"Fun Fact": Awards Site Smears Utah Critics

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by Sam Adams
December 20, 2013 4:35 PM
10 Comments
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The Utah Film Critics Association announced their annual awards today. Frankly, I wasn't going to report on it, less because I don't care about what critics in Utah think but because enough with the awards already. But then my friend Scott Renshaw, a critic for the Salt Lake City Weekly, pointed me to this:

And that, I thought, was worth writing about.

If you haven't been following the awards season -- and God bless you if you haven't -- Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity has finished a narrow second with many critics' organizations, or in the case of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, tied for first with Spike Jonze's Her. Apparently, Utah's is the first to hand Gravity an outright win. 

Why is that? I have no idea. Apart from Renshaw and the Salt Lake Tribune's Sean Means, I don't think I know any members of the UFCA, and I certainly wasn't in the room when they were voting. But Ryan Adams, who posted the results on Awards Daily, seems to have a pretty good idea.

"Fun fact:" he wrote. "Utah's population is 2% black."

That, as far as I can tell, is true. And though I don't know most of the members of the UFCA, let's assume that they, like virtually every critical body in the country, are largely white and male. Is this a problem? Absolutely. Does it have anything to do with them preferring Gravity to 12 Years a Slave?

I have no idea. And Ryan Adams (no relation) gave no reason to suspect he does either, although the obvious implication is that it does. Insofar as I can tell, Awards Daily is not in the habit of providing regional demographics with every awards announcement. 

Awards Daily's editor removed the line after I pointed it out on Twitter -- the updated page is here -- but she was not exactly apologetic:

As Stone later made clear, the "defensive white person" in this scenario is me. (Click through for more back and forth between Stone and myself if you have time you desperately need to waste.)

I am white, to be sure, and defensive often enough -- my therapist and I are working on it -- but since I wasn't attacked, there's nothing for me to defend, except perhaps the honor of a group of critics who committed the cardinal sin of handing 12 Years a Slave four second-place finishes and voting Chiwetel Ejiofor Best Actor.

I think 12 Years a Slave, which I ranked second on my Indiewire poll ballot, is a great movie, and Gravity is, well, not. But many of my respected colleagues love Gravity, and a few of them have serious issues with 12 Years a Slave. I don't think Gravity is one of the best movies of this or any year, but it's a defensible choice, and one that can easily be attributed to reasons other than the race of the people who voted. Yes, Utah is an overwhelmingly white state. But I know that Renshaw, for one, grew up in California. Life, and journalism, being what they are, I'd bet a significant percentage of the UFCA's members hail from out of state as well. Even they didn't, there's no reason to assume every resident of the state is auditioning for an day-player part on Big Love.

Look, tempers get short and angles get slim this late in the year -- I get that. But slipping in snide observations without bothering to make an argument perpetuates the worst stereotypes about coastal elitism. People's opinions about art differ for an infinite range of reasons, and in the case of a simple ballot, there's no way to know what those reasons are. Without actual information to the contrary, it seems only fair to give the UFCA the same respect on would afford to any other critics organization.

That second-place screenplay finish for The Way Way Back, on the other hand -- WTF was that about?

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10 Comments

  • NeilFC | December 21, 2013 3:35 PMReply

    I wouldn't worry about anything Sasha Stone says, her brain has mostly rotted away due to excessive coverage of Oscar season and is no longer capable of rational thought. I'm sure there's probably a medical term for it by now.

  • James D. | December 21, 2013 11:04 AMReply

    Ryan Adams and Sasha Stone are poisonous to film writing. Always have been.

  • drake | December 21, 2013 10:28 AMReply

    awardsdaily has a ton of problems. they are mostly about political issues now. its like two to one political story to story on cinema.

  • Colin Biggs | December 21, 2013 5:20 AMReply

    Makes it all the easier to avoid Oscar pundits when they write such ignorant things.

  • Sara Samaletdin | December 21, 2013 3:49 AMReply

    People who feel that some movies should win all the awards because of the message of the movie freak me out.

  • drake | December 21, 2013 10:26 AM

    thank you Sara! exactly!

  • Suzanne | December 20, 2013 11:37 PMReply

    Poor neglected 12 Years a Slave. Good thing it has Ryan and Sasha to rush to its defense.

  • John | December 20, 2013 9:22 PMReply

    Well well, check Ms Stone's reaction on Twitter to Jennifer Lawrence winning over Lupita Nyong'o in New York. That would have been hilarious weren't it quite scary.

  • Steve | December 20, 2013 7:12 PMReply

    Ryan does realize that GRAVITY was directed by a Mexican, right?

  • Daniella Isaacs | December 22, 2013 1:12 PM

    There are a lot more Hispanics in Utah than Blacks, just sayin'. ;)

    Kidding aside (that WAS a joke), the only thing that makes me more crazy than people whining (usually in comments sections such as this) about how 12 YEARS A SLAVE is winning all the awards due to "white guilt" are people whining that it's NOT getting its due from critics due to racism. (The Academy might be another story.) I say this because I hate racist/defensive white people, but I almost hate crackpot liberals more; as a liberal they reflect badly on me. I'm FROM Utah. The film critics there, give or take one or two people, are as progressive as they are anywhere.

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