Oscars Academy Awards

Let's give it another go: Voting is a privilege, not a right

As the father of three yearnin’ young’uns, as well as someone routinely aggrieved by the smallest injustices, I deal with my fair share of whining.

 

So perhaps I should have been better prepared in December for the foot-stamping that began within seconds of the launch of online voting for the Oscars.

 

Having reported on this dispassionately throughout awards season, however, I’m going to indulge my inner child and do my own share of whining about it — in the process speaking to the year in film the Oscars will soon celebrate.

 

There were three things that bothered me about all the ballot braying.

 

• A chunk of the angst could have been avoided if Academy members could have bothered to read their mail and follow instructions.

 

• Another chunk could have been avoided if they could have shown a bit more patience with an entirely new system.

 

• You’re getting to vote for the Oscars.

 

Maybe we’ve said “voting is a privilege, not a right” so many times that it has lost all meaning, but let’s give it another go. Voting is a privilege, not a right. Especially in the case of the Oscars, in which fewer than 6,000 people determine arguably the most important cultural honor in a country of 315 million, if not a world of 7 billion.

 

Yeah, there were problems. It’s easy to second-guess the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for going so far overboard in its security precautions that the electronic voting system became unnecessarily cumbersome, especially relative to the relatively seamless e-voting by the guilds and such.

 

We can even ignore the fact that all along, the conventional paper ballot remained an option, with the Academy more than once extending deadlines for choosing between printed and online. In the end, most of us want computerized ballots to work.

 

Still, I keep coming back to this: As long as your vote gets counted, if there’s a little hardship, then so be it. You’re getting to vote for the Oscars.

 

In this year’s best picture race alone, you’re getting to vote on magnificent, often visceral stories of true hardship — mental and terminal illness, international strife and innocents in peril, poverty amid social upheaval and natural disaster, lifetimes in bondage. Not a dilettante in the bunch.

 

Complaints about having to call an 800 number for a new password to vote on these subjects have been approved by the Irony Committee.

 

If you’re someone who, like me, has a reflexive need to complain, then complain about how difficult it is to choose a single winner among these films and the individual efforts behind them. You might not love every nominee, but I defy you to love only one.

 

Then complain some more about the work that somehow didn’t even get nominated. John Hawkes’ performance in “The Sessions.” Rian Johnson’s screenplay for “Looper.” Ben Affleck’s direction of “Argo.” (Oh, wait — I think people might have noticed that one.)

 

Then complain some more about not having enough time to see all the potential nominees before this year’s early voting deadline.

 

In other words, the Oscars are not a perfect world, but if you’re an AMPAS member this week, it’s not a bad one to live in. So take a deep breath, take out your ballot, and savor the moment. Embrace these days of whine and roses.

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