Let’s jump into the dog pile.
It seems like every year the public grows to hate the Oscars a little bit more. With the Golden Globes polemical host Ricky Gervais scorching the elites we now have to ask if the whole awards ceremony complex is even worth it.
Those who read this blog will note that my favorite films are often not award winners, and my favorite genre (horror) is for some reason allergic to most awards. However, I am actually not as against the Oscars as an industry as I am it as a practice.
While at this point countless articles have been released about the lack of representation within the nominations, I still feel like airing my own grievances. I don’t think the lack of diversity in the Oscars comes from prejudice, but rather elitism. The old joke that there are Oscar films (or Oscar bait) is something I would have once thought the academy would work to undermine, but here we are again with a bunch of safe entries.
What this indicates to me is that Oscar films are in themselves becoming a genre. Sure, Joker was nominated, but do we really think a plagiarized version of Taxi Driver really needs the win? Further, does it even have a chance? When they nominated Avatar in a transparent way to gain viewers, I don’t think anyone thought it would actually win. If we’re interested in awarding the best film (a classification that is in itself a sticky term) then we should probably wait 5-10 years after before awarding anything. Movies like Shawshank Redemption and Heat have proven to become more staples of our culture than whatever won those years.
The Oscars seem less concerned with awarding the best film and more focused on trying to find the film that fits the cultural collective in that snapshot of time. Sometimes I think there is a crossover between the two categories, but often I think there is a separation. With Green Book winning we can see that the academy decided a diet version of Civil Rights (complete with a white savior) is what people wanted, even if they didn’t. Something like Black KKKlansman simply asked questions that were a little too uncomfortable for many.
The Best Picture winners aren’t always crowd pleasers, but they tend to be crowd pacifiers. It is better to see Civil Rights as something in American’s past, and something that good food and unlikely friendships can overcome, rather than a constant struggle. At least that is what the Academy seems to think. Likewise, with Moonlight winning we always have to wonder if the problematic La La Land was actually meant to win, but there was a change at the last minute. Oh no, we meant to give it to a tough film and not the one that glosses over historical problems for spectacle. I liked Moonlight, but I doubt the Academy actually wanted it to go that way.
Films that challenge our assumptions or prejudices don’t seem to get a lot of love. The lack of any acknowledgment of Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale shows that we want our stories about sexual violence to be contained to a news corporation, and not a systemic part of human culture.
So, let us return to the title: do the Oscars matter? In an explicitly real sense, they certainly do with budgetary concerns for any non-blockbuster film, even a nomination will help up and coming filmmakers. Further, the countless people who work on these movies (I’m looking at you, lighting folks, your work is appreciated) can now bolster their own resumes or IMDB pages. Further, the financial gain of a film once nominated can’t be ignored. What this means is, yes, they matter very much, but do they matter for the right reasons? Unfortunately, this is a significantly harder question to answer.
I have no problem awarding people for hard work, and actors work their asses off. I disagree with the circular mentality of some of these awards, but I also loathe those who demean creativity. I find myself highly polarized (and somewhat paradoxically) on this issue. Yes, they matter, and people should be award, but I’m still not going to watch the ceremony. Why? Because the damn thing is going to be about four hours long and I just don’t have the patience for that. Further, I suppose I am falling into the trap of not caring as much because “it’s all about me” and my favorite films weren’t nominated.
My choice to not watch this year is less of a boycott than it is simply disinterest. The fact that they can’t even get a host indicates something troubling. In my opinion, they should cut the ceremony to two hours and rock through it in a way that allows folks to enjoy themselves without getting bored. I wouldn’t cut any awards, but the sideshow stuff could be removed.
I don’t know, honestly, what the answer is. There are quite a few awards shows (including the Jay Hates Movies best of the year!), but I don’t want to get rid of any. I suppose instead of a rant you have now all read a self-indulgent meditation on the issues surrounding the Oscars. What are your thoughts?