Much valid criticism has been hurled at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for ignoring African Americans and lacking diversity when it hands out Oscars. But there is a far deeper problem: the Oscars themselves.
The nominees and winners are selected by a narrow-minded and provincial group of 6,000. The group is 87 percent white, 58 percent male. Two-thirds are 60 years old or older.
About 1,100 actors, the most important branch, control the nominations, the New York Times reported. On the actor’s branch, minorities are just 6 percent black, 3.5 percent Hispanic and two percent Asian.
Such a parochial group often doesn’t choose the best movies each year. One glaring example among many films meeting a similar fate: “Citizen Kane,” starring, directed and co-written by Orson Welles.
It is one of a handful of greatest American movies ever made yet it did not win an Oscar when released in 1941.
“Kane” was voted the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound magazine for five straights years. It led the list of the greatest 100 films. It was universally praised for cinematography, music and narrative structure (innovative at the time with its overlapping dialogue).
Pauline Kael, great national film critic of the 1960s, said of “Citizen Kane”: “It is more fun than any other great movie. It is also a rare example of a movie that seems better today than when it first came out.” (Italics mine) Most films, alas, are what she called in a book, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (lovey-dovey and shoot ‘em up),
The biographical “Kane” eviscerates newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst as the collector of trashy, exaggerated and sensational newspapers he was.
A.O. Scott, Times film critic, rightly says: “The Oscars are silly. Why should we suppose that 6,000 members of an insular and entitled professional association would be reliable judges of quality? A show-business oligarchy can’t seriously be in the business of legislating tastes.”
No chance of abolishing the Oscars but we can ignore them. In judging films, I’d rather leave it to outstanding critics like Kael and Scott than the Academy.
NEVADA’S SOLAR BAIT-AND SWITCH
Nevada’s Public Utility Commission, which regulates the state’s energy market, announced in December a rate change drastic enough to kill Nevada’s booming rooftop solar market and drive providers out of the state.
The new tariffs will gradually increase until they triple monthly fees that solar users pay for the electric grid and cut by three-quarters users’ reimbursements for feeding electricity into it.
This was pointed out recently in an op-ed column in the New York Times. It was written by Jacques Leslie, author of “Deep Water: the Epic Struggle over Dams, Displaced People and the Environment.”
“The 17,000 Nevada residents were lured into solar purchases by state-mandated one-time rebates of up to $23,000 but discovered they were victims of a bait-and-switch,” Leslie wrote.
“They made the deals assuming that, allowing for inflation, their rates would stay constant over their 20- to 30-year contracts. Instead, they face the prospect of paying much more for electricity than if they had never made the change even though they’re generating almost all their electricity themselves.”
This is obviously unfair. Here’s the reason: two of Governor Sandoval’s closest advisers, Pete Ernaut and Greg Ferraro, are NV Energy lobbyists.
It’s government by cronies.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)