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Monday, February 20, 2012

Oscar voters overwhelmingly white, male

An L.A. Times study of Oscar voters finds that their demographics are much less diverse than the moviegoing public. Academy leaders say they want to diversify.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, seen here at its first organizational meeting in 1927, remains largely white and male. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images)


When the names of winners are revealed on Oscar night, months of suspense give way to tears, smiles and speeches. Yet when the curtain falls, one question remains: Who cast the votes?

About 37 million people tuned in to the Academy Awards last year, and a great deal rides on the show's outcome. Winning a golden statuette can vault an actor to stardom, add millions to a movie's box office and boost a studio's prestige. Yet the roster of all 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a closely guarded secret.

Source: Times Reporting.
Data analysis by Doug Smith.
Robert Burns, Khang Nguyen Los Angeles Times

Even inside the movie industry, intense speculation surrounds the academy's composition and how that influences who gets nominated for and wins Oscars. The organization does not publish a membership list.

"I have to tell you," said academy member Viola Davis, nominated for lead actress this year for "The Help." "I don't even know who is a member of the academy."

A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.

Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.

From the LA Times (click here for this and other news) or click "read more" below to continue.

Man In Orbit

Is Obama to Blame for $4 Gasoline?

Democrats, Republicans spin oil data in dispute over high gas prices. 

From the non-patrician Annnenberg Public Policy Center

Conflicting, false and misleading statements on oil production and gasoline prices have become the currency of politicians lately, as oil tops $100 per barrel and gasoline hovers near $4 per gallon. Among some of the claims that got our attention:
  • Top Republicans blame President Obama’s moratorium on deepwater drilling for rising gasoline prices. The moratorium delayed drilling of some new wells, but did not affect the output of wells already in production. A projected drop in total domestic oil production this year should amount to six-tenths of 1 percent of all U.S. consumption of liquid fuels. A Wall Street oil analyst told us the moratorium has had “zero” effect on prices.
  • Obama said domestic oil production last year was its highest since 2003. That’s true — but U.S. oil production is projected to drop this year.
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy said “under this administration our output has gone down 13 percent.” McCarthy is wrong — U.S. oil production was up in 2009 and 2010, and is projected to decline only 2 percent this year.
  • Sarah Palin said Obama is “allowing America to remain increasingly dependent on imports” from unstable countries. But there has been a decline — not an increase — in total oil imports from Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as countries identified by the State Department as “dangerous or unstable,” since Obama took office.


It has become a familiar Republican refrain to blame rising gas prices on President Barack Obama and his policies — particularly his decision after the Gulf oil spill on April 20, 2010, to impose a moratorium on deepwater drilling. The administration immediately halted approval of new drilling permits and ordered a safety review that resulted in a May 27 announcement of a six-month drilling moratorium. The moratorium was lifted earlier than expected in October, but the administration has been slow to issue new deepwater permits — leading Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and other GOP critics to call it a “perma-torium.” The first permit was only issued Feb. 28.

The $4-Per-Gallon President?
On her Facebook page, Sarah Palin wrote a post March 15 headlined the “$4-Per-Gallon President.” In it, she blamed the president’s “anti-drilling” policies — his moratorium, proposed 2012 budget and regulatory policies — for driving down domestic oil production and causing “pain at the pump.” She said gas prices have gone up “67 percent since he took office,” claiming it is “no accident.”
Palin, March 15: The evidence of the President’s anti-drilling mentality and his culpability in the high gas prices hurting Americans is there for all to see.
On “Fox News Sunday” March 13, Sen. Mitch McConnell was asked if Obama is to blame for rising gas prices, and the Senate GOP leader responded that “he certainly participated” in raising gas prices. “This administration in the last two years has been shutting down wells,” he said.

A blog item posted March 16 on the website of House Speaker John Boehner blamed the president for higher gas prices. The post, which carried the headline “Higher Gas Prices & Thousands of Jobs Lost: The Impact of Obama’s De Facto Gulf Moratorium,” cited the congressional testimony of a Republican official, Louisiana’s secretary of natural resources Scott Angelle, who claimed that the administration’s moratorium and delays in issuing new permits raised gas prices 37 cents per gallon from May 26, 2010, (the day before the moratorium) until the end of 2010. (It is worth noting, however, that the price of gasoline had gone up $1 per gallon before the Gulf oil spill. A gallon of gasoline in the U.S. rose from $1.83 on Jan. 19, 2009, a day before Obama took office, to $2.83 on April 19, 2010, the day before the oil spill, EIA historical data shows.)

