Why Are the Academy Award Nominations So Bad? Three Words: Wrinkly Old Dudes
During the last couple of months, my wonderful mother-in-law has been living with us while we're dealing with hospital/NICU challenges. She's incredibly helpful, great with the kid (she's a former kindergarten teacher), and fantastic for keeping the house in shape. But she's also a 60-year-old conservative woman who calls waitresses and landscapers "the help" and loves "Person of Interest" (not that there is anything wrong with that). She watched "Parenthood" the other night for the first time, and despite the fact that it's the most wholesome show on television, she was disgusted that Jason Ritter's character and Sarah Braverman wanted to have a child even though they weren't married ("Oh, that's awful. Just terrible"). She also harshly judges people who curse. She hated Paul on "Top Chef," for instance, because he used profanity, even though he's the nicest guy the show has ever had. (Fortunately, she does not read this site because she would disown me. Keeping my tongue in check the last couple of months has been one of the most difficult challenges of this process.)
At any rate, I mention my conservative mother-in-law and her cultural tastes to make a point: She's not too different from the Academy Voters who decide the Oscar nominations, except for the fact that she's a woman (although her husband, who chastises me for not watching enough Fox News, fits the demographic perfectly). Indeed, The Los Angeles Times has identified 5,100 of the 5,700 members of the Academy, and the demographic breakdown looks like this: 94% white, 77% male and a median age of 62 (people under 50 make up just 14% of the academy).
You want to know why Drive wasn't nominated but War Horse was? There's your answer. Why was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close nominated and not Michael Fassbender's performance in Shame? Because it's predominantly wrinkly old dudes who could not care less about the Fasschlong.
Old people love other old people, which helps to explain the consistent presence of Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and even Tom Hanks. To be fair, however, if you've ever attended an art house theater during the day, it's dominated by blue hairs, wheelchairs, and oxygen masks, so maybe they are the appropriate body to determine the quality of films that other older people watch.