvary, who said Stallone was a contender way before Creed hit the radar.

09:20 PM - 14 Jan 2016

SAG and WGA each matched about 60% of the Oscar nominees. PGA and DGA missed Room. So “precursors” only tell you the easy stuff.

05:35 AM - 15 Jan 2016

Yesterday I went after the Academy for its all-white slate. Today I want to make the case, briefly, that the last 2 years are an anomaly.

03:37 PM - 15 Jan 2016

In the 10 years pre-cold streak, AMPAS nominated 24 black actors and actresses. It only blanked 1 year. In ‘05 & ‘07, FIVE were nominated.

03:39 PM - 15 Jan 2016

That period followed the historic year in which Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won the two top prizes and seemed to confirm a change.

03:41 PM - 15 Jan 2016

The decade in which 24 black actors were nominated also included seven wins, so there was clearly nothing grudging about those inclusions.

03:44 PM - 15 Jan 2016

Toward the end of that decade, the Academy began its push to diversify its membership. So the % of minority voters is now higher.

03:45 PM - 15 Jan 2016

These last 2 years can’t be rationalized with “Every omission is a special case.” There’s a AMPAS problem and an industry problem. But…

03:47 PM - 15 Jan 2016

…”When will AMPAS ever catch up to the world?” is also inaccurate. In many years, it’s been AHEAD of H’wood. An alternative I’d suggest is

03:49 PM - 15 Jan 2016

…that Creed and Compton were recognized as campaignable too late by their studios. That hurt. Commitment to a movie has to come early.

03:50 PM - 15 Jan 2016

Compton was campaigned early, but Jason Mitchell needed more of a massive, separate push than he got. Creed needed MUCH more.

03:52 PM - 15 Jan 2016

The problem w/ “The Academy’s racist” is that it treats it as an institution that can be lobbied in some way. It isn’t. It’s just voters…

03:56 PM - 15 Jan 2016

…and campaigns, and a shifting crop of movies from an industry that is just starting to address its own massive and systemic racism.

03:57 PM - 15 Jan 2016

So while I think #OscarsSoWhite shines a useful light on a larger issue, I’ll just note that the Oscars are not what primarily need fixing.

03:59 PM - 15 Jan 2016

I question whether AMPAS can do anything but what it’s doing: A sustained and wholly transparent years-long push to diversify its ranks.

04:03 PM - 15 Jan 2016

But of course, I’d be eager to hear any better suggestions.

04:04 PM - 15 Jan 2016

2 good links: Interesting set of pieces in the NYTimes on Oscars & race (my view is basically @craftingmystyle’s)…

12:59 AM - 16 Jan 2016

…and do you want to hear @aoscott @ManohlaDargis and @Wesley_Morris talk about this? Yes you do.

01:00 AM - 16 Jan 2016

Just rewatched Sacheen Littlefeather’s 1973 speech declining Marlon Brando’s Oscar because of H’wood treatment of Native Americans. 1/2

02:20 AM - 16 Jan 2016

It’s a snapshot of how hard it is to budge the industry: People boo, more clap, they renominate Brando next year, & they ignore the issue.

02:22 AM - 16 Jan 2016

(sorry, 3/3) It’s also a good reminder that AMPAS isn’t a monolith: Even 43 years ago, many members applauded that act of protest.

02:24 AM - 16 Jan 2016

Theory: The single hardest thing to advocate for in the social-media era is gradualism. About anything.

03:08 AM - 16 Jan 2016

For media, 1 step forward from Oscars: Advocating for worthy work by POC early, loudly, and often. That should start at Sundance next week.

04:11 PM - 16 Jan 2016

Also hoping press pays a lot of attention to Sundance’s Next sidebar, from which James White, Nasty Baby, and Tangerine emerged last year.

04:47 PM - 16 Jan 2016

One thing the Oscars got right: Citing Brazil’s lovely, sad, handcrafted Boy and the World (US gross: $17.000) over bigger animated films.

06:34 PM - 16 Jan 2016

RT @kristapley: Reminder of Academy invitees this year:

10:06 PM - 16 Jan 2016

Anyone who’s generalized about “the Academy” this week should take a close look at the just-tweeted list (or search others from recent yrs).

