I found out this year’s Oscars happened the morning after the event. Not through any of the news apps on my phone or sites I subscribed to. I found out via Instagram where a user had posted the video of the La La Land/Moonlight mixup.  Weeks earlier, I happened on a friends computer open on the academy’s page during the period nominations were announced. “Oscar noms are out, when did that happen?” I asked. “Yesterday” he replied. Months earlier the same happened with the Emmy’s and Grammy’s.

In his opening monologue this year’s host Jimmy Kimmel commented on the millions of viewership the Oscar telecast receives yearly. As a critic, there is a sense that one should be able to articulate an opinion on the American film Industry’s biggest award night. If one is concerned with movies, how can they ignore Hollywood?

Yet as I have pursued my interest in the cinematic expression of thought, ideas and entertainment fare I have noticed a steady decrease in my passions towards the Academy Award nominations and winners. This is not as a direct result of me deciding to starve my viewing list off Hollywood (I simply shifted my passions from American film to Television), it is simply a more varied acceptance of film and the understanding that millions of films exist, and many of them come from outside Hollywood, from all corners of the world. Also that an Academy Award while a big honour (it is still the only opportunity for Indies and blockbusters to compete almost equally for prestige), for me has come to mean less and less in determining whether a movie was made well.

But of course I am human, young and adequately attached to the internets and only so immune to persistent mentions of The Awards. So I closed Instagram and scrolled through newsfeeds to find out the nights winners and the flood of speeches, think pieces, digs and comments etcetera. Then I spent the night watching some of the nominated films. I plan on covering the rest if for nothing but conversations sake. After all references are the backbone of arguments.

But it made me realize, not through an epiphany  nor after long hours of deep thought, I simply finally accepted  that conversation is the central point of the Oscars and Hollywood at large. The Academy of Motion Picture; arts and sciences is described on its official site as “the world’s preeminent movie related organization, comprised of 7,000+ accomplished men and women working in cinema.” The people realistically in the best position to vote for the best Hollywood films. Yet every year there is debate about the selection of winners, because like the sad cliché, The Oscars are a popularity contest when all is boiled down.

When the season begins, films are sent to academy members under the caption; for your consideration: to induce a nomination. Followed by peak woo; production companies and studios inducing the academy to view their film and like it enough to write in a nomination and possible win. Etcetera.  But this is all okay really because Hollywood players are willing participants in the competition for popularity.

I am repeating nothing new when I say Hollywood while containing a distinct amount of great films is a big fat machine sustained on the notion of talk. Keep taking about Hollywood, keep reading watching and  talking about its stars real lives to feed myth, keep trooping to the cinemas to watch the movies and making the studios more money, the blogs more money, the magazines more money you get the cycle. When one takes this premise and expands on it, the idea can be found in almost all film industries. Case in point this year’s Wedding Party, an obvious crowd-pleaser that fulfils its job, by making a movie based entirely out of popular internet tropes about certain clichés associated with people from certain parts of Africa. And we ate it up, ignoring lesser promoted and just as good, even better quality Nollywood products.

The same way, this year, The Academy, came together to accord 14 nominations to a movie equivalent of Vanilla Ice cream, pleasant yet holding nothing of the flavour purported. Of all Damien Chazelle’s big screen offerings, La La Land is a firm last place, offering nothing truly spectacular apart from the music. Even 2011’s The Artist, a tribute to the silent film era for all of its voicelessness exuded a character desperately missing from La La Land. And charm beyond the likes of Emma Stone and Ryan Goslings’ easy chemistry. But then the Artist is a French production.

La La Land touted as a tribute and sappy fantasy attempt has no designs on Bollywood. If Hollywood lovers wanted to see musicals in dizzying diversity, all they had to do was stream a Bollywood movie, but this is another conversation entirely about discriminative standards against people of color. But if you do change your mind, check out Gunday, a celebration of clichéd masculinity and brotherhood or Aaja Nachle a plea for the protection of the arts, or even the thrilling Romeo and Juliet esque Ram Leela. But these sadly don’t have the popularity of Whiteness. Understandeable because the appeal of Western based productions is in its familiarity, many of us have grown up watching and reading White faces doing every imaginable human and inhuman thing on screen and in books. Whatever the case, the Oscars have come and gone and now it’s over to you and I to discuss their choices.

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Did you watch the Oscars? Have you seen any of the nominated movies? I’d like to get your thoughts on them. Use the comment box below and let’s discuss.

