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Monday, February 25, A.D. 2013
Sailer, Sex, and the Oscars

Steve Sailer always posts interesting items about the passing scene. Leading up to the Academy Awards, he has been playing with Oscar statistics, considering, for example, the percentage of female winners in various categories at differing periods in Hollywood’s short history. In one of these posts, “Women and film editing,” Sailer discusses the complementarity of the sexes:

The two most honored editors currently working are Spielberg’s editor Michael Kahn (eight nominations, three Oscars) and Scorsese’s editor Thelma Schoonmaker (seven and three).

Schoonmaker’s career is of interest. She edited a Scorsese student project in the 1960s and earned an Oscar nomination for editing the concert film Woodstock way back in 1970. But she couldn’t get into the editor’s union for a decade so she was blocked from working on Hollywood features throughout the 1970s. She finally got her union card (she thinks Al Pacino pulled some strings for her), and her first feature with Scorsese was 1980’s Raging Bull, which would be high on anybody’s list of superbly edited films.

She’s edited only one movie since for anybody other than Scorsese, but has edited all of Scorsese’s pictures. This may explain something about why Scorsese, who looked in the late 1970s to be headed toward the usual career of a director who burns brightly for just a few years, has made so many comebacks.

IMDB has some quotes from Schoonmaker on the gender question:

I think the women have a particular ability to work with strong directors. They can collaborate. Maybe there’s less of an ego battle.

I’m not a person who believes in the great difference between women and men as editors. But I do think that quality is key. We’re very good at organizing and discipline and patience, and patience is 50 per cent of editing. You have to keep banging away at something until you get it to work. I think women are maybe better at that.

People expect artists to be too normal, I think. I’ve been around enough of them now to see that they’re very extraordinary human beings who behave differently than ordinary human beings. If they weren’t as sensitive as they are they wouldn’t be great artists. They are not the same as us. People should just learn to accept that.

Schoonmaker has long reminded me of Vera Nabokov, the classic example of the old, extremely unfashionable saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” Vera put up with Vladimir’s eccentricities, organized every aspect of his life, accompanied him to all of his lectures at Cornell, sitting in the first row to keep him on top of things, and even drove the nondriver on all of his butterfly-collecting expeditions across the West. Throughout decades of obscurity and economic deprivation, she remained convinced that her husband was a genius. Suddenly, in 1958 when he was 59-years-old, the whole world came to agree with her.

It is for this knack of elucidating human nature in colorful anecdotes that I called Sailer “Our Hume” last year.

As far as the show went—it’s Hollywood. What do you expect? However, I was shocked by Michelle Obama’s participation. She did not say anything untoward, but her inclusion in the program struck me as extraordinarily un-American. It is yet another leftist intrusion of the political into what Jay Nordlinger calls “safe zones.” I suppose that the entertainment industry, with its Euripides complex, has long ceased to be a politics free safe zone, but it seems less objectionable when actors advocate their beliefs than when Hollywood’s establishment invites the president’s wife to give its highest award. Such resembles personality cult regimes where posters of the Dear Leader adorn city walls and the nation’s children sing about his heroic exploits. That doesn’t happen here. Oh wait . . .

I wonder if I am judging Obama’s appearance unfairly. Online, I found references to Ronald Reagan’s and Laura Bush’s appearance at the Academy Awards, but I am not sure how they participated. Were they in the audience? Did they speak? Did they appear as Big Brother on an imposing screen telecasted from the White House? All I can find is Reagan’s attendance in the 1950’s and how the Academy postponed the ceremony one day after the assassination attempt in A.D. 1981. If President Reagan ever attended or addressed the Academy, let us remember that he was an actor and the president of the Screen Actors Guild for many years. It would have been more understandable. All I could find about Bush was a reference to her part in a documentary shown at the Oscars in A.D. 2002. Wikipedia states:

Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, who would later win Best Documentary at the 76th Academy Awards, made a short film that was shown during the ceremony. The film shows almost 100 people discussing movies. Those featured range from Laura Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev to Iggy Pop and Lou Reed to Kenneth Arrow (1972 Nobel Laureate in Economics) to Morris’ son Hamilton. Morris would again make a short film similar to this one except the subject being the 177 nominees of the 79th Academy Awards five years later (also produced by Zinskin).

That is not comparable to what happened last night.

I am completely in favor of a royal family who rises above partisan squabbling, but we Americans do not actually have one. I find it very troubling when my fellow citizens treat El Jefe and the Mrs. so.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, February 25, Anno Domini 2013
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