At USC Annenberg, we don’t just cover the news, we make it. “Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News” gathers a selection of the week’s news stories featuring and written by USC Annenberg’s leaders, faculty, staff and others. This special edition of "Quoted" focuses on Hollywood's biggest night: the Oscars.
The Los Angeles times quoted professor Stacy Smith in a piece analyzing not only the absence of female nominees in the Oscars’ best director category, but all throughout Hollywood film studios.
Only 4.6 percent of films green-lit by major studios like Sony, Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers were directed by women in 2014, a statistic studios say highlights the film industry's shift towards investing in fewer movies with bigger budgets. This includes more visual-effects-driven films that tend to favor men in the directors’ seat.
"Women just aren't moving into the higher-budgeted, top-grossing fare," Smith said. "The No. 1 barrier is financial. Women are perceived to lack confidence and to be less trustworthy with resources."
Women’s Wear Daily cited research by professor Jeetendr Sehdev on the benefits of an Oscar win.
According to the study, the exact value of an Oscar to a brand was a 1.5 percent increase in annual sales.
“An Oscar has enormous symbolic value,” said Sehdev. “There is so much credibility and trust that has been building in the Oscar brand over the years. It is the ultimate for an actor and I think people recognize that it embodies the ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality of Hollywood.”
Sehdev’s research also found that Oscar winners are seen as 62 percent more admired, 40 percent less disliked, 25 percent cooler and 37 percent more trusted than non-Oscar winners.
The Sunday Times also cited the Sehdev study, particularly noting that Americans found British actors such as Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike up to seven times more likable than the those from the U.S.
Academy Award winner for best-supporting-actress Patricia Arquette used her acceptance speech as a platform to sound off on gender equality issues, particularly the wage gap between women and men.
CBS Los Angeles interviewed professor Mary Murphy, who praised Arquette for the moment that launched the 'Boyhood' actress to the number three most talked about subject on social media following the awards ceremony.
“Patricia Arquette was saying the truth. Women in Hollywood, like women in St. Louis, Missouri are being paid less than men,” Murphy said in reference to documents leaked in the Sony hacking scandal exposing wage discrepancies between women and men within the company.
According to White House statistics, women on average make 77 cents less on the dollar in comparison to men.
USC Annenberg professor and Senior Producer for CNN Entertainment David Daniel sat down with best actress winner Julianne Moore for an in-depth interview discussing her role as a college professor suddenly forced to grapple with a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
“This film leaves you with a physical feeling. I just sat there shattered afterwards,” Daniel shared with Moore.
When asked how the actress prepared for tackling such a sensitive role, Moore said she “didn’t want to represent anything she hadn’t actually witnessed.”
Moore went on to explain the extensive research that went into portraying her character, meeting with Alzheimer’s researchers as well as those affected by the disease.
Director of USC Annenberg’s journalism school Willow Bay turned heads on the Oscars red carpet with a Star Wars inspired gown by Rodarte.
Bay was draped in gold and black silk dress outlined by Swarovski crystals and featuring Yoda across the skirt. Tech Times spoke with Bay on her inspiration for her unique fashion choice.
"I fell in love with [Rodarte’s collection], and Yoda in particular," Bay said. "What I find so fascinating is how the image appears in photographs. Yoda is crystal clear, wise and strong, even draped along the column of a dress."
Bay was also paying homage to husband and Disney CEO Bob Iger’s company purchasing Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise in 2012.
Disney is now making a new Star Wars trilogy in addition to several other stand-alone films.
"With all the anticipation of the new Star Wars release later this year," Bay said, referring to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening in December, "I thought an homage to the original movie and Yoda on the Academy Awards red carpet might be fun."
Variety called upon professor Jeetendr Sehdev for more statistical insight into the audience’s perception of Oscar’s host Neil Patrick Harris.
By comparing surveys completed when last year’s host Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris initially announced the hosting gig, 31 percent said that DeGeneres as host meant they were very likely to tune in; rather than the mere 3 percent who responded they would be very likely to watch with Harris as a host.
Not all hope for Harris is lost, though.
Sehdev said, “The Oscars are on a viewership upswing, so Neil Patrick Harris will likely ride the wave.”
Preceding the Oscars, Reuters turned to director of USC Annenberg’s Innovation Lab Jonathan Taplin for his opinion on the chances ‘Citizenfour’, the Edward Snowden documentary and third installment in director Laura Poitras’ post 9/11 policy trilogy, had in winning the best documentary category.
"'Citizenfour' is exactly the kind of movie from a documentary point of view that the Academy loves," Taplin said, who is also an Oscar voter.
Taplin’s prediction was not far off; ‘Citizenfour’ took home the golden statue for best documentary as well as dozen others from organizations like the Directors Guild and British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Reuters also quoted Taplin on the nature of just how competitive garnering votes from the 6,000 voters in the Academy can be in the race for an Oscar. Film studios often invest millions of dollars into marketing their films for votes, including mailing thousands of screener DVDs to voters and guild members, like screenwriters and directors, who have their own awards.
"The number of people voting is pretty small. If you can influence 100 people that might make the difference," Taplin said.
Mashable looked to professor Stacy Smith for more insight regarding the lack of diversity within this year’s Oscar nominations.
Many attribute this to the Academy Awards pool of elite voters, which in 2012 was 98 percent white and 81 percent male. In 2014 the Academy tried to up the ante on increasing internal diversity by inviting 271 new members, including Pharrell Williams, Lupita Nyong’o and Hayao Miyazaki.
Smith suggests diversity in the film industry can increase by enacting a procedure similar to the NFL’s Rooney Rule where minority candidates are required to be interviewed for coaching and other staff jobs.
"When directors are hired, this rule would ask for the inclusion of women and people of color on the lists of open directing assignments," Dr. Smith says.
The rule would promote transparency and "chip away" at the diversity problem.
Professor Kenneth Turan wrote a review of the Oscars for the Los Angeles Times, noting the politically charged acceptance speeches "were more the rule than the exception."
Turan said the most moving moment of the night was the candid speech by Graham Moore, winner of best adapted screenplay for 'The Imitation Game,' whose urge to, "Stay weird, stay different" was preempted by mention of his attempted suicide at age 16.
Turan also praised Lady Gaga's tribute to 'The Sound of Music' and Julie Andrews, observing the growth of "continuity within the industry."
We also put together a Storify compiling USC Annenberg faculty's take on the Oscars.