Did anybody else have a quiet night last night?
Usually, at this time of the roiling year, being the keeper of an arts blog as I am, I try and find some way to acknowledge the Academy Awards. Sometimes I dutifully watch the ceremony, closely analyzing each segment to try and find some sort of larger significance. Sometimes I recount some larger themed event, like an Oscar trivia event (which my team totally won, of course). But this year? Nothing. My Sunday night was spent doing other things, alone at home after a long week, lazily checking the results on social media every once in a while. Beyond that, I just didn’t care.
I don’t seem to be alone here. That Oscars trivia event I mentioned, in whose glory I still insist on basking so many years after the fact? Didn’t take place this year. Most of my friends who traditionally host Oscar parties didn’t do so this year either. On the contrary, a number of my friends made a point of mentioning that they weren’t going to watch this year at all.
Ordinarily, you’d chalk up this sort of disinterest to the movies themselves – perhaps throwing in the claim that the awards bait films were out of touch with what audiences actually wanted to see that year, or what they actually cared about. But that clearly wasn’t the case this year; controversy-stirring nominee Joker earned a billion dollars in box office, at least some of which presumably came from regular paying customers who hadn’t been hired to write a think piece about it. The night’s big winner, Parasite, is full of genius commentary about class and economics. (It’s also freakin’ terrifying and you need to see it now.) Add in all the water cooler discussions we’ve all had about The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and it becomes clear; yes, there may have been the usual share of mediocre and overrated films, but there were enough vital works out there for the movies to matter this year.
And yet, from my admittedly closed-off individual little perspective, it feels like the Oscars don’t matter at all. Even though, in many respects (guys a foreign film won the Best Picture Oscar for the first time in the Academy’s history), the Oscars totally did matter.
Why this malaise?
There were controversies, of course – lack of nominated female directors (and you totally could have nominated female directors, Academy), a dearth of nominated actors of color (when Eddie Murphy as Dolemite was right there, you guys) and so on. Those discussions aren’t going away any time soon.
But we might be.
It’s been a pretty damn grim couple of weeks. (All right, it’s been a pretty damn grim couple of years.) Grim enough that I think we’ve passed the point where the fundamental escapism of movies, and the awards that celebrate them, stop being a necessity and start to become something of a liability. We’re too stressed, too worried, too exhausted to care about who wins what. Which is a shame, because the movies themselves can be the perfect balm for that, the very thing we need to help us engage with the world again.
I recommend this little film called Parasite…