By Film Threat Staff | December 20, 2004

The Academy’s Board of Governors have voted to eliminate the Original Musical category despite the fact that there were the requisite number of eligible films according to the Academy’s own rules. This decision was based on the Academy’s arbitrary assessment that the films were not up to Academy standards of quality.
“It’s an outrage,” said filmmaker and Slamdance Film Festival co-founder Dan Mirvish, who would have been a potential nominee for two of the five eligible films. “I have a great deal of respect for the Academy, but this decision was disingenuous at best, and arbitrary and capricious at worst. The Academy is a huge stickler for the rules when it comes to filmmakers following them, but it’s clearly disregarded the spirit and letter of its own rules because it suited them. You can’t score if the ref keeps moving the goalpost.”
The five eligible films were Home on the Range, Team America, Greendale (directed by Neil Young), Open House (directed, co-written, and co-produced by Mirvish), and “Big in Germany” (co-written and co-produced by Mirvish, with director Robert Peters). According to the Academy’s rules, three of these five films would have received nominations.
“It’s clear that the Board of Governors looked at the slate and were unduly embarassed. The Academy has simply not recognized the strides of independent filmmaking. The prospect of nominating a film made for less than the price of an Oscar gift bag made them squeamish. And the two studio films were a Disney flop and a puppet movie that skewered Hollywood. You think they really wanted Trey Parker showing up in a dress again?” said Mirvish. “Yet for the last four months, staffers at the Academy have been telling me in no uncertain terms that as long we followed the exact letter of the eligibility rules, that if there were five films – no matter their size or quality – then there would be a category.”
The five films are still eligible for other categories, including Best Original Song. “Open House” is submitting the song “Sellin’ a Dream,” performed by Oscar-nominee Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H) and Jerry Doyle, and written by Lawrence Maddox and Dan Mirvish. The song, like all the songs in the film, was performed live, on set, without predubbing or lipsyncing. At festival screenings around the world, the song has been consistently hailed by audiences and critics alike. Chris Gore of FilmThreat wrote: “Kellerman is simply on fire in this film as her performance brought hoots and applause.”
Mirvish remarked, “It’s no secret that Robert and I made ‘Big in Germany’ largely to fill out the category in case there weren’t enough films. Now it appears that no matter how many indie films we would have made, the Academy wasn’t going to recognize them.”
“Since ‘Chicago’ won multiple Oscars two years ago, there’s been a lot of talk in Hollywood about the return of the musical,” added Mirvish. “So if the Academy is serious about promoting musicals, then they would have stepped up and supported this category as a challenge to Hollywood.”
The Academy’s rules for Original Musical require at least five original songs for each film, and state that stage adaptations and films based on previously recorded songs aren’t eligible. Therefore, “Phantom of the Opera,” “Ray,” “Delovely” and “Beyond the Sea” would not have been eligible even under the broadest reading of the rules. The rule has been in place since 2001, but this is the first year that there have been five eligible films.

For more info, visit the Open House website.

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