So, why have gasoline prices gone up and what impact have Obama’s policies had on oil production and gasoline prices?

We talked to Fadel Gheit, a former Mobil Oil executive who is now a senior energy analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. Asked about the impact of the deepwater moratorium, Gheit said the moratorium had a “negative impact on production, but not as much as the politicians would like us to believe.” The impact of the moratorium on gas prices? “Nothing. Zero,” he said.

Click on "read more" below to continue reading.

The 10 oldest actors to win Oscars – so far


LOS ANGELES – Two legendary actors – Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow – are competing for the best supporting actor trophy this Oscar season.

Despite their pedigree – Plummer has been acting in films for more than 50 years and is best known as Captain von Trapp in 1965’s “The Sound of Music,” and Von Sydow is closely associated with the seminal Swedish director Ingmar Bergman – neither has won an Academy Award.

But that’s likely to change. Plummer has already won numerous awards for his turn as a widower who comes out of the closet in “Beginners,” while Von Sydow has earned kudos as an elderly man who doesn’t speak in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” If either wins at this Sunday’s Academy Awards , he will become the oldest performer to garner an acting Oscar. Both are 82 years old, with Von Sydow, who turns 83 in April, eight months older than Plummer.

Here’s a look at the 10 oldest Oscar winners in the competitive acting categories so far:

Jessica Tandy
The British-born actress was 80 years and 252 days old when she won the lead actress Oscar for 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy.” Not long after that, Tandy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Tandy continued to work as she battled the disease, earning a supporting actress nomination for 1991’s “Fried Green Tomatoes.” She died in 1994

George Burns
The beloved comedian, who was partnered with his wife, Gracie Allen, in films, vaudeville and TV, won the supporting actor Oscar as a member of an old comedy team reuniting for a TV special in 1975’s “The Sunshine Boys.” He was 80 years and 69 days when he picked up the Academy Award. Burns’ film career took off, scoring a hit in 1977’s “Oh, God!” and 1979’s “Going in Style.” He continued to work into his 90s. He died in 1996.

Melvyn Douglas
Best known for his romantic comedy roles in the 1930s in such classics as 1939’s “Ninotchka,” Douglas earned his first supporting actor award as the stern father in 1963’s “Hud”; he won his second as a fragile businessman in 1979’s “Being There” at the age of 79 years and nine days. He made four more features before his death in 1981.

John Gielgud
Gielgud was already one of the most accomplished British stage, theater and TV actors when he won a supporting actor Oscar at the age of 77 and 349 days as the loving but acerbic butler in 1981’s “Arthur.” He had previously been nominated in this category for 1964’s “Becket.” He continued working until his death in 2000.

Don Ameche
The mustachioed Ameche had been a big star at 20th Century Fox in the 1930s and ’40s, best known for such musicals as 1941’s “Moon Over Miami” and such dramatic fare as 1939’s “The Story of Alexander Graham Bell.” For his work in 1985’s “Cocoon,” he won the supporting actor Oscar at the age of 77 years and 297 days old. He played a senior citizen who encounters a fountain of youth – one scene featured the actor break dancing. The Oscar rejuvenated his career. One of his best post-Oscar roles was in David Mamet’s 1988 “Things Change.” He continued to work until his death in 1993.

Peggy Ashcroft
Ashcroft, a star of the British stage, had appeared in very few films when she won a supporting actress Oscar at the age of 77 years and 93 days for David Lean’s final film, 1984’s “Passage to India,” She played a British woman traveling to India with her son’s fiancee. She continued to work until 1989. She died in 1991.

