Roger L. Simon

The March of the Academy Screeners

It’s slowly wending its way to Oscar time and the Academy screeners – those free DVDs passed out to Academy members to garner their votes – are beginning to show up at my door like brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. For a couple of years I have been flirting with being kicked out of the Academy (where I am a member of the writers’ branch) for posting my reaction to these screeners online. Last year I went so far as to publish some of these reactions (hard to call them reviews) at NRO. This year they’ll be appearing at another yet more “controversial” site. [You really do want to be kicked out, don’t you?-ed. Ask my shrink.]

Also last year, every Academy voter was presented with his or her own SV300 Cinea DVD player. This is a high-end unit equipped to play specially-encrypted DVDs so that you can’t slip some barely released blockbuster into your hard drive and upload it to your new-best-friend in Hong Kong. (And they’re not joking: one Academy member has already been slapped with a 60K fine for allowing someone to pirate his DVDs.).

Nevertheless, last year not one DVD arrived with this sort of encryption. This year one already has – Steve Martin’s shopgirl from Disney. The Mouse House probably thinks it has a commercial winner on its hands. Sad-to-say, even the best art films may not be worth the encryption effort financially. Speaking of which, several prominent arty films arrived which are high on my want-to-see list: Capote, Crash and Good Night, and Good Luck.