The film Never Rarely Sometimes Always is all about a 17-year-old girl who gets pregnant but encounters hurdle after hurdle as she tries to obtain an abortion. She has to deal with an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center” that gives her misleading information, state laws that won’t allow her to have the procedure without parental approval, and a cost that keeps going up.
The movie is getting rave reviews and may be eligible for Academy Awards when nominations are announced in a couple of weeks.
But one member of the Academy who won’t be supporting the film in any way is Kieth Merrill, a director, producer, and Oscar winner himself, who sent the film’s writer Eliza Hittman a nasty message… which she later made public in a now-deleted Instagram post. (He mistakenly called her “Emma.”)
This is an email sent to NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS director Eliza Hittman (misnaming her) by an Oscar-winning Academy member detailing his refusal to watch her film pic.twitter.com/ZgpSJzDYFS
— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch) February 26, 2021
I received the screener but as a Christian, the father of 8 children and 39 grandchildren. AND pro-life advocate, I have ZERO interest in watching a woman cross state lines so someone can murder her unborn child.
75,000,000 of us recognize abortion for The atrocity it is. There is nothing heroic about a mother working so hard to kill her child.
Think about it!
Merrill, who’s Mormon, is obviously entitled to his views. But you have to wonder why the hell he’s a voting member of the Academy if he can’t even judge the merits of a film because he disagrees with its story.
Hittman herself raised this issue in the caption to her posting:
“I have dedicated the last year of my life to promoting [“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”] and doing teen talks/ outreach with Planned Parenthood. As we reach the homestretch of awards season, I am very aware that the film is still on the edges of being a true contender,” she wrote. “This email came in last night and was a harsh reminder that the Academy is still so painfully monopolized by an old white puritanical male guard. I wonder how many other voters out there won’t watch the film. #oscarssopuritanical.”
Merrill told Variety that, yes, he sent the message, and he objected to her characterization of him as part of some “old white puritanical male guard”:
… I am not prudish, austere, stuffy, stiff, rigid, narrow-minded, bigoted or fanatical. I am in fact, quite the opposite.
That has all the vibes of a person who insists he can’t be racist because he has a Black friend.
For what it’s worth, there are nearly 10,000 members of the Academy who have the opportunity to see the films, and there’s no rule that says they must watch every movie in certain categories like Best Picture — there are 366 in contention for an Academy Award this year alone. But Hittman is right to wonder if her film might be penalized because of its subject matter if other voting members share Merrill’s views.
Merrill added that he doesn’t a number of films that involve “graphic sex or gratuitous violence or radical social agendas.” But I get the strong feeling he doesn’t send personal messages to the male directors of gory horror films.
(Thanks to Alan for the link)