10:07 PM - 16 Jan 2016

Today’s Oscar riff: There’s talk, both in media and in AMPAS, of moving retired/inactive members to nonvoting status. I’m against it. >>

05:22 PM - 17 Jan 2016

Here’s why. 1) It’s pretty inescapably ageism, premised on the presumption that as you get older, your taste and discernment vanish.

05:23 PM - 17 Jan 2016

2) The anti-old-white-guy putsch people want this to be may not work out. Who has the most trouble staying employed in the biz? Women & POC.

05:24 PM - 17 Jan 2016

3) Diversifying AMPAS’s ranks is designed to better reflect the world and people’s tastes. That’s good. Artificial exclusion: Not so good.

05:26 PM - 17 Jan 2016

However, maybe a distinction needs to be drawn btwn AMPAS retirees who are/were creative artists and those who are not. An argument that >>

05:28 PM - 17 Jan 2016

a studio exec who leaves movies to go into, say, real estate, is no longer in the biz. But a writer/actor/director/composer is always one.

05:29 PM - 17 Jan 2016

P.S. to this: Go check out @franklinleonard’s feed for lots of interesting, eminently sane pro-diversification arguments.

05:30 PM - 17 Jan 2016

RT @skulljujos: @MarkHarrisNYC so that would mean that someone like Jack Nicholson or Gene Hackman couldn’t vote anymore

05:46 PM - 17 Jan 2016

Biggest and most inexplicably enduring awards myth: A and B will cancel each other out, allowing C to win.

10:41 PM - 17 Jan 2016

If I could wave a wand and add/take away one Oscar category, I’d drop Best Original Song and add Best First Film.

12:30 AM - 19 Jan 2016

Emily Blunt, Mila Kunis, and Felicity Jones are the same age Elizabeth Taylor was when she did this:

02:05 AM - 19 Jan 2016

This is NOT about insulting these women (that’s why I chose talented actresses), but about opportunity, stardom, age, & risk, then & now.

02:38 AM - 19 Jan 2016

Those who don’t know how AMPAS works may shrug this off. But this is rare, & potentially a big deal. h/t @kristapley

03:29 AM - 19 Jan 2016

AMPAS troubles start at the top: I think Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the only black person on the 51-seat Board of Govs.

07:09 PM - 19 Jan 2016

I’m going to tweet out some interesting stats I just researched about diversity and the actors’ branch of @theAcademy. Mute if you’re bored.

08:05 PM - 19 Jan 2016

The diversity push in AMPAS started 4 years ago, when each branch began to invite many more members. That included the Actors Branch.

08:06 PM - 19 Jan 2016

From 2008-11, the actors invited 74 members to join; from 2012-15 they invited 92. 2008-11: 80% of the invitees were white. 2012-15: 67%.

08:09 PM - 19 Jan 2016

However, the percentage of black actors invited in has barely moved. They represented 12% of the 2008-11 total and 14% of the 2012-15 total.

08:11 PM - 19 Jan 2016

And in terms of gender representation, the Actors branch has actually moved backward. 57% of 2008-11 invitees were male: 61% since then.

08:12 PM - 19 Jan 2016

If AMPAS wonders why diversity efforts haven’t helped, it may be bc they haven’t been made. 21 black actors in eight years isn’t enough.

08:14 PM - 19 Jan 2016

Black actors invited to join in the last 8 yrs total just 2% of the branch’s membership. If that’s progress, it’s progress by millimeters.

08:19 PM - 19 Jan 2016

So any notion that a massive diversity push is substantially changing AMPAS is false. Isaacs is right; progress is too slow.

08:22 PM - 19 Jan 2016

Since 2008, 7 Asian actors, 12 Latino actors, & 5 other non-black minority actors have also been invited to join.

08:27 PM - 19 Jan 2016

Some people are noting that African-Americans are about 12% of the US population as a way of saying AMPAS’s recent numbers are about right.>

08:41 PM - 19 Jan 2016

But you don’t fix decades of imbalance by saying, “Well, NOW we’re getting it right.” You work to get the OVERALL membership proportional.>

08:43 PM - 19 Jan 2016

Which means it’s quite proper for AMPAS to “over”invite actors of color, just as they “over”invited white actors, until they get it right.