Responses

  1. mollie12
    There is way too much going on in this write-up. Is the issue with the Oscars about the lack of diversity or about sub-par films getting nominated for the awards, or about something else entirely? Or was this supposed to be a promote-Nigeria-films plug? I think some more time could have been taken while crafting the write-up to clearly specify the point of contention and the call to action (if there is any).
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  2. ADEYINKA
    Dear Alithnayn,
    You clearly did not set out to vent but this at best will be you venting. What about? Hollywood being showbiz, trust me we know all about the “popularity contest” thingy and you proposed “less white” alternative from the land of Ghandi isn’t quite the real deal.

    Coming back home, one of the best movie in recent times is just a “crowd-pleaser” with quality less than i don’t know what movie now? #Issokay

    Nollywood clearly knows what it has to do. Studios and production company certainly knows what it takes to get the attention of the audience, when the needful is done the passion will follow.

    We love the Oscars!

    NB: Showbiz is showbiz cos you tell your story and get all the people to listen.

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    1. Alithnayn Post author
      Hi. Did not “propose” any solutions sir, I made references to other musicals of better quality. I did not say they deserved awards or that the Oscars are unlovable.

      Please see article title, “Much Ado about the same thing” to reference your point that we already all know how things work.

      If you have perceived this piece as venting, I have to say I did quite articulately no? Based on your comments, you picked up enough things to rant too. 🙂

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  3. Osasu Elaiho
    Being an avid movie watcher myself and someone who tends to follow the award seasons, I get where you are coming from. The last time I truly followed the trend was during the 2003 award season when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King swept up all the awards it was nominated for. I was supposedly so good that I could predict quite accurately who would win each award because I would go out of my way to watch all the nominated movies. I still do the watching of the nominated movies, but I digress.

    As time went on, I got to understand that it was not the general public movie viewing public that voted for the movies but instead the members of the MPAA or whoever they are. I also got to understand that your movies had to first be submitted to even be considered. This just took the joy out of it for me because sometimes, the movies that end up being nominated and who win may not be as deserving of movies who had no consideration.

    It truly is a contest of popularity. It truly is much ado about the same thing. How could La La Land – which in my opinion is inferior to Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman – win best picture? Honestly I don’t think Moonlight deserved to win, it should have gone to Fences but of course a story about sexuality in the black community is prime time opportunity to show how deserving it is of an award. Bleh!!

    The Academy Awards have lost the zeal they used to have on me. Let me rephrase that: I have lost the zeal I used to have for it knowing that it isn’t what the public likes that wins, but instead what the bourgeois executives fancy. Most of them (the nominated movies) are usually boring affairs although to be fair, some are really good. Let’s take for example The Revenant. Leonardo DiCaprio has done better movies and yet this is the movie for which he gets his Best Actor Award…give me a break!

    I have gone on longer that I intended and I really enjoyed reading your article. What I hope as the future looms closer is that Nigerian Cinema continues to grow and that instead of making mere crowd pleasers like Wedding Party that will be mostly remembered for the jokes and the quality of the cinematography, more poignant movies are made that highlight the plight of the average Nigerians and make us think.

    You mentioned that there are better Nigerian movies out there though? I am curious. Like which one? The Wedding Party is the first Nigerian movie I have seen in ages and I only saw it because it was recommended to be by someone whose movie taste I trust.

    Finally, you’re very right to say that TV is the new delight. There is so much going on there that it’s hard to keep up.

    Thank you

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  4. Segun Agbaje
    This is an extremely strange article and before I go on, I’d like to point out that I have read it a couple of times, as I’d hate to accuse you of ranting without actually taking the time out to understand you. That being said, you are, unfortunately, ranting… and I’m not sure what exactly you’re ranting about.

    First off, you have a paragraph in which you compared La La Land to The Artist. What you somehow forgot to mention is how The Artist (A French Movie, as you so carefully stated) actually won The Academy Award or Oscar for Best Picture in 2012 (In fact, The Artist also won Best Actor, Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Costume Design). La La Land didn’t win Best Picture, so what exactly is your point?

