This past week, the Academy Award nominations were announced and people are probably scratching their heads. Don’t Look Up was nominated for Best Picture, making it possibly one of the worst, if not worst reviewed, movie to be nominated. And people though The Towering Inferno was not worthy.
The problem is simple. The Oscars are still stuck in the past. They’re so stuck in the past every time a period piece movie is released, they talk Oscar buzz. Why? What does a movie set in the 1840s or 600 B.C. have to be an Oscar contender over a well-made action movie? Jimmy Kimmel was right. Spider-Man: No Way Home got good reviews, the general people like it and it’s an epic movie. Don’t the Oscar voters like epics?
It seems they’re stuck believing that blockbusters have to only be nominated in the technical categories. The Matrix, Mad Max: Fury Road and Total Recall all won awards for their technological achievements. But they were damn good movies as well. Why did they get nominated?
In the mid-1990s, film critic Roger Ebert asked why does Best Picture mean Best Dramatic Fiction? In its history, very few genre movies have won. The Silence of the Lambs is the first horror with Parasite a surprise second. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the first fantasy movie. Annie Hall is the only comedy. Other movies have had comedic elements and Woody Allen is not a good person, but it is regarded just as a comedy.
This has led to stereotypes that dramatic scenes are the most important. Kevin Kline said he was considered the dark horse contender for his role as Otto in A Fish Called Wanda. Film critics spread skepticism that Marisa Tomei won for her role in My Cousin Vinny because how could a comedy performance by a young actress win?
It’s gotten so bad that that Tropic Thunder, which got a nomination for Robert Downey Jr.’s over the top performance, mocked this idea that the only way to win awards was to play disabled people. Simple Jack, a fake movie about a mentally challenged man, was in that movie as an example of the shameless way actors will pick roles to tug at Oscar voters’ heartstrings.
Back in the 1990s, the Oscars did the smarter thing by nominating movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Babe and The Full Monty, which are all still memorable than other films. But people began to scratch their heads when movies like Shakespeare in Love won over Saving Private Ryan or Chicago won over Gangs of New York or The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It was later revealed to be a major lobbying effort by Harvey Weinstein to win awards.
And Weinstein wasn’t alone in this venture. Many production companies, studios and now streaming services are spending outrageous money in an effort to win awards. But these movies aren’t as memorable as others. Did you even remember Chicago before I mentioned it in the paragraph above?
To be honest, the Oscars are turning into the filmmaking equivalent of a Chamber of Commerce awards banquet. Ever been to one of those? It’s just about a dozen of people, businesses and organizations who all trade the awards around each year. The rest in the community aren’t recognized. One year, someone may receive the President’s Award. Two years later, they get the Friend of the Ambassadors Award. A few years later, they get the Businessperson of the Year Award. And it’s the same fucking award. They just pass it around with different titles and winners.
Kimmel was correct. People say Meryl Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio on the credits and nominated Don’t Look Up. There were far better movies that were released in 2021. And while snubs are common. This year, it seems the Oscar voters decided to pick very obscure movies while overlooking others. There’s no requirement that movies have to play in pick movie theaters or star big names. But it leaves you scratching your head.
And that might be the biggest problem with the Oscars. They’re trying to play to both sides, the arthouse crowds and the popcorn crowds. Whenever the telecast, which has in slow declining ratings over the years, has a pop star on, it almost seems to be criticized. When Miley Cyrus appeared as a presenter, people sneered and jeered. But would they have done the same thing in the 1950s if Marilyn Monroe was a presenter?
Personally, I think they ought to do away with the whole host concept. Nothing against Kimmel, but his two years dragged out both shows too long. There’s no need for a Bob Hope or Billy Crystal doing old-time schtick now. And Crystal pretty much said he would only host again if they shortened the categories. That alone is wrong to say. If anything, they should be focusing more on the people behind the camera. It takes hundreds of people to make a movie. There’s even been call to have stunt work recognized and I agree.
Times change. You got to change with the times. As long as the Oscars are still stuck in the last days of what they consider The Golden Era of Movies which was almost 50 years ago, the event is going to continue to lose credibility and popularity.
What do you think? Please comment.