What the Academy Awards are Really About

the-oscars

The Academy Awards exist to sell tickets, particularly for Hollywood movies. Which is why American studios and American movie stars dominate the event. There’s nothing particularly evil about that; every industry promotes itself. Movies cost megabucks to make, after all, and even people with the most artistic motives know that unless their films sell lots of popcorn the money will go away.

But the other force behind the Oscars is socio-political. The votes are cast by actors, directors, artists and technicians whose concerns stretch far beyond the biz side. So “Best Whatever” never simply means “greatest achievement” (most classic films were not chosen as “Best Pictures”). It means much, much more.

Take this year’s nominees: After years of attacks for not being diverse enough, Hollywood has licked its communal wounds and saturated its nominations with diversity. Yalitzia Aparicio is nominated for Best Actress, for example, not only because she’s very good in Roma, but because she is both Latino and from an indigenous tribe—a double diversity win. By contrast, Anglo movie stars like Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt, who also did outstanding work in 2018 (and have gotten lots of love at previous ceremonies), have been set aside to make room for more socially conscious choices.

However, just nominating Yalitzia Aparicio probably makes a strong enough statement to leave room for Glenn Close, a brilliant older white film star, to win. Why? Because she’s overdue, i.e. she’s been nominated a bajillion times, and never won—which is also a component in the multi-layered socio-political agenda.

And Spike Lee could very well receive the Best Director award, not only because he’s a terrific director, but because he’s also due (having been overlooked multiple times in the past), and because he is a person of color. Double diversity win. Alfonso Cuarón, director of Roma, is also Latino, btw, but Hollywood can check that diversity box by giving him the Best Original Screenplay and/or Cinematography award. Bingo.

Finally. Black Panther could win Best Picture, not only because it is, in fact, a terrific movie, but because it’s a previously unheard-of phenomenon: a big budget studio movie packed with African American talent, both on and off screen. Plus, the fans always gripe that popular movies never get enough award season love, and Marvel fans gripe that Marvel movies don’t get enough love. So BP would be a triple win! Pure politics? Not really, it’s an awesome movie. But the point is, it’s not simply about “Bests.” It is about…

A whole lot of other things.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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21 Responses to What the Academy Awards are Really About

  1. Forrest Pasky says:

    Because the Academy Awards have become politically about so many other things…
    Last year was their lowest viewership by audience.
    I used to love watching the Academy Awards as a kid growing up.
    Now you would have to pay me quite a bit of money to watch the show.
    Let’s see how the viewership rating do this year.
    Good piece Mitch. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Nancy Ruegg says:

    I no longer watch the Academy Awards either. For the most part, I’m not even familiar with the movies of the year–too many of them are just not worth watching. Where are the well-developed characters (as in The Help)? The clever I-didn’t-see-THAT-coming plot twists (as in Stardust)? The scripts that make us think, laugh, cry, and feel–not just overload the senses with LOUD special effects? Where are the films for grown-ups? Maybe you could write film reviews for us now and then, Mitch, pointing us grown-ups (OK, senior citizens!) in the right direction!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Rhonda says:

    I’m looking forward to watching it tomorrow night. Especially because I have seen more of the movies nominated in various categories than I do in a typical year. I was blown away by both Black Klansman and Black Panther. Incredible movies. I am rooting for them to win. Also Christian Bale. Caught Vice last month and thought he was phenomenal in his role as Dick Cheney.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mitch, you summed it up the biz beautifully! I’ll be rooting for Black Panther tomorrow night. :O)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. capejohn says:

    I made it a point to see all the nominees for this year’s awards. i am a fan of award shows because I feel like I’m part of the family. Like you, some of my favorites are not even mentioned, “The Hate You Give” is an example. Two of the top contenders are puzzling to me. Roma and Black Panther. Roma reminded me of a high school production, and I’m not on board giving an award when the main character is a tennis ball that the actors are performing to . (CGI movies).
    I was really moved by “Will You Ever Forgive Me” and was entertained by Black kKlansman and Vice.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s as I’ve always suspected, then. But it’s so good to get your confirming take, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. licoricerub says:

    So true. At some point, they should do a reset of sorts, and just give the award to the best of that year, and leave overdue out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. cindy knoke says:

    All of Hollywood has Weinstein, Polansky, Allen, Cosby, et.al., ad-nauseum, to explain to us.
    And it is peddling furiously away from all of that, claiming, “that’s not us!”
    Sorry folks. It certainly was, for a really long time. Just consider how females have been depicted in most movies, for basically most of my life.
    Poor Hollywood. It is trying so hard to set itself up as a moral and ethical leader, when really it is just a money maker, run by peculiar men, trying hard now, to set it sails to the prevailing, popular winds.
    In general, contests that pick winners leave me cold.
    The Olympics for example, pick the best athletes in various events?
    No they don’t.
    They pick the athlete that won the event.
    All Olympic athletes are amazing winners. Imagine having that much talent, doing that much training as a young person, and being overlooked for an award because you didn’t perform your best at The Olympics. It’s just not-logical or kind. Why do humans pick winners and losers, when obviously all olympic contenders are winners? Why do we like contests so much?

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      A lot of food for thought there, Cindy!

      Re. Hollywood: It’s subject to human avarice the same way any high stakes, high reward entity is: multi-billion $ industries, governments, unions. They’re all subject to corruption because humans are subject to corruption. But that’s not the whole picture. There are also quite a few people in the movie business who strive to live according to their values and artistic passions. Even the socio-political choices many Academy voters make are often driven by the desire to address inequities–the dearth of female directors and female-driven stories, the imbalance of whites vs. minorities in casting and production, etc. Everything that’s human–the worst and the best–can be found in the movie business.

      Re. Contests: Good question. We like them for multiple reasons, I suppose. A peaceful(ish) substitution for warfare? A way of advancing human achievement? A way of identifying heroes we can worship? And…?

      Like

  9. Draven Reign says:

    Best movie should win but I think for long race has defined the winners. So this kind of change is required. But the idea of best not in terms of politics but in terms of content should be the criteria. Thank you for the post

    Liked by 1 person

  10. cricketmuse says:

    Academy Awards night is certainly not what it used to be. This focus on socio-political is creasing the artistic aspect. It will be interesting to see how your calls come out in the envelope. Sans mix ups, if course.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very brave of you, Mitch. All of it is true, not that, as you said, the accomplishments are unworthy, but there is a socio-polictical side.
    I will never forget the crushed look on Glenn Close’s face when, being sure that she would take the Oscar for Dangerous Liaisons, she heard Jessica Tandy’s name announced instead. Glenn had given the performance of 10 lifetimes, but Jessica Tandy did a fantastic job in Driving Miss Daisy, and she was OVERDUE, plus she was the oldest woman ever to win the Academy Award, so that, in the light of the big push in movies of older people, (Cocoon, etc.), I believe was the reason that Glenn had her heart broken. She’s overdue .
    Spike Lee didn’t win before probably because his actions had been shocking but people aren’t shocked at much anymore. Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. librepaley says:

    I must admit, I share some cynicism about these awards ceremonies too, and they’re so self congratulatory.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ann Coleman says:

    You’re so right about the awards….they are never just about the “best” of anything, and I think that is true for many awards, not just the Oscars. Which is why I don’t put much weight into them at all! Most of my favorite movies aren’t incredibly popular, and neither are my favorite authors. Plus, I agree with the comment above that the award shows are a bit too self-congratulatory for my taste.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ron Whited says:

    The last movie I paid to watch was either Grumpy Old Men or it’s sequel. Haven’t been to a theater since. Talk about dating oneself!
    Obviously, Hollywood means nothing to me and I don’t give awards shows a second thought. Why would I subject myself to the agenda of those whose ideas I abhor? I sit through enough of that watching the evening news.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      While there are plenty of abhorrent movies out there, there are also some profound and beautiful ones. The trick, if one cares (I do, and I take it you don’t, Ron) is to gather a little info in advance as to which ones are which. I also think of movies like I do people, since they are, after all made by people: I may not agree with the views of a person, but there may be value in getting to know them, nevertheless.

      Like

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