    Secondly, I was under the impression that The Academy is an American organization set up to honour the very best in Hollywood (which is also – surprise surprise- the American film industry). Why then are you still appalled? by the continuous nominations and winning of an American award by American films? At one point in your article I honestly felt the Oscars was the only film award in the world. A quick search through Wikipedia shows any country with the semblance of a film industry has equivalent awards, which I’m pretty sure aren’t given to American Films only (La La Land won’t be getting any Africa Magic Movie Award nominations or wins fortunately)

    If your point is that there are good foreign films out there, fine, you are right, there are. One of my all time favourite movies is “Cidade de Deus or City of God”. Based on a book set in Brazil, Filmed in Brazil and acted in Portuguese. “Shockingly” Cidade de Deus was nominated for 4 Academy Awards in 2003 at the time of its release. For all intents and purposes it is clear that if you do make an incredibly good foreign film and actually promote and release it world wide Hollywood/The Academy actually takes note of it. But then also, I don’t think people make movies for the sole aim of winning Academy Awards, so even if you don’t get recognized by the Academy/Hollywood who cares?

    I’ll finish this long rant of my own by saying this, (Most of)The best movies out there are still being majorly made by Hollywood or in-conjunction with Hollywood. This is a fact, whatever fans of “3 idiots” (which was a great movie) say. My Cousin adores La La Land, she says it was inspirational. It’s not as bad as you made it seem. The End.

    P.S Just switch to the BAFTAs instead… oh wait. LA LA LAND AGAIN!? Darn you British people and your love for America… and Not India! (Slumdog Millionaire didn’t rise for this).

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    1. Alithnayn Post author
      Hi.
      1. Please refer to title, Much Ado About The Same Thing. Point being, i’m not revealing anything new or shocking.

      2. Point of the article is that as a movie lover who is continuously less affected by Oscar wins and results, I realized so much of public interest is sustained less by the awards but the chatter surrounding it. Hence my whole point around the difference between La La Land and a Bollywood musical. Hype, sir.

      3. I apologize for your confusion over the article, it means as a writer I failed at one of the basic things, getting my point across. Next time i’ll write a cleaner article.

      4. La La Land is zero steps above basic charm. Argue with your cousin.

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      1. Segun Agbaje
        I didn’t even get to the part where you called “Emma Stone” “Emma Watson”. Did you watch La La Land or Are you just dragging a good movie, with quality acting and an actual message, just for the sake of it?

        P.S No it isn’t “Zero Steps Above Basic Charm” and I won’t be arguing with my cousin. There’s literally multiple awards from multiple organizations to prove this. Not to talk of audience reviews. If you’re looking for a movie to drag please take “Collateral Beauty” or “Assassins Creed”. I won’t have you spoiling Ryan Gosling’s good name.

        P.P.S what are your all time fav movies if you don’t mind me asking ?

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        1. Alithnayn Post author
          All time fave movies? Wow I’ve never actually sat down to think about that but off the top off my head is Inception probably because I watched it a few days ago. What are some of yours? 🙂
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          1. Simi
            The Sunset limited, 50/50, Higher Ground, the fighter and most recently 1, Daniel Blake……seen any of those?
            Thanks for the article…I dont agree with everything but I’m glad its there even to start a discussion about movies. keep it up =)
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  5. Moroxi
    brilliant article…although i have my two cents *it should be worth something in Nigeria..lol* i believe this was a conspiracy to attract attention to the fast fading award event, seeing as little or no attention was paid to it this year. I wonder what they’ll come up with next year *thinking face*
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  6. The_Word
    This article reeks of that typical (yet misguided) sense of “Nigerian” elitism meant to corroborate the ludicrous notion that as long as you’re not down with what’s considered hip or cool by the general populace then somehow you’ve successfully proven to the world that your tastes are better refined. How unfortunate.

    I’m going to be very objective as I dismantle the “myths” the writer has posited in the hopes of bringing about some much needed clarity about the Academy Awards or Oscars.

    According to the writer: “…that an Academy Award while a big honour (it is still the only opportunity for Indies and blockbusters to compete almost equally for prestige), for me has come to mean less and less in determining whether a movie was made well.”

    How terrible / good / great a movie is, is relative to its respective viewer, and while I am compelled to apply this wisdom to the above statement in quote (and the writer did clearly state “for me”), I am also reminded that the same writer proudly proclaimed herself a “critic”, and so I must look upon that statement as not just someone’s personal opinion but the opinion of a movie critic who we’re supposed to take seriously.

    You cannot be considered a respectable movie critic if you can’t discern the aspects of movie making that earns a movie the right to be called a great movie; and by extension, you cannot be considered a respectable movie critic if you actually think the Academy Awards isn’t built on the platform of celebrating the best in moving making. And I mean, the absolute best.

