Editorial: Thoughts on the Oscars (And Beyond)
The Academy Awards….the Oscars….an awards show that celebrates the “best of the best” of that year in cinematic theatrical motion pictures and the nominations in various categories in honoring those individuals in variety of filmmaking capacity. Whether they are in front of the camera or behind the scenes, the Oscars have showcased and awarded many talented members of the film industry for the last 92 years and examining the main facets of cinematic storytelling has to offer.
That being said, the Academy Awards have waned over the past decade or so, with its viewing rating on a steady decline and feeling very much a “hollow shell” of its former glory days of gilded representation of an award show. With the 92nd Academy Awards, viewing the award show reached an all-time low by drawing 23.6 million total viewers and a 5.3 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic. That is down 20% in viewers and 31% in the demo, from last year’s 29.6 million viewers and a 7.7 adults 18-49 rating. It also is down double-digits from the Oscars’ previous smallest audience, 26.5 million in 2018. There was plenty of talk about it on social media, with the movie Parasite winning many awards, actor Joaquin Phoenix’s speech, and Eminem’s surprising appearance of performing his hit song “Lose Yourself”, but the overall 92nd Academy Awards was bit of a groaner with the same cheap shot jabs, sometimes elongated moments. What is behind it? Who is to blame? Are people even caring about awards show anymore? It’s hard to say who is the main culprit for this “fall from grace”, but after seeing my 92nd Academy Awards, here is my some of my personal opinion….
THE “SAME OLD, SAME” OLD STALE
AND LENGTH OF IT ALL
First off…. the overall viewing of the Oscars is quite a long and tedious experience. From the red-carpet arrival to the final acceptance speech, watching the Academy Award usually runs roughly 3.5 hours. That’s quite a long time for an award show that only has 24 categories. What’s in-between them all? Well, it’s the usual “same old, same old” with few skits (most of them are lazily written or just playing awkward” and just plain “filler” that doesn’t amount to anything. Of course, there is the time-honored rendition of playing all the “Best Original Score” songs throughout the night and even the “In Memoriam” montage, but some of the attempted “humor” during between category and / or presenter’s little monologue skit moments are just painfully done in such a cringeworthy manner. I’m meaning you have the “best of the best” screenwriters currently in the room…. you can’t hire one of them to do lend a hand. I also do understand some of the reasons for the lengthy runtime. To see “who’s there?”, “who’s who?”, “who bring did they bring?”, and “what are they wearing?” are all the highlighted topics of concern; showcasing the “crème de la crème” of Hollywood of directors, writers, and A-list celebrity talents of today’s movie landscape. However, it’s quite clear that the show has been showing its age and cracks; straining on various points (throughout the recent decade presentations ceremonies) in showing that the overall staleness of the Academy Awards. In addition, let’s not forget the abundance of commercial breaks of roughly 40 some odd minutes.
DIVERSITY AND THE IMPACT
OF WOKE CULTURE
The implications of diversity and the recent nation events of highlighting the “social injustice” (i.e. the “Woke culture”) has been on the forefront of social media and in pop culture of late, which is pretty fine. I want to see diversity in many things (in real life) and Hollywood has presented plenty of cinematic tales to showcase this; examining and honoring those unspoken stories through the power of the theatrical camera lens. However, the same can not be said when the Academy selects prominently white (often males) films selections (in a variety of categories) to be nominated. This, of course, sparked many to debate and call for “change” to happen, which (again) is fine. However, for the past several years, the award shows, including the Oscars, have been doing the same thing over and over again in hammering the tiresome tropes of diversity and the various outlets of woke culture. Every year, the shows are smeared with the same jokes and jabs of people of race, gender, and equality not being nominated, so much that it becomes painful to watch awards. It’s the same thing.…” Oh, this person wasn’t nominated because of (insert race / gender equality joke here)”. Moreover, the community has become so “concerned” over such remarks of diversity / political movements that the Oscars has been running the show hostless for the past two years; finding potential host / hostess to lead the night’s celebration to afraid of the task because of fearing of saying something wrong / inappropriate that could led to fallout after the show. Or they are trying to make a stance on the whole diversity thing by not participating in hosting position. For the past five or so years, the running “inside joke” (as it seems) is all about the race and gender equality divisions of those being nominated, with the Oscars continuous bashing these jokes throughout the award’s runtime that it becomes tiresome.
Everyone on the show for screams for change and diversity to happen, but the Academy tries to simply appease them by “thrown a small bone” or a “nugget” of showcasing those outlets and doesn’t fully address the problem. This is clearly shown in the omission of not nominating actor Taron Egerton and actress Awkwafina for both the Best Actor and Actress categories in their respective movies of Rocketman and The Farewell. Many have critically praised (both critics and moviegoers alike) both acting talents for their performance in their movies, with Egerton playing the role of musical icon Elton John and Awkwafina delivering one of the best performances of his career (thus far) as fictional character Billi Wang. They even both won Golden Globes for the particular roles. In addition, both Rocketman and The Farewell carried some pretty diversity filled moments that everyone is clamoring for; finding Rocketman to be one of the first major film studios to include a gay male sex scene and The Farewell to examining the family dynamics in an Asian culture. That’s the type of stuff that the Academy (and its various celebrities) have wanted to appear in a feature film, but neither films in either the Best Picture category nor in the Best Actor / Actress category showcased these performances / movies. Yes, I do understand that Parasite was nominated for a lot of awards (and won many of them), but it’s hard to deny how much that the Academy snubbed both Rocketman and The Farewell.