Henry Fonda
The veteran superstar had largely been ignored by the academy, earning only a lead actor nomination for 1940’s “The Grapes of Wrath” and a nod as producer of the 1957 best picture nominee “12 Angry Men.” He finally won a lead actor Oscar at the age of 76 and 317 days for his role as the husband of Katharine Hepburn’s character in 1981’s “On Golden Pond.” Fonda, though, was too frail to attend the 1982 ceremony, but his daughter Jane, who was nominated for supporting actress for the film, did. “Oh, Dad, I’m so happy and proud for you,” she said. Henry Fonda died in August of that year.

Katharine Hepburn
Fonda’s “Golden Pond” costar also won the lead actress Oscar for the drama. It was her fourth win – she was 74 years and 275 days old. And just as with the other three times she had won, Hepburn was nowhere to be found at the ceremony to pick up her Oscar. Hepburn continued to work in films, TV and even theater until 1994. She died in 2003.

Jack Palance
The character actor, who had earned supporting actor nominations for 1952’s “Sudden Fear” and 1953’s “Shane,” finally won a supporting actor Oscar at the age of 73 years and 41 days for his comedic turn as an old ranch hand in the 1991 hit “City Slickers.” He even performed one-armed push-ups onstage when he went up to pick up his award. Palance died in 2006.

Alan Arkin
A nominee for lead actor for 1966’s “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” and 1968’s “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” Arkin was 72 years and 336 days old when he won the supporting actor Academy Award for his performance as a foul-mouthed grandfather in 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine.” Arkin is still a working actor; his latest film, “Thin Ice,” opened Friday.

Strike! "Safehouse" wins tight Box Office race. The Academy is a White Male Club. FCC request for broadcast spectum meeting deaf ears.

Biggest Loser IATSE

From the LA Times Company Town Blog, click here for the latest entertainment news.

STRIKE? Crew members from the popular cable TV show "1,000 Ways to Die" are locked in a labor dispute with the series' producer.

About 30 crew members from the show who had been seeking to unionize were sent home last week after attempting to join Hollywood unions Teamsters Local 399 and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said Jonathan Hanrahan, transportation captain for the Spike TV show.

He said the show's producer, Original Productions, which makes a number of reality TV programs, including "Ice Road Truckers," had already hired replacement workers.

"It's gut wrenching,'' said Hanrahan. "We love the show, and we hope that a TV deal is struck [so that] we can have basic health benefits."

IATSE and the Teamsters are expected to stage a protest picket outside the show's production offices this week. The unions staged a successful strike against the producers of the reality series "The Biggest Loser" in November, 2010.

Representatives of Burbank-based Original Productions, which produces the show that re-creates unusual ways in which people have died, were not immediately available for comment.
Now in its fourth season, "1000 Ways to Die" films on stages in Burbank and Sun Valley.

"Safe House" finished first at the box office

Weekend Box Office: "Safehouse suprises, Ghost Rider disappoints. "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" was supposed to cruise to the top of the box office this weekend, but the Nicolas Cage action film flamed out at the multiplex.

Instead, it was Denzel Washington's "Safe House" that took No. 1, rising to the prime spot after debuting in the runner-up position the previous weekend. The action thriller grossed an impressive $28.4 million over the four-day Presidents Day holiday, bringing its 11-day total to $82.6 million, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures.

A look at the weekend box office from USA Today.

Safe House was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
Moviegoers also didn't forget about "The Vow," the romantic tear-jerker that won the box-office battle the previous weekend. The film about a woman who suffers amnesia and cannot remember her husband  collected an additional $26.6 million. After just over two weeks in theaters, the modestly budgeted picture starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams has already collected a strong $88.5 million.

The 3-D "Ghost Rider" sequel, as well as two other new films, did not have as much luck at the box office over the holiday weekend. Cage's latest film was expected to debut with at least $30 million, but instead started off with a modest $25.7 million. The romantic comedy action film "This Means War" opened to a moderate $20.4 million, while the Japanese anime production "The Secret World of Arrietty" brought in a so-so $8.1 million.

The original "Ghost Rider" had a far more robust opening back on Presidents Day weekend in 2007, when the film started off with $52 million. Ultimately, the movie made $115.8 domestically and about that much overseas as well. The sequel, however, was made for about $30 million less than the original. "Spirit of Vengeance" was funded by Sony and production and financing company Hyde Park Entertainment for about $80 million, said one person close to the project who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. A Sony spokesperson insisted the actual cost was $57 million.