    I will say this though: the Academy Awards is not the be-all and end-all of the credibility of movies in general. In other words, a movie doesn’t have to win an Oscar before it’s considered a great movie. Movies are made – first and only – to entertain, not the win awards. Or at least, that’s the way it should be

    The Academy Awards also doesn’t always get it right. Despite that, every nominee / winner over the years can’t be faulted on sheer technical quality, whether you’re a fan of that movie or not – which is a completely different matter.

    Another statement that caught my eye: “Yet every year there is debate about the selection of winners, because like the sad cliché, The Oscars are a popularity contest when all is boiled down.”

    Let’s break it down, shall we?

    The only solid indicator for a movie’s popularity in America and around the world is its world-wide gross. So which movies were the 8 most popular movies of 2016?: (1) Captain America: Civil War; (2) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; (3) Finding Dory; (4) Zootopia; (5) The Jungle Book; (6) The Secret Life of Pets; (7) Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice; (8) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

    Meanwhile, the Academy Awards has 8 slots for The Best Picture category – the most important category for movies.

    None of the 8 most popular movies of the year 2016 were nominated for Best Picture. Only two of them – Zootopia and The Jungle Book – got Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Visual Effects respectively.

    The combined world-wide gross of all 8 Best Picture nominated movies for this year’s Oscars was somewhere in the region of $1.2 billion. That’s about $53 million less than Captain America: Civil War’s world-wide gross, and there are three (3) other popular movies (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Finding Dory, and Zootopia) that grossed over a billion dollars.

    So, basically, all 8 Best Picture nominees barely had the combined box office power to put the smack down on ONE of the popular movies of last year.

    Counting from this year, these are the last 8 Best Picture Oscar winners: (2016) Moonlight; (2015) Spotlight; (2014) Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance); (2013) 12 Years a Slave; (2012) Argo; (2011) The Artist; (2010) The King’s Speech; (2009) The Hurt Locker.

    All, not the most popular movies in the year of their release (nothing spectacular about their wold-wide gross either). All, excellent technical movies. All, deserving of their accolades.

    To reduce their nominations and subsequent wins to a mere “popularity contest” simply tells me that the writer doesn’t “get” what the Oscars are really about.

    I should probably stop here, but there’s so much in this article that’s so wrong, and the temptation to continue is so, so strong.

    In what I can only surmise as truly bizarre, the writer goes on to explain how the Oscars and Hollywood at large is all hype and very little / no substance “sustained on the notion of talk”, and then she further reinforces this argument by pulling Nollywood (huh???) into the fray with this: “Case in point this year’s Wedding Party, an obvious crowd-pleaser that fulfils its job, by making a movie based entirely out of popular internet tropes about certain clichés associated with people from certain parts of Africa. And we ate it up, ignoring lesser promoted and just as good, even better quality Nollywood products.”

    Accusing Hollywood or the Oscars of being a big fat hype machine is no different from accusing a woman of having a vagina. Hollywood is the biggest movie industry on the planet, and the Oscars are the most prestigious movie honours in existence. There will always be a hype when these two juggernauts come out to play. Why is this being ranted about in the article as if it’s such a terrible thing?

    The Wedding Party reference is supposed to stress that we will always choose clichéd entertainment over excellence. This article is about the Oscars, and this reference is pointless as far as the Oscars is concerned (I’ve already proven that the Oscars is far from being a popularity contest).

    But for argument’s sake, let’s consider it. People want to be entertained. The most entertaining movies will always make the biggest money in the box office. That’s just the way the world works.

    But Hollywood is not Nollywood. What is entertainment in Nollywood is simply vapid, claustrophobic, rambling, over-dramatised nonsense – which is exactly what The Wedding Party is, as well as every other garbage Nollywood spews out on a weekly basis (same goes for the lesser promoted Nollywood products the writer mentioned). The 8 most popular Hollywood movies I listed above do not share these appalling qualities. And while you could argue that they are still clichés, they do offer the sort of superior entertainment that shapes and re-shapes the way Hollywood and movie industries world-wide (except Nollywood) approach movies. James Cameron’s 2009 Avatar did just that. More recently, Marvel has done that plenty times.

    The article dives into other claims, like this one: “The same way, this year, The Academy, came together to accord 14 nominations to a movie equivalent of Vanilla Ice cream, pleasant yet holding nothing of the flavour purported.”

