Magazine article Variety

And the Award Goes To: Change

Magazine article Variety

And the Award Goes To: Change

Article excerpt

New blood in Acad's ranks, and a bit more diversity, might rub off on Oscarcast

MEMO TO: HAWK KOCH

FROM: PETER BART

Behind-the-scenes campaigning is under way to select your successor as Academy president, Hawk, so this is the moment to do some last-minute pushing and prodding. For despite the several smart steps you have taken during your brief tenure, the high-minded but elitist Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues to pursue some stubbornly anachronistic policies.

You're an old friend, Hawk, but whenever I've asked your thoughts about doing a column on the Academy, you've given me that "you've got to be kidding" stare that you've always reserved for those semi-crazed film directors you've skillfully shepherded during your long producing career.

But it's time to address some troubling issues still facing the Academy, some involving showmanship, others involving leadership. Let's start with the simplest: The flatulent Oscar show has to be shorter, even if sound and short subjects and a few other branches have to go off camera (I know they'll fight that to the death). Further, it's troubling that you gave another shot to the same Oscar producers (Neil Meron and Craig Zadan) who made a mess last time out You didn't even wait to study the results of a questionnaire sent to the 6,000 Academy members to discover their views (the first such survey in 85 years).

I realize the time pressures involved, but what was once a sedate selection process has become surreal - witness the hiring and firing of Brett Ratner and Bob Iger's veto of Jimmy Fallon. On more profound issues, Hawk, it's clearly time for the Academy to take a more forceful stand on diversity and to look at expanding membership to build a younger and more representative constituency. The various branches could be reminded of prospective minority members who have been overlooked. Finally, the Academy quietly hired a bright diversity expert from the NAACP in Vic Bulluck. Meanwhile, Hawk, heed the advice of your female members - there has not been a woman on the nominating committee of the executive branch since Mary Pickford. Coincidentally, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the talented African-American woman who produced the Governors Award show, has a shot at becoming president of the old boys' club even though insiders are convinced that Rob Friedman will succeed you. …

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