It now seems unlikely that critically panned sequel will reach the same box-office heights, especially since those who saw the film this weekend didn't like it, assigning it an average grade of C+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The film attracted a largely male crowd, as 61% of the audience were men; roughly 48% was under the age of 25.

Cage has had a mixed track record at the box office in recent years. The original "Ghost Rider" was one of his few hits, along with the 2007 sequel "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," which grossed around $350 million worldwide. But the 48-year-old's last three films, "Drive Angry," "Season of the Witch" and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," were all huge flops.

"This Means War," starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, was received more positively by audiences. Those who saw the film about two CIA agents fighting for the affection of the same woman gave it an average grade of A-. The film attracted a 65% female audience, indicating its gross was likely negatively affected by competition from "The Vow," which appealed to the same demographic.

Only days before its release, 20th Century Fox pushed the official release date for "This Means War" from Valentine's Day on Feb. 14 to Feb. 17. While the studio said the move was made in an effort to spread positive buzz about the film, it also seemed like a tactic to give the film more of a fighting chance against "The Vow."

Directed by "Terminator: Salvation" filmmaker McG, the movie was financed by Fox and partner Dune Entertainment for about $65 million.

While "The Secret World of Arrietty" failed to crack the $10-million mark at the box office this weekend, the film still had the biggest opening of any of the anime films Walt Disney Studios has released in the U.S. "Ponyo," directed by Hayao Miyazaki -- who co-wrote "Arrietty" -- debuted with $3.6 million in 2009 and collected $15.1 million by the end of its run.

The movie, about little people who live under the floorboards of a house, was a huge hit overseas when it was released internationally in 2010. That year, it became the top-grossing movie in Japan and made a total of $126 million abroad. The new version, which features the voices of English-speaking actors like Amy Poehler and Will Arnett, was well-liked by Americans, who gave it an A- CinemaScore this weekend.

The film came to America largely due to John Lasseter, the chief of Pixar Animation Studio who also oversees Disney Animation and has had a longtime relationship with Miyazaki.

Daily Dose: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was eager to take credit for brokering a new deal between MSG (home of the New York Knicks and new star Jeremy Lin) and Time Warner Cable that got the cable network back on in New York City. But in reality it was pressure from NBA Commissioner David Stern that brought both sides back to the table, according to insiders who talked to Company Town. Lin's rise from obscurity to superstar is the NBA's biggest feel-good story in years and is making people forget about the lockout that shortened the season.

 It's a Male Club...and very White: Everything you wanted to know about the academy but were afraid to ask. The Los Angeles Times pulls the curtain back on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with a look at the demographics of those who decide who gets an Oscar (mostly older, white and male) as well as some of the more unusual members.

Cracking the wall. Late Friday, the movie industry scored a big win in its ongoing effort to get more of its movies shown in China. Hollywood will get to export more of its movies into China as well as keep more of the revenue those films generate in ticket sales. Details from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Only blockbusters with no political content will be among the 14 films allowed over the 20 film official ceiling for US films allowed to be released in the world's second largest market (India is the largest). All films must be available in 3-D, IMAX and 2-D release to qualify.

Woody's night. Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" took home the prize for best original screenplay from the Writers Guild of America at its annual awards ceremony Sunday. Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash won for best adapted screenplay for "The Descendants." On the TV side, "Modern Family," "Homeland" and "Breaking Bad" had big wins. A recap from Variety.

Staying behind the scenes. Oprah Winfrey's troubles in getting her cable network OWN off the ground may serve as a cautionary tale to other Hollywood big shots, says AdWeek. "Anyone else launching a network would be wise to keep their name off of it," Gary Lico, chief executive of CableU, which studies the cable industry, told AdWeek. I guess that means FlinTV is a no-go.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Most broadcasters are in no hurry to part with their spectrum. Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons," on hitting the 500-episode mark.

-- Joe Flint and team...

From the LA Times Company Town Blog, click here for the latest entertainment news.

Diversity Awards at CSN