08:45 PM - 19 Jan 2016

Incidentally, invitation lists are compiled by the various AMPAS branches, each of which has its own membership committee.

08:48 PM - 19 Jan 2016

AMPAS’s overall invitation lists are easily searchable back to at least 2004. I hope someone takes a stab at a larger statistical portrait.

08:51 PM - 19 Jan 2016

A few more thoughts on AMPAS and diversity that came up as I looked over the last 12 years of invitees…

12:03 AM - 20 Jan 2016

1) About 30% of members joined in 2004 or later. That is a substantial, largely young-middle-aged group many of whom care about this issue.

12:04 AM - 20 Jan 2016

2) There are a few branches–sound, cinematography–in which AMPAS non-diversity is so clearly reflective of industry non-diversity that…

12:06 AM - 20 Jan 2016

…that fight may need to move elsewhere (and maybe those branches need fewer new members for a while).

12:07 AM - 20 Jan 2016

3) Many individual branches will make a big diversity push once, maybe either to atone or so they can let it go next year. For instance…

12:10 AM - 20 Jan 2016

…a majority of Writing invitees last year were POC. Great! But in 2014, 18 of 19 were white. Nobody gets to take a year off from this.

12:12 AM - 20 Jan 2016

4) Looking at the lists, it’s easy to imagine a branch saying, yeah, no black people, but look at how many women! Or, we found 3 Asians!

12:12 AM - 20 Jan 2016

That happens when “diversity” us treated as a box you just gotta check off somehow. Doesn’t matter which group gets shafted if ONE doesn’t.

12:14 AM - 20 Jan 2016

So maybe AMPAS should consider a cross-branch taskforce tilted toward newer members who get why it matters. I believe there are many.

12:16 AM - 20 Jan 2016

Okay, that’s it for now. Thanks for bearing with me as I try to puzzle my way through an issue that fascinates me.

12:17 AM - 20 Jan 2016

“I voted for black people, therefore race isn’t a factor,” is not a good Oscar argument, privately or publicly.

03:33 PM - 20 Jan 2016

I know Chris Rock will make a meal of the Oscars controversy, but it’d be great and meaningful to have the show address it forthrightly too.

04:51 PM - 20 Jan 2016

AMPAS Directors branch has added 63 members since diversity push began 4 years ago. 13% women, 35% nonwhite, 60% non-American.

06:27 PM - 20 Jan 2016

That is what a successful diversity effort can look like. (Yes, the gender number is low, but it’s double the industry average.)

06:28 PM - 20 Jan 2016

RT @kristapley: “Racism” and “racial bias” are two different things. This is about world view and a representative membership.

06:47 PM - 20 Jan 2016

RT @PhyllisNagy: @kristapley amen. And the most complex discussion includes all POC, women and LGBT. Examination of diversity anything but simple.

06:47 PM - 20 Jan 2016

What diversity DOESN’T look like: AMPAS’s VFX branch has added 76 members in 4 years. By my count, 73 are men.

06:52 PM - 20 Jan 2016

Did you know that “Executives” are also a branch of the Academy? 59 have joined since 2012. 48 are men. 2 are black.

07:23 PM - 20 Jan 2016

Reminder: AMPAS does not need to be an exact mirror of the movie biz, including its inequities. Its goal is not to be a scientific sample.

07:29 PM - 20 Jan 2016

“Minorities–they’re great, just not top 5 material!” Adding acting nominees is NOT a solution to AMPAS’s problems.

02:44 AM - 21 Jan 2016

Not weighing in on an Oscars boycott except to note that historically, the strongest political statements have been made by those who go.

04:33 PM - 21 Jan 2016

Just in terms of optics, nobody is going to say the next morning, “Wow, did you see that moment when Will Smith wasn’t there?”

04:41 PM - 21 Jan 2016

Reminder to AMPAS: The point is to SOLVE this problem, not to make a hasty cosmetic decision that will get this year’s show out of jeopardy.

07:17 PM - 21 Jan 2016

>> I think overwhelmingly white/male (but not esp. old) branches like Sound, Executive, and VFX are more to blame. We’ll never know. >>

03:22 AM - 22 Jan 2016

with branches that do not comply being forbidden to add new members until they do. That’s it. Sorry for the tweetstorm!

