Grantland‘s Mark Harris has ripped into yours truly in a 3.3 piece about the Oscars. In paragraph #8, to be precise. [See below] So here are replies to some of his assertions, which, summed up, basically pat the Academy on the back for a job relatively well done. Not perfectly (in part because they gave their Best Supporting Oscar to Dallas Buyer’s Club‘s Jared Leto, whose performance didn’t ring Harris’s bell) but good enough.

Harris statement #1: “Academy voters turned to a tough, sad, hard film about our own bad past made by a black Englishman and said, ‘This was the best of the year.’

Wells response: No, they didn’t do that, Mark. A relatively small portion of the membership did. Probably a third or a bit less. Nobody will ever know the exact percentage but this was almost certainly no landslide. Harris knows full well there was a very strong concern among many award-season pundits that quite a few Academy members either didn’t like 12 Years A Slave enough to vote for it or hadn’t even popped the screener in (or had skipped through the brutal parts if they had). I’m certain that Harris also suspects, like everyone else, that 12 years A Slave barely squeaked through to a win, and that if the Best Picture race had been a mano e mano between Slave and Gravity, the Academy would have definitely given the Best Picture prize to Alfonso Cuaron‘s space ride. Dollars to donuts Steve McQueen‘s film was saved because the anti-Slave vote split between Gravity, American Hustle and to a lesser extent Philomena.

Harris statement #2: “An ugly narrative was beginning to build, stoked by the film’s partisans and some of its own campaigners, that staid old white voters weren’t watching the movie because it was too much of a downer. They were going to snub it. They were going to Brokeback it. They were going to confirm every cynical suspicion people had.”

Wells response: An “ugly narrative“? Mark, that’s exactly what almost happened. How many New York-based Academy members did Harris discuss 12 Years A Slave with? How many times did he ask them how they were feeling and what their inclinations were, and why? If he did a lot of canvassing, does it occur to him that Manhattan-based Academy members might be a bit more progessive-minded and socially engaged than their Los Angeles brethren? Did Harris read those Hollywood Reporter q & a’s with those tedious Academy members whose perceptions and conclusions caused so many heads to spin?

Harris statement #3: “I confess that I have little patience for critics who routinely sneer at the Academy Awards because they represent choices made by people who aren’t critics, or with Oscar analysts who think our job is to bend the Academy to our cranky will.”

Wells response: I don’t know everything and I have much to learn (and I look forward to the process that will educate me all the more), but I’m a lot more attuned to greatness and exceptionalism when it comes along than the Hope Holiday crowd, I can tell you that. Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio felt compelled to sit for dozens of interviews in an attempt to explain to the dimwits that The Wolf of Wall Street wasn’t celebrating Jordan Belfort‘s venality, but a lot of us knew that right away. Are you telling me all sensibilities and perceptions are equal? They obviously aren’t.

On top of which I honestly believe that the sneering and the crankiness helped the Slave cause, to some extent. I think it seeped through the crab shells of the blue-hairs. It is a statistically irrefutable fact that roughly 85% of the Academy is over the age of 50 (according to that 2012 L.A. Times poll), and that a significant portion of the voters are “deadwood” types who haven’t worked in a long time and are mostly out of step with the culture and the times. Of all the arts-related organizations in the world, the Academy is regarded as the biggest standard-bearer for lazy, smug, backward-gazing sensibilities. Yes — the Godz smiled or connived and somehow Slave snagged the Best Picture Oscar, but only, I’ll wager, by the skin of its teeth. We’ve been hearing for years that Academy members don’t watch all the nominees or they sleep through screenings or turn them off if they don’t like the way a film is going, and that they ask their friends or their office assistants how to vote. In this kind of absentee atmosphere is it that crazy to suggest that the malleable Academy members might have voted for Slave out of guilt, or because they felt at the end of the day that they should vote for a film of some substance rather than a technically dazzling space thriller with Sandra Bullock? I really think that Hollywood Elsewhere‘s bellowing and badgering and berating might have helped nudge things along in Slave‘s direction, at least among the fence-sitters and dilletantes.

Harris statement #4: “It’s September, for God’s sake.” — contained in a 9.15.13 Harris/Grantland column that basically said “whoa, nelly” to all the people jumping up and down about Slave (Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan in particular) during the Toronto Film Festival. I think that “whoa, nelly” is a general Harris theme. If anybody gets all hot and bothered about anything, Harris tap-dances into the arena and says “all right, let’s stop hyperventilating and take a breath and size things up calmly.”