Semi-Obligatory Post-Oscars Blog Post

I had it
all planned out.  I was going to go to an
Oscar-themed trivia event with my fearsome trivia team, and use that as the
hook for the semi-obligatory post-Oscars blog post.  I would have gone after Hollywood’s Biggest
Night for being out of touch with American tastes, demographics, and realities
by coining the hashtag #OscarsSoTrivial, and everything would have been
terrifically satirical and witty.  But
then my fellow teammates wound up getting stranded out of town, scuttling that
brilliant plan.

instead, I returned to my Bronx apartment to watch the telecast by myself,
figuring I could post a detailed, insightful analysis of the telecast.  But just as Chris Rock’s already legendary
monologue began, my digital antenna conked out. 
So as he lit into the systemic benign racism of the film industry, I was
only able to make out isolated words through a fog of broken pixels.

around this point that I began to wonder why I was even bothering.  It’s the same argument we have with ourselves
every year at Oscar time – why watch a bloated, self-congratulatory, frequently
cringe-inducing ceremony simply for the sake of saying that we saw it?  Especially when the industry it’s celebrating
keeps on demonstrating shocking tone-deafness towards crucial aspects of the
society it’s attempting to entertain – race in America, gender in America, any
political outlook beyond a narrow set of comfortable platitudes?  And when that industry only ever notices a
slight fraction of the vast amount of work its artists are making?

(These two
things are linked, but the way.  Take one
example, the failure to nominate Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation which seemed to crystalize the whole
#OscarsSoWhite backlash.  I’ve lost track
of the number of conversations I’ve seen among industry insiders in which they
say they didn’t know whether they could nominate him in the first place, given
the digital distribution deal that was in place for the film.  Expect to see this more and more, as
non-traditional means of distribution become the means for more and more
diverse voices to get their films out to the public, disrupting the traditional
filmmaking model in the process.  Since
the Academy exists to celebrate and defend that model, the films it celebrates
are bound to get less and less diverse as it circles its wagons, even when this
doesn’t reflect the beliefs of the individual members.)

And yet –
what became clear from the bits of the telecast my malfunctioning antenna
allowed me to see was that this was far and away the best ceremony in some
time.  People love to mock celebrities
for embracing trendy causes, but nothing about this year’s telecast seemed the
least bit trendy or shallow.  This
ceremony mattered to the people on
stage this year.  Representation
mattered.  Issues mattered.  The state of our nation mattered. 

believe it or not, the Oscars really do matter, petty and trivial though they
frequently are.  They don’t make a movie
great – indeed they have an alarming habit of ignoring greatness – but they
provide a starting point for people searching for greatness.  Many is the budding student of film history
who starts out with a book of past winners as a way of starting that lifelong
conversation.  This year, a whole slew of
other conversations managed to become part of the ceremony as well; hopefully
they won’t end now that the show is over, and Chris Rock’s daughters’ Girl
Scout cookies are being happily consumed.

Plus Mad Max won a whole bunch of stuff, so
that’s pretty cool.

Leave a Reply