03:25 AM - 22 Jan 2016

What you can extrapolate about AMPAS attitudes from Charlotte Rampling’s comments: Nothing. Reporting I haven’t seen: Is she IN the Academy?

03:24 PM - 22 Jan 2016

RT @GlennWhipp: Charlotte Rampling is an academy member, @MarkHarrisNYC. And I can tell you many other members publicly share her sentiments. Stay tuned.

03:34 PM - 22 Jan 2016

Reese Witherspoon on Academy diversity. (Don’t worry–this WON’T make you want to punch something.)

03:55 PM - 22 Jan 2016

All week I’ve said ageism is no solution to AMPAS’s problems. It’d be nice if at least 1 old voter said something non-stupid to back me up.

04:04 PM - 22 Jan 2016

I can say, as an Oscar historian, how rare this is. AMPAS is now at a truly pivotal moment. It addresses this credibly, or it begins to die.

04:17 PM - 22 Jan 2016

Re AMPAS and diversity: The reason that adding nominee slots is a bad idea is that it is fundamentally non-responsive. >>

06:01 PM - 22 Jan 2016

If you say, “This store catalog features only white people,” the answer isn’t, “OK, we’ll add pages and then black people might get in.” >>

06:02 PM - 22 Jan 2016

Don’t try to engineer a result; fix the process & the personnel. Arguing that 5 slots aren’t enough to accommodate POC is patronizing.

06:05 PM - 22 Jan 2016

Here are the pro-diversity changes announced by @TheAcademy today. I think these are mostly excellent and to the point. Here’s why:

09:53 PM - 22 Jan 2016

1) Doubling the number of women and minority members is a huge and concrete numerical goal, and four years is an aggressive timetable.

09:54 PM - 22 Jan 2016

2) Moving inactive members to nonvoting status (w/ many loopholes) will affect non-creatives more than others. A fair, non-ageist solution.

09:56 PM - 22 Jan 2016

3) Getting new members committed to these issues onto the Board is big. You have to be in the room where the decisions get made.

09:57 PM - 22 Jan 2016

I’ve heard from some people that the Academy is overreacting. All the non-nominated movies this year were close calls (probably true)…>>

09:58 PM - 22 Jan 2016

the Actors Branch isn’t the big problem (also true), we should focus on the industry (also true). But the thing is, that doesn’t matter. >>

09:59 PM - 22 Jan 2016

Perfect circumstances are not required for a critically important issue to come to a head. It happens because it has to. This had to happen.

10:00 PM - 22 Jan 2016

The Academy has many members who don’t get it–as we heard this week! Thankfully, they’ve now proved that they have many who DO get it.

10:02 PM - 22 Jan 2016

Now it’s our job in the press to A) hold AMPAS to it and B) hold ourselves to the need to cover this year-round throughout the industry.

10:03 PM - 22 Jan 2016

Here’s @TheAcademy release. And thanks to all of you who listened to me go on about this issue all week.

10:05 PM - 22 Jan 2016

P.S. To anyone tweeting at me either “PC runs amok!” or “Not good enough!”: Go scream at each other, please. Non-screaming won today.

10:13 PM - 22 Jan 2016

RT @FerdyOnFilms: @MarkHarrisNYC AMPAS members today: ~1150 women, ~300 nonwhite. Double would be some combo equaling 2,900.

10:19 PM - 22 Jan 2016

RT @Breznican: Maybe @TheAcademy could also allow those retired members to keep their voting status if they volunteered in a diversity mentorship program?

10:41 PM - 22 Jan 2016

One thing @TheAcademy should clarify: New members must be active in three consec 10-yr periods AFTER joining to have lifetime status. But >>

10:54 PM - 22 Jan 2016

>> does applying it retroactively mean any voter who was active 30 yrs is safe, or just those who were active for 30 yrs after they joined?

10:55 PM - 22 Jan 2016

First Rampling, now Julie Delpy? Next we’ll get a press release from Emmanuelle Riva saying Eazy-E had it coming.

11:14 PM - 22 Jan 2016

RT @GlennWhipp: From an academy official: ‘By doubling, our hope is that women will comprise 48% and diverse groups more than 14% of our total membership.’

