Review: Oscar struggles reflect a hollow industry

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David Jones, multimedia editor

The Academy Awards offer so much: unmatched pageantry, mind-boggling star power, rich people wearing nice things and a reason to get your friends together, among other things.

While enjoying lots of celebrities on camera for four whole hours is all well and good, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Oscars are unimportant. They merely feign importance. Their recent struggles directly reflect an industry plagued by the need to please everyone, no matter how disingenuous they have to be to do it.

Much has been made of the PR dumpster fire that has been the development of the 2019 awards show. First was the introduction of the “Best Popular Film” category, an ill-fated attempt by AMPAS to draw in more general audience viewers who may not catch the usual Oscar-fare which was quickly retracted after an uproar by the film community.

After that, they announced Kevin Hart as the host which was also quickly retracted after many years old homophobic jokes resurfaced on his twitter account with the Academy eventually deciding to go hostless.

Most recently, the Academy announced they would not air the awards for cinematography, film editing, live action short and makeup and hairstyling. Conspiracy theories sprang up as these categories were some of the few without a nomination for any ABC-affiliated films.

The omissions of cinematography and film editing in particular drew outrage from seemingly the whole of the filmmaking community with several prominent directors such as Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro voicing their disapproval of the decision, so like always, they quickly retracted the decision and decided to air all twenty four award winners.

All of these choices illuminate that, to ABC and AMPAS, this is more than an awards show. It is a television broadcast, and they want to draw in those viewers. After last year’s Oscars broadcast drew the lowest numbers in years, the powers that be have turned into people pleasers.

It is a reflection of how the industry at large has shifted to crowd-pleasing blockbusters with nine digit budgets. Rather than find creative ways to appeal to audiences, they have shifted to attempting to please the lowest common denominator of viewer that they can without abandoning their base of filmmakers.

The Oscars have also drawn flack for many of the films nominated. In particular, “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Both were showered with award nominations which didn’t sit well with the film community. An inflammatory tweet regarding muslims on 9/11 by “Green Book” writer Nick Vallelonga recently surfaced which caused uproar especially in light of his film’s narrative of racial acceptance and harmony and also supporting actor Mahershala Ali’s very open muslim faith.

This is all after the film has been widely accused of pushing a hollow ‘white saviour’ narrative that is more interested in making white viewers feel good about themselves than make any meaningful points on race relations.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” has similarly been accused of being hollow in its portrayal of Queen as it glosses over Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and its major role in his life and career in a disrespectfully non-explicit way. This critique has become inflammatory in the light of recent bombshell reports revealing many pedophilia accusations against the once director, Bryan Singer.

Singer is no longer listed as the director, however, it is well-known that he was heavily involved with the production before being fired during the shooting of the film. Regardless, it is his vision from pre-production and he is still receiving checks from the film’s continued commercial success that isn’t being halted in any way by its awards run. Being that Singer is accused of molesting many young boys on sets, something that has been rumored for many years, the film’s lax portrayal of Mercury’s sexuality becomes extra insulting. On top of that, the film did not fare well among film critics leaving many to speculate that its inclusion in the Best Picture conversation was a plot to use the film’s commercial success to draw in viewers.

This terrible run of PR for the Oscars is an indictment on just how fake the showrunners and in turn, the big wigs of the film industry at large can be. ABC’s weak attempts at making the show more accessible to a large number of viewers at the expense of the hard working members of the industry show how money-hungry these broadcasters can be. The championing of films like “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” show just how hollow Hollywood’s attempts at social justice and truly meaningful dialogue can be. It is a terrible look for an industry in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein and the Time’s Up movement.

What is important to remember in this situation is that the Oscars are awards given out by a voting body of people. They are inherently imperfect. They awards are opinions, and while they are fun for the pageantry and the deserved spotlight some industry workers get, they aren’t a staple of what is and isn’t a good film. Each year,  films get overlooked by the Academy that are later cemented as seminal works in film history. Enjoy the show with your friends, but don’t put too much stock in them because ultimately, they do not matter.