By Peyton Sanders
This past Oscar ’s Sunday, Chris Rock provided good-natured ridicule that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needed to hear accompanied with several exceptionally awkward moments and even some heartwarming surprises to end the night. That is until we realize how superfluous the Oscar season really is and recognize the superficial significance put upon the film industry during award season.
All but airing on the side of caution, Chris Rock delivered a brief but piercing monologue acknowledging the white elephant in the room and continuing light-hearted mockery between awards throughout the night. Some interactive fun was also had. As a counter-gimmick to Ellen DeGeneres’s star-studded selfie two years prior, Rock gathered a group of Girl Scouts from the Los Angeles area and raised over 65K from selling to those in the audience (who could afford it). Then, there was an introduction of Academy’s Diversity Outreach Coordinator Stacey Dash that left The Weekend cringing and hiding behind soft chuckles.
But that was the show; the awards themselves were, above all, predictable and unnecessary.
It’s a nice feeling when we see someone awarded for his or her work in any craft. They often get emotional, thank their parents or loved ones, and regularly provide political critiques. And during the plethora of vanity expressed by these heavily overpaid actors, our blinders are put on and we don’t realize how many other (more qualified) films and actors didn’t gather the appreciation of such an antique establishment.
But let’s face it; the collection of Academy voters is an innate representation of homogeneity. The movies that do get recognized at the Oscars benefit from precise marketing strategies from their respective studios and the selective awareness of few individuals nearing or past middle age.
This is akin to the old white men in charge of the rating system sitting on the board at the Motion Picture Association of America.
There is an economic drive behind avoiding inclusion of less-marketable independent films that only receive proper recognition years down the road or from independent award shows. Often times, those films in the Foreign Film category have more of a right to be in the Best Picture category. The films in there now are “safe bets” appealing to a common denominator and simply came to theaters at the proper time of year. The intellectually superior films of the year represent a threat to such an establishment because they are not shrouded in the collective identity of the films that make money. It also hinders the possibility for true diversity among films.
Hollywood is an establishment by the numbers that will recognize the opinions of only a select few who hold the power.
This applies across the board to even our election system in America. Are the candidates up there today what this country actually needs? Or are they a communal representation of a predetermined opinion? My vote is for the latter. But these presidential candidates benefit from appropriate branding that appeals to large crowds because that’s how you get votes. As much as people like to romanticize about Sanders and Trump being counterbalances to the status quo and that’s why people vote for them, they are nothing but the result of highly intentional marketing strategies and people are not going for candidates that arguably deserve to win because they lack the resources to garner recognition. So voting for third party candidates or not voting at all might actually get the message across.
It isn’t extreme to advocate for avoiding popular film titles during the year and research films before you see them. The amount of money we pay for a ticket should be spent on a worthy film. If you smoke cigarettes and are trying to switch to gum, why would you continue to smoke? It’s cold turkey logic.
Flat lines tend to change things. Not heartbeats.
Hollywood is a system that relies on regularity to increase profits. In this regard, Academy Awards are essentially decided months in advance before the votes are even cast. But we, as consumers of film, hold the real power because we hold the money. It does take an effort on our part to look for films with considerably less advertising and substantially more depth but going out of our way to give these films our dollars