Academy members, Harry Lennix speak out

Will Smith

Will Smith
photo: Neilson Barnard (Getty Images)

When we talk about the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences — ie, the group that votes on and distributes the Oscars and holds the annual Oscars ceremony — we’re talking about a fairly large group of people. The exact membership of AMPAS is not listed anywhere, but it is estimated that the organization has around 10,000 members today, drawn from pretty much every walk of life in film production – actors, writers, directors and producers of course, but also editors, sound engineers, make-up artists , costume designers, public relations people and many other respected cogs in the Hollywood machine.

Well, would it surprise you to know that a non-zero number of those 10,000 people have some very loud, very anonymous recordings they’d like to comment on Will Smith’s new dealwhich culminated in him Catching a 10-year ban from the Oscars from the board of the Academy on Friday afternoon? Then, boy, hello, we have a very depressing one Hollywood reporter article for you.

To be fair, not all of the Academy members who spoke THR for her Academy survey of Smith reactions, did so anonymously; Simpsons Actor Harry Shearer walked on the record, as did a number of lesser-known members from multiple branches. (Shearer read rather nuancedly, at least by the standards of those Academy reactions, noting, “A decade-long ban seems oddly parental, since by then he’ll have outgrown his slappin’ phase.”)

But a majority of respondents (who, it should be remembered, are the people contributing to it THR‘s endlessly depressing “Anonymous Oscars Voting” feature every year) walked off the record and, so unencumbered by the burden of accountability, decided to really let go. The reactions of these unnamed people tended to break down along three baselines:

  1. Will Smith is a violent monster who should have had his Oscar stripped and charged
  2. Comedians shouldn’t be allowed to make fun of people at the Oscars anymore.
  3. Who cares about Will Smith, let’s talk about what a terrible job Oscar producer Will Packer and Academy bigwigs David Rubin and Dawn Hudson did.

Of course there are outliers, but these three threads were dominant. Another recurring theme: a whining about the damage the whole incident has done to the prestige of the Oscars, which, as far as we can tell, is something that only and only those 10,000 people really care about.

Online conversations outside of the academy sphere have certainly tended to do so the Daniel Radcliffe modality, with only the most stubborn internet gadflies — your Ricky Gervaises or your Piers Morgans — even bothering to raise a Harumph yesterday. When the most drastic reaction to a major celebrity’s 10-year Oscar ban is Jamie Kennedy declares ‘It’s time to make a video about it’ You know that the air has finally happily gone out of the tires.

A small exception: the experienced actor Harry Lennix (dollhouse, The Matrix sequels), who wrote a guest column for diversity today anything but demanding that Smith return his Oscar to “redeem the integrity of the Oscars.” “With a deft swipe,” said Lennix (who has received some criticism online, both for writing this article and for his responses to Questions about staff member Joss Whedon in a previous interview) writes: “Will Smith has created an existential crisis for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The incident was such a shock to societal norms that it will gnaw at our national conscience until somehow properly atoned for.” And, really, we could leave it right there (perhaps forever! That would be nice!), but in the Seriously, please appreciate this meditation on free will that fell amid Lennix’s excoriation, apparently provoked by Smith invoking God in his “surreal” acceptance speech for his Best Actor award:

Given the rudeness of pop culture in the social media age, it’s no surprise that many of this year’s Oscar hearings were frequently mundane. But it’s an insult to God’s honor to give him any part of the shabby episode. To argue that a deterministic force was at play is to deny the sad fact that the affair was purely human. A serious moral failure has certainly occurred, but the psychology and philosophy underlying this ongoing spectacle can very well be explained as an act of free will.

All of which means that this is perhaps the most important thing that cares about this moment and that includes Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock or Oscar himself.

https://www.avclub.com/will-smith-oscar-ban-reactions-henry-lennix-academy-1848774162 Academy members, Harry Lennix speak out

Andrew Schnitker

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