Well, another Oscar season has come to an end. I’m going to take one day off from thinking about the Oscars and then, once March begins, it’ll be time to start speculating about what will win next year.
Like the majority of our readers, I just finished watching the 88th Academy Awards. It was an interesting ceremony. It was strange. It was full of moments that made me cringe. And, at the same time, there were a few moments that left me feeling very inspired. Clocking in at 3 hours and 30-something minutes, it was neither the worst nor the best Oscar telecast that I’ve ever watched. (My favorite remains the ceremony that was hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway. It was such a fun disaster.) On twitter, people seem to think that it was either the greatest or the worst thing ever. I am one of the few to think that it actually fell somewhere in the middle.
Let’s talk about the awards. Going into this, I was hoping there would be a few upsets and there were. Unfortunately, few of them were upsets that I was particularly looking forward to. For instance, Mark Rylance won best supporting actor for Bridge of Spies and, no offense meant to Rylance, but it was hard not to wish that the award had instead gone to Creed‘s Sylvester Stallone. Stallone, no matter what you may think of the majority of his films, is a cinematic icon and this was probably his last chance to win an Oscar. Rylance, meanwhile, seems to be destined to being the actor you call when you can’t get Richard Jenkins.
And then there was Best Original Song. I, for one, am still stunned that the song from SPECTRE was even nominated. But then it actually won the Oscar! And, in doing so, it defeated Lady Gaga’s anthem of survival and strength, Til It Happens To You. Lady Gaga’s performance of Til It Happens To You was definitely one of the show’s highlights. Not even the presence of our long-winded, gropey Vice President could diminish the strength and power of that performance. Just imagine what a great moment it would have been if that performance had been followed by Til It Happens To You actually winning the Oscar.
I got really excited when, early on, Mad Max: Fury Road started to win all of the technical awards. Oh my God, I thought, what if Mad Max actually wins Best Picture!? That would be a game changer as far as the future of the Oscars is concerned…
But then Alejandro Inarritu won best director and gave his typical sermon. And then Leonardo DiCaprio won best actor and used it as an excuse to lecture us all about global warming. And I started to dread the idea of The Revenant winning best picture and having to sit through another speech from either of these two undeniably talented gentlemen. But then, after being shut out for most of the night, Spotlight won best picture. The producers ran up on stage and started to lecture the Vatican…
It’s a strange victory. Spotlight won a total of two Oscars. Mad Max won six Oscars. The Revenant won three. The Big Short and Room took one. Though the vote totals are never released, I’m going to guess it was a very close race.
I have to admit that I always cringe a little whenever the Oscars get political because celebrities, on the whole, tend to be flaky. And, often times, they lecture everyone else without bothering to look at or modify any of their own behavior. Frequently, it leads to a hypocrisy on their part that, over the years, has tarnished some very worthy causes. It’s not surprising that the 88th Academy Awards were extremely political. A lot of people said a lot of things but did they actually understand what they were saying or were they just playing another role? That’s the question I always ask whenever a celeb says to vote this way or that.
I have to admit that I got kind of bored with Chris Rock trying to get people to buy girl scout cookies. But, let’s give credit where credit is due. Chris Rock called the film industry out on its own bullshit as far as diversity is concerned. He told the self-congratulatory Academy audience that they too were capable of being racists and, even watching on TV, you could feel the tension in the room. This was the epitome of speaking truth to power and good for Chris Rock for going there and, hopefully, making everyone in that audience feel a little bit uncomfortable.
And yet, at the same time, it was hard not to feel that it won’t make much of a difference. The assembled members of the Academy applauded whenever a presenter or a winner called for diversity but, in the end, are they going to do anything more than applaud? Watching the show, I imagine that most of the rich white people in the theater were thinking to themselves, “Chris isn’t talking about us. He’s talking about those other rich white people.”
What’s the solution to the industry’s diversity problem? Well, the first thing that would have to happen would be for the industry to admit that it has a problem and that’s never going to happen. The mainstream American film industry is too high on its own rhetoric to ever take an honest look at itself. Instead, studio execs and producers are always going to put the blame on “those other white people.”
There are so many stories out there waiting to be told. At some point, the industry is going to have to stop bragging about how they tolerant they are and instead help those unique and interesting stories to be told. Out there right now, there are people of every race, gender, religion, and political ideology who have a story to tell. At some point, if the film industry really wants to change, it’s going to have to start seeking out those stories and giving those storytellers a chance. At some point, those in industry are going to have to stop bragging about how much they donated to which campaign and actually put their rhetoric into action.
Until then, it’s going to take a lot more than merely giving Chris Rock a standing ovation to truly bring diversity to the film industry.
Did anyone else find it weird that the show ended with “Fight the Power” being played over pictures of wealthy white people accepting awards? I don’t think the show’s producers really considered what that would look like.
Anyway, that concludes this Oscar season! It was an exciting one and I can hardly wait for a new one to begin!