I love movies. When I was in summer camp in middle school, the camp counselors would take us to movies during the heat of the day. The local movie theatre ran discount shows during off-peak times for large groups. We would all climb into the summer camp van for a 10:00 AM showing of movies like All Dogs Go to Heaven, An American Tail, and Milo and Otis. In the dark of the cool theatre, I would laugh, gasp, and hold back tears while choking down a big roll of Sprees. I loved every minute of it.
To me, the best thing about film – as with great literature and art, too – is the empathy it nurtures. At their core, movies let us experience someone else’s life: good, bad, weird. The best movies make you feel like you’re in deep. For example, when Artax was lost to the Swamps of Sadness, it was one of the worst moments of my 7-year-old life.
So of course I love watching the Oscars, self-congratulatory though they are. It’s the movies brought into reality, glittering and in a good mood. The inane red carpet commentary, the fake tans and ridiculous gowns, the bombastic speeches, the goofy elation of the winners, the losers trying to swallow the bitter taste of defeat.
However, even though excited going in, by ceremony’s end I always feel deflated by its lack of greatness.
It’s no secret that the Oscars have been gradually losing their authority for what feels like decades now. What was once the preeminent event for writers, actors, directors, and others in the industry has become a shadow of its former self. The Oscars are the Norma Desmond of awards shows, applying smudged lipstick in a cracked mirror, mumbling. They no longer appear to hold the key to excellence, and therefore no longer seem to know what to do with themselves.
So what’s wrong exactly? Thank you for asking. I have a few feelings on that.
The Oscars no longer honor very good movies.
This isn’t really the fault of the Oscars per se, but a fault of Hollywood in general. Remember when movies were more adult?
Movies have always catered to 18- to 34-year-old White males, but at least they used to skew toward the latter part of that range. Remember some of the movies from the ‘90s? Movies like LA Confidential, Gladiator, Schindler’s List, Fargo, American Beauty, JFK, Fight Club, The Usual Suspects?
These movies were about adults with adult problems. In the ‘90s alone, Kevin Spacey had to juggle his secret identities, Keyser Soze and Rolo Tomassi; got shot by his tortured neighbor; and stuffed Gwyneth Paltrow’s head into a box. Things were serious.
But now it’s all YA book adaptations, Pixar, and comic books. That’s not to say these categories don’t include great movies; they do. It means that production companies interested in making movies, driven by the bottom line, are less likely to take risks on more unique projects.
So that leaves slim pickings for the Academy. Once associated with prestige, the Oscars now uplift such movies as Silver Linings Playbook, which was, despite some good performances, more contrived than an episode of Saved By the Bell. Compare that to another movie about mental illness and falling in love, Awakenings, nominated for Best Picture in 1990.
(You can’t. You can’t compare because there’s no comparison. Movies are getting worse. Sad trombone.)
The academy is supposed to skim the cream from the top. The movies they choose to nominate make more money, reach more audiences. In turn, that finances better quality movies in the future. Instead, desperate to keep up, they’ve traded in their art house and intellectual cache for a ticket to a One Direction concert.
The ceremony runs too long.
I don’t know what to say here except that I have to get up at 7 AM for work, and I’m not a morning person. Waiting until the end of the program to get to the best categories, which then pushes the ceremony past midnight, is cruel.
The entire thing is too predictable.
Remember when this happened?
Things like that don’t happen anymore because the Academy no longer honors riskier material and crazy geniuses. They shy away from provocation and controversy. Booooooooring. Is this not art? Are we not to be entertained? LET SHIT HAPPEN.
Perhaps the worst part of the Oscars is that everybody already knows who’s going to win. Several outlets make it a yearly ritual to predict the winners. And you know what? They’re mostly right. And that’s not OK. It shouldn’t be this easy to judge the judges.
Not only that, but the ceremony itself will be an unsurprising echo of the ones before it. I’m so confident in this that I will make a few predictions of my own:
- Someone will be really offended when the music cuts off his/her acceptance speech.
- Someone will drop the F-bomb.
- A dead person will be left out of the In Memorium portion, and then someone will be upset at this omission. (Probably not the dead person.)
- Someone will act shocked when they win, even though we all knew it would happen.
- Someone will mention Meryl Streep during his/her acceptance speech. It’s the new “I would like to thank God, my family…”
- The host will insult-joke someone in the audience, and there will be uncomfortable laughter.
- Anne Hathaway will win and say something that will cause me to have second-hand embarrassment for her.
Knowing all of this already, why should I watch? I could be getting 300% of my daily boob intake by finishing Game of Thrones, Season 2, on Netflix.
Look, I don’t have all the answers. (I know. I KNOW.) However, I do have a few suggestions that might improve the overall juju of this once-glorious juggernaut.
- Stop being racist, you racists.
- Be choosy. That means being brave. Go out on a limb with new directors trying unique things. Stop honoring movies that won’t stand the test of time. If it looks like a Movie of the Week, it doesn’t deserve to be at the Academy Awards. (*cough* Crash *cough*. I’m still bitter about Brokeback Mountain.)
- Cut out the song and dance numbers. This isn’t musical theatre. In fact, in order to improve the energy overall, cut out a lot of stuff. Narrow it down to the 10 biggest categories and do the rest of the awards off-screen.
- Show us longer clips from the nominated movies. Because this. This is why we’re here. Remember?
- Bring in Chris Rock to host. Or Tina Fey. Or Amy Poehler. Or Louis CK. Or all four. Just get someone funny. Geez. Because when the jokes fall flat… erp. The horror. THE HORROR.
- Let people speak for a longer amount of time. The speeches are the best part. But first: serve alcohol.
- Make the President of the Academy rap his/her speech to make it entertaining. Otherwise, this is the most dangerously masturbatory part of the evening, when the Academy congratulates itself on continuing to exist.
- Give Leo an Oscar already.
- Good god, let other people win every once in a while! Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis have so many Oscars between them that their middle names are now legally Oscar! You realize that Daniel Day-Lewis is a pod person, right?
Sorry, method actor. So how would he get into character to play a murderer? Hm.
- Focus on the losers more frequently. They make the best faces.
- Linger on the more interesting people in the audience.
- Create new categories. How about: Best Ugly Crying Scene? Or: Best Use of Sarcasm? Best Acting by a Non-Human Animal. Best Non-Dialog Writing. Best Acting Alongside a CGI Character. Best Burp Sequence. Best Imitation of Meryl Oscar Streep. I don’t know! This is your job, Academy.
- Just be amazing. OK?
I love movies. I love what they can teach us, what experiences they let us have, what they can do for humanity. And it’s sad to me that the one institution we rely on to elevate the best kinds of movies has faltered over the years.
So c’mon, Oscar. I’ll be watching tonight, as I always do, with hope in my heart.