Diversity is something that communities and organizations have struggled with these past few years in the wake of the woke culture and (again) change does need to happen. The Oscars (and other award show like it) have no idea what to do with such change; throwing a “bone” to some nominations and winners to say stuff like “we can recognize this person or that movie, so don’t bother us again on diversity”. That being said, is the Academy doing for the right person or just to silence woke culture individuals who are clamoring for diversity. The end result, however, is that the Oscars have becoming increasingly toxic with the same jokes and jabs of equality and diversity that have definitely overstayed their welcome.
THE “GRANDSTANDING” POLITICAL /
Spilling into what I mentioned above, the overall “grandstanding” of various political motives and diversity shamming has become quite redundant and major turn off for many viewers. As mentioned, there are several serious issues of the nation’s public opinion / outlook that needs to be addressed, but to speak about the nation’s problems and concerns at a glitzy and glamorous award ceremony is not the place to say such things. In truth, such comments almost overshadow and sometimes dwarf the night’s festive events, which is about the celebration of movie storytelling and filmmaking achievements and not so much about what political parities are doing or speak about social injustice matters that have little to no impact on a feature film. I’m not saying that “ignorance is bliss” and that awareness and change should not be embraced, but mentioning that stuff during an acceptance speech (out of the blue sometimes) comes off as too much “grandstanding”.
Look at what Brad Pitt said during his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at the 92nd Academy Award. Yes, I do love Brad Pitt as an actor and I liked him in the movie. Did he deserve to win (in comparsion to the others in the category) ….no, but that’s beside the point. So, here is a seasoned actor, one of the top “A-listers” in current Hollywood, who has been acting for many years, and has starred in many great motion pictures over the years, and yet has never won an Oscar. So, what does he do during part of his acceptance speech for winning his first Oscar….decide to bring up mentioning John Bolton. Like everyone, he has the right to say it and I’m not bringing up a political debate on Mr. Bolton, but (again) its not the place to say such things, especially since Pitt is up on the stage for accepting the award for his portrayal of character Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and not for a political debate. Personally, if I one an award like that, I would’ve thanked those help me, inspired me, and supported to get to that point. To heck with what the political stance. I don’t know…maybe that’s just me.
If an actor / actress (or other filmmaking contributor) wants to say something on a justifiable cause or concern, then show it. Show the world, the media, and the millions of people by physically doing something out in the real world and not just at an award show. Sure, staying something impactful and / or strong-willed opinions on diversity / political movements is courageous and will get you “likes” on social media, but there needs to be the “next step” in following through. If members of Hollywood want to spark a change on the industry and on the nation’s views on serious matters, they should show it and be out there making an impact rather than making a few comments during the Academy Award’s platform. Like old saying says “don’t just tell it, show it”.
ONE OR THE OTHER
Okay, so this is a minor personal complaint as you guys (whoever is reading this) will probably think that this is a bit perplexing for me to gripe about, but I feel that some of the selections of movies should be not have a appear in different categories. It’s a bit wonky when I say it like that, but let me explain. At the 92nd Academy Awards, the film Parasite won for both Best International Movie and Best Picture award. I’m not complaining about the film itself as I haven’t seeing it yet, so I can’t pass judgment on it. However, I’ve heard great things about it and plan to see it someday soon. So, what I’m upset about is that was nominated in those two categories and should only be nominated in one or the other. If an international / foreign gets a nomination, it should go into that category and not in Best Picture or vice versa. The same can be said for Best Animated Film category, especially back during the 83rd Academy Awards with Toy Story 3 being nominated for Best Picture as well as the Best Animated Film. It’s a sort of “double standards” that’s perplexing. So, a clearer definition of these rules should be more addressed by the Academy’s decision on whether it should be one category or the other…. not both. Or is this another “diversity” thing that they are trying present….
RETURN TO ITS ROOTS
Throughout all of these points of criticisms and remarks, the Oscars needs to go back to its fundamental roots…. about the movies. The entire night should not be about the screaming for diversity, joking about racial exclusions, outweighing the gender equality roster, the show needs to focus on what they are there for….to honor and celebrate the theatrical motion pictures of that year. Look at what happened in 92nd Academy Award show, with a lot of the major awards categories and their acceptance speeches highlighting the tiresome grandstanding moments of equality and diversity. Then you look at the more “technical awards” (i.e. cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing, costumes, hair and makeup, etc.), which are the, more or less, uninteresting awards, but the acceptance speeches were more about their work, thanking people who helped them, and overall appreciation. That’s what the Oscars should be about. Whatever you call them…. movies, films, cinematic stories, or silver screen tales, the award show is about movies and the honoring of those artisans that shape the craft of a filmmaking presentation of them. People like me see movies as gateways to escape reality; seeing different times, places, worlds, and cultures through a wide array of storytelling. We laugh, we cry, we get scared, we feel something in this cinematic tales and that’s what the award shows need to get back to…. the heart of motion pictures and the ceremony of celebrating the “best of the best” releases that year in their respective categories.
What lies ahead for the 93rd Academy Awards show and beyond remains a mystery. Will change come or is it going to be the “same old, same old” for the award show, with the tiresome of redundancy making overtures of political views and diversity or the Oscars go back to its main focus of movies and appreciation for the artisans that make them. Let’s hope for the latter instead of the former. Again, this are just my personal thoughts and opinions. Some of you out there might agree or disagree with me, but like movies themselves, the interpretation of art is subjective and seeing differently by everyone. Let me know what you think in the comments below…..