The 2021 Oscar Awards never had a chance.
The pandemic first explains the abandonment of the usual theater, changed by a set similar to marriage-before-the-waltz-begins. But the biggest blow that the covid caused is that many films were not released in theaters, where they have a better chance of generating a runrún: in markets like the United States they only had streaming premieres , where they had to fight and lose with algorithms, and in countries like ours could not be seen anywhere by legal means. Behold the disinterest.
What the pandemic does not explain is the stubbornness of refusing to shorten the ceremony by taking away technical awards that ordinary people do not care about, either by handing them out before television or at a second minor ceremony (like the Emmys do). Nor does the health context explain the elimination of all traces of entertainment. There were not even almost movie clips, replaced by heartfelt presentations that touched the shame of others (Laura Dern had to wash Daniel Kaluuya’s feet on camera for his performance in Judas and the black messiah ). Hollywood’s stellar night ended less cool than the Iris Awards.
In other words, from the point of view of the show it was a very bad year, a year according to what was the pandemic season for the cinema, and nobody disputes it.
But there are other arguments that go more for which films were nominated and which ones won. And here it gets thornier.
In Hearing with the Eyes we chatted last Saturday in the preview together with Emanuel Bremermann, cultural journalist for El Observador , and he proposed that the Oscars are being taken over by “necessary” films, by a “speech cinema” that he is so eager to have a message that forgets to tell a story, more pamphlet than fiction film.
I pick up that stick and specifically direct it against Promising Young Woman , which here, when it arrives, will translate as Beautiful Revenge. It won for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director for Emerald Fennell and Best Actress for Carey Mulligan. It didn’t seem like a bad movie to me, speaking here from subjectivity; I liked its visual aesthetics, I liked Mulligan’s work, I liked narrative devices (the “studs” that mark the chapters, the use of “Angel of the Morning”), I liked the dark twist it takes on the ending. But, and here I change the tread to what I handle best, which is the script, Promising Young Woman he stays on Twitter level arguments, with zero depth, underlining with fluoride what he wants to transmit is not something that some distracted person does not understand (with the scene between the protagonist and the dean as the main culprit), and that in the climax he tries to tie everything down with wire and fails.
Why was it awarded, then? And it’s hard to say, because the Oscars have a gigantic lobbying campaign behind them. The best is not necessarily awarded, at least in the last 30 years, since Harvey Weinstein showed his ugly face and broke the system with an iron fist. The easy answer is that Promising Young Woman has a feminist speech, and if she didn’t win something on Twitter they were going to lynch the Academy voters. It is quite probable. It happens a lot that a film wins an award because “something has to win.”
What I discuss is the notion that the lack of big nominated stars responds solely to an obsession with thoughtful speech and fear of another # OscarsSoWhite. It responds to the fact that movies with big stars were postponed due to the pandemic. It is not that Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and other luminaries will never win again because you have to give space to Minari’s Korean grandmother (who on the other hand is excellent in her role, although from here we were swelling for Maria Bakalova in the Borat sequel ).
And I run that to the side to jump to 2022 and imagine a very colorful and diverse palette of nominees again, with nominated films that talk about racism, feminism and immigration. Without the excuse of the pandemic, would you answer, there yes, to an Academy that lives in a tupper of political correctness, to which quota laws are erasing good cinema to give way only to what “looks good” to award?
The cinema is inseparable from its time, like all artistic production or at least the one that transcends. The Hollywood filmographies of the 70s and 80s are water and oil not only because of the growth of the blockbuster concept that would change the industry forever, but because American society changed and dragged everything with it. Let’s just compare the Rocky (1974) and Rocky IV (1985). The 70s had the Yankee conscience persecuted by the Vietnam War, by high levels of crime in the streets of their cities, they were complicated times, while the 80s are those of Reagan and Maggie, those of triumphalism, those of raising to paroxysm the rhetoric of the Cold War, those of unbridled financial capitalism.
Isn’t it necessary to understand today’s Hollywood in that logic? I return to the Rocky saga : the Creed films , released in 2010, have a black protagonist with Stallone in a supporting role. Is it because of being woke , as they say, that is to say because of progres ? Or is it to explore another story that doesn’t repeat itself too much with Balboa’s?
Or is it that American society has changed and the cinema – even Rocky – reflects it?
Ditto with stories related to feminism or immigration.
There is everything, uh, I do not forget that Disney announced a remake of Cheaper by the dozen with a black family, a crude attempt to make money with the social trend. Still less do I want to remember the plans, clearly canceled, to film a version of Lord of the Flies with girls instead of boys, as if telling the same things with women was enough to win female points. And I’m sure there are other films that manage to get into these issues better than some of the nominees or the recently awarded ones ( Green Book or The Shape of Water come to mind ). Emanuel Bremermann, whom I mentioned earlier, told me about The Assistant, available on Amazon Prime Video, as a counterpart to Promising Young Woman.
At the end of the day, the voters of the Academy are conservative for the most part and will not choose the most controversial options, which are often the most interesting.
But the United States, and by extension the West – it continues to be the beacon even though not everyone likes it – has been immersed in a culture war for some 20 years, exacerbated to generate fears of civil war last January when Trumpist fanatics invaded Congress. Shouldn’t the cinema reflect these social tensions? It seems to me that he can not not show them. And that to accuse him with closed eyes of “political correctness”, whatever that means, is absurd.
My name's Mary Lee, I'm a mom of twins and live in Los Angeles. Now the twins are at school, I can focus on my blog. You will be able to discover articles on lifestyle, hobbies, anything about the home and garden as well as entertainment. I love to write and hope you enjoy what I write....Click to read on