11:24 PM - 22 Jan 2016

One side effect of new AMPAS rules: The foreign-film selection process, which relied heavily on inactives/retirees, may have to change.

11:39 PM - 22 Jan 2016

Which is actually great, because their taste was so widely acknowledged as dicey that the Academy itself created ways to compensate for it.

11:40 PM - 22 Jan 2016

Some AMPAS history: In the 1940s the Academy reduced its membership hugely by kicking out 1000s of extras–to make better choices. >>>

12:04 AM - 23 Jan 2016

In the ’70s lots of rank-and-file studio employees were purged so that bloc voting for things like Towering Inferno as Best Pic would stop.>

12:05 AM - 23 Jan 2016

Both moves created hurt feelings. And both were the right things to do to keep AMPAS vital as an institution. As is what AMPAS did today.

12:07 AM - 23 Jan 2016

Good AMPAS story by @ThatRebecca with some illuminating numbers. (Note the 2nd, 3rd & 4th biggest Oscar branches!)

02:31 AM - 23 Jan 2016

An AMPAS member just emailed me, “There will be an asterisk on all winners from now on.” No answer to that idiocy except to make it public.

03:58 AM - 23 Jan 2016

If you want to know why these changes were essential, it’s bc that kind of delusional farewell-to-our-standards thinking is all too common.

03:59 AM - 23 Jan 2016

The impulse of some people to keep talking astounds me.

04:31 AM - 23 Jan 2016

One thing I hope we all learned from all the actors speaking extemporaneously about the Oscars this week: Writers are important.

05:56 PM - 23 Jan 2016

Pretty much ready to unfollow, mute or block anyone who attempts to equate diversity with lowering of standards. Go away & learn something.

07:14 PM - 23 Jan 2016

These quotes from AMPAS voters who hate the new rules mostly reaffirm my belief that the new rules are essential.

08:07 PM - 23 Jan 2016

Seizing a moment? Universal mailed this wraparound trade ad for Straight Outta Compton to SAG voters this week.

11:16 PM - 23 Jan 2016

Nothing out of Sundance will make me happier than reading rave tweets for Kenneth Lonergan’s new movie. Cannot wait to see it.

12:33 AM - 24 Jan 2016

Odd to see people complain that AMPAS rule changes are an attempt to skew the vote going forward. The vote has been skewed for decades.

01:01 AM - 24 Jan 2016

Also odd to see people complain that entry standards will now be lower, after decades of “I got in bc I know someone who looks like me.”

01:03 AM - 24 Jan 2016

ALSO odd to hear “This should only be about excellence,” as if “excellence” has nothing to do with who gets to define excellence.

01:04 AM - 24 Jan 2016

I do have sympathy for AMPAS members upset that they can no longer vote. But a decision that hurts some feelings can still be the right one.

01:08 AM - 24 Jan 2016

Not sure if I’m doing it yet, but this has all made me think that next Oscar season will be a news-rich one for journalists to cover.

03:11 AM - 24 Jan 2016

Maybe press could help the cause of a diverse Oscar field by not starting to assign next year’s slots to white people in f—ing JANUARY?

03:50 AM - 24 Jan 2016


.@pessimism Thanks for doing this! It’s interesting for me to read how my own thinking evolved over 10 days as I researched & learned more.

04:59 PM - 24 Jan 2016

.@pessimism 2 things convinced me big/fast changes were vital: Looking at hard numbers, and hearing MANY white AMPAS members shrug it off.

05:11 PM - 24 Jan 2016

I won’t delete any of it, though. I hope folks agree that there are worse things than changing one’s mind in public! Thanks again @pessimism

05:20 PM - 24 Jan 2016

Yet another aggrieved white Academy member complains. Bonus: Some needless and ugly personal attacks!

08:03 PM - 24 Jan 2016

I encourage all angry, resentful white AMPAS members to keep speaking to the press, because it is very, uh, clarifying!

08:32 PM - 24 Jan 2016

Good (& awful) stuff in this @joshrottenberg @GlennWhipp Actors Branch piece–also revelatory about who’s in AMPAS.

08:40 PM - 24 Jan 2016

John Krasinski on Oscar diversity. See? It’s not so hard to say something reasonable.

12:48 AM - 25 Jan 2016