    Going by this statement, I have to wonder if the writer truly understands how the Academy nominates movies and why. Rest assured, every movie that appears under a category does so for a very good reason, personal views aside.

    Take for example: Suicide Squad was movie replete with plot problems. It made a bucket-load of money, but that’s because it had a loveable cast and a fantastic marketing team. Its reviews among critics and viewers ranged from OK to oh-so very, very bad. Yet it won an Oscar this year for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

    Think about it. Suicide Squad won an Oscar. Lion – a far exceptional movie – did not. From henceforth, on the cover of every Suicide Squad DVD / Blu-ray, the words “Academy Award winning movie” will be printed on them. Lion’s? Not so much. Pot of beans life.

    Now, going by the writer’s logic, this makes no sense at all, and surely this means the Academy’s credibility should be called into question.

    But notwithstanding its many flaws, Suicide Squad did have great makeup and hairstyling, better than any movie released in 2016. And on that basis, it was nominated and it won. Get it now?

    La La Land received 14 nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing. So, rather than dismissing it as “Vanilla Ice”, how about you move your trivial sentiments to a corner, take a very good look at each category La La Land was nominated in and understand why. Then you can argue on its merits and demerits as a 14-time nominated Academy Awards movie.

    From the article we have this too: “Of all Damien Chazelle’s big screen offerings, La La Land is a firm last place, offering nothing truly spectacular apart from the music.”

    Damien Chazelle has directed four movies in his entire career: Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench; Whiplash (Short Film); Whiplash (Feature length Film); and La La Land. He wrote all these movies, as well as 10 Cloverfield Lane, Grand Piano, and The Last Exorcism Part II. We’re going to ignore his writing career and stick to his directorial work, since that’s what the writer of the article targeting.

    La La Land is most definitely a better film than ALL of Damien’s directorial work. There is an argument to be made over its overall strength when pitted against 2014’s Whiplash, because Whiplash was a really good, but that still doesn’t make La La Land Damien’s “last place” film. Hell, not only did the movie get nominated for 14 Oscars and it got Damien the coveted Best Director award!

    How about this outlandish bit in the article: “La La Land touted as a tribute and sappy fantasy attempt has no designs on Bollywood. If Hollywood lovers wanted to see musicals in dizzying diversity, all they had to do was stream a Bollywood movie.”

    Has no designs on Bollywood?! LMAO. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

    Finally, we have this “But these sadly don’t have the popularity of Whiteness…”

    Of course, it always boils down to race. Black people movies aren’t popular because there aren’t any whiteness in them.

    Actually, that’s a silly fallacy, a cheap excuse that should fall beneath anyone who wants to be taken seriously in this business of movie-article writing. My advice to the author: do you research. Do it well. You might be tempted to respond with a, “but I did my research,” and to that I say, “not well enough. Do it again.”

    Nollywood has its issues, and for whatever reason, those issues work for it, because apparently it makes an awful lot of money. (It’s third biggest movie industry in the world). And as long as there’s money to be made, those issues will never go away. That a Nollywood movie can’t be as popular (for the right reasons) as even the tiniest Hollywood movie is not down to a lack of whiteness; it’s down to an overabundance of crap-ness.

    Bollywood too has its issues. Let’s forget all that dance choreography crap – most Bollywood movies suffer from plot pacing problems. Underneath all that mess is a wonderful story, I’m sure, but it’s still an overall mess, and you can’t dethrone Hollywood’s best if you can’t offer the whole package, not just dancing and singing.

    The good thing is, Bollywood has grown over the years. It used to be worse than Nollywood back in the day, but now its actors and actresses are marketable outside their core audience. They have epic stunts and explosions while Nollywood still can’t give us a convincing car accident scene. They have actors and actresses convincingly method-acting – losing weight and gaining pounds of muscles for movie roles – while OC Ukeje wears the same fucking beard for every role he plays, and Mercy Johnson’s idea of method-acting is shaving her head clean.

    I have a lot of respect for Bollywood. I’m rooting for them. But they’re not quite there yet. Let’s give it a few years.

    Anyway, here ends my response. Christ, this shit is long.

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    1. Osasu Elaiho
      Wow!! This was well written, well articulated and from an obvious avid film lover. I enjoyed reading your comment and it’s always interesting to see varying opinions on the same topic.

      Well done.

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