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.
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.