The Oscar race, like much of Hollywood and the entertainment industry and the political Left of this country are caught up in an existential crisis that is causing mass firings, abject fear, forced statements, institutional disruptions all designed to dismantle the greatest fear that has been named: systemic racism. Whatever your feelings are about that term, what you think it means there is no doubt that it has become not unlike a fundamentalist religion. You must be on board or youll be ejected.
The richer and whiter you are the more likely you are to see it as giving you a sense of purpose, like Born Again Christians felt back in the 1970s their faces awash in bliss now that theyve discovered lifes true meaning. And you dont get richer and whiter than the people in power in the film industry. Nothing matters quite as much as maintaining their image through this ongoing storm. That means theyll dump anyone to salvage their brand.
Most people in the press on the Left wont talk about what is plainly obvious to everyone who covers it. They cant, really. They have to write in support of all of it. They have to be good white allies because they cant risk their reputation on Twitter, or in some cases, their livelihood. The fear is real. Its so real that there isnt anything any kind of opinion, any kind of feeling that can override it.
We arent living through a time where voters are going to decide on the best. It isnt going to be about the best. The truth is that it never has been. It has always been about what resonates emotionally with the greatest number of people.
How do we usually measure that? Prior to COVID shutting down theaters, we had the free market that decided. When you look at films put out by movie studios that are clearly aimed at the international market to make those insane billions theyre making now you can see how the last thing they need to worry about is how woke the movies are. In general, audience, especially International ones, dont care. Theyll pretty much watch anything and they arent as caught up in this sense of purity that Americans perpetually are. There is a reason we had a witch hunt in Salem in 1692. And a reason we had another one in Hollywood in the 1940s. We are a new country trying to build mini utopias. Older countries kind of been there, done that like centuries ago.
The wave of the born again wokeness religion isnt limited to the US it has spilled over to France and England, much to their own horror. Yes, theyre trying to dismantle the memory of Charles Darwin and Winston Churchill for offensive things they believed back when, you know, everyone believed those offensive things? But the wokeness religion isnt really about forgiveness. Hey, at least Christianity is down with forgiveness, ideally. But America learned back in 1692 that an event like the Salem hysteria was easier at a time when the only education was the Bible and no one had any lawyers, or due process. Spectral evidence was good enough. If an 11-year-old girl thought the woman who delivered her milk every Sunday was a witch because she came to her in a dream? Who was anyone to say differently. She would have to hang. Oh, she could confess to being a witch and be allowed to live as a witch but you must swap your life, one way or the other. To George Orwell, in 1984, his greatest novel ever written, he makes the statement that if you take away free thought, love, art, books, music, history you might as well be dead.
Oscar voters, and industry voters overall, still want to be seen as good in our newest rendition of an American utopia (which is destined to collapse like a house of cards because they all do eventually). They will be voting that way. Maybe one or two wins will be based on what they REALLY think but overall they will want to be sending a message that they are aware and on board with upending systemic racism in the Academy and Hollywood.
Here is the statement put out by publicists to the HFPA to make sure they make necessary changes to their membership, etc.
In the last decade our industry has faced a seismic reckoning and begun to address its failure to reflect and honor the diversity of our community, yet we have witnessed no acceptance of responsibility, accountability or action from the HFPA, even as systemic inequity and egregious behavior are allowed to continue. We collectively and unequivocally agree that transformative change in your organization and its historical practices is essential and entirely achievable. We want to be part of the solution.
To reflect how urgent and necessary we feel this work is, we cannot advocate for our clients to participate in HFPA events or interviews as we await your explicit plans and timeline for transformational change.
I thought about how the HFPA nominated Ava DuVernay for Best Director for Selma and how they nominated Regina King for Best Director for One Night in Miami and how neither the DGA nor the Oscars has ever nominated a black female director and I find all of this a little ironic, but okay. In response, the HFPA has committed because everyone knows how badly the HFPA needs access to clients as opposed to, you know, the clients needing access to them and their votes to inviting enough members so that black voters comprise 13% of their membership. Theyre going to have find new members who can be down with the unorthodox practices of the group and that is going to be no easy task.
What they are hoping for, however, out of this is really just good press they, like the publicists, like the industry just want to be seen as good.
Without the free market box office doesnt talk. This has made almost everyone who covers film on Twitter giddy with delight, as Neil Minnow said, because, Were seeing a lot more diversity partly because the normative white male blockbusters had to step aside last year.
Box still drives power in Hollywood both in front of and behind the camera. Everyone knows that releasing a film that made $100 million is a pretty decent calling card, at least it always has been in the past. Before the Oscars became an extremely insular bubble, box office used to drive Best Picture contenders. But my readers know because I have been writing about the evolution for the last 20 years, two things have happened at once: film studios gave themselves over to franchises and tentpoles, and the Oscar race pinched itself off from that and evolved into its own species where films are made and catered to a mostly elite group of critics and bloggers and people who live in New York and LA. The public no longer mattered and so box office no longer mattered.
What Big Corporate has now realized is that what the Left cares about isnt the class differences. They know that if they virtue signal that they are woke they can sell anything. They can destroy any rain forest. They can torture any animal. They can put out any junk. They can put out junk food but as long as they put a woke message on it as it sails through American culture, they will be mostly left alone. This is true in all aspects of American life where money is involved. Big money. Fuck you money. Some might call this pandering but you can call it whatever you want. The bottom line is that this is what defines the Oscars now. They are still part of the massive money making of Hollywood but they are still dressed up to signify what Hollywood stands for. And what that will stand for this year, without exception, will be how on board they are with firsts.
First female of color to win Best Director and Best PictureFirst Asian male nominated for Best ActorFirst time since the 1970s two Black Actresses were nominated for Best Actress (and both times one of the two nominees played Billie Holiday.)First time two women are up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay.
And on it will go. That is about as good of branding as Hollywood could hope for. They can still do whatever they want, make whatever movies they want to make and the market wont determine the success or failure of their movies. They do not care about the market where the Oscars are concerned. They used to, of course, but they dont.
That makes the Oscars, then, really not a process that is about a competition to find the best. First off, you have to define best and you cant. It is a matter of what people feel about what they are watching.
The surreal part of it, along with so much that has happened in the past year, the Oscars and the industries that feed into them are singularly aimed at the American Left. They simply do not even consider anyone else out there exists nor would they care if they did. Thus, they are inviting millions of Americans not to watch their show already, even before you get to the kinds of movies on offer or the virtual ceremony. We are going into this knowing there is a good chance they will see their worst ratings ever. But it does not appear that the Academy cares about ratings, just as they dont appear to care about movies that would appeal to a wider array of tastes.
Im not going to tell you its going to be a fun next few weeks. Or that whatever changes made this year arent going to be cosmetic and self-serving maybe they will be, maybe they wont be. If the job of the Oscars and the film awards community is going to be righting the wrongs of society or political activism I think they can say theyve succeeded there. This year will show what an Oscars without free market considerations looks like. Maybe that is what they ultimately want from these awards as they edge ever so closely to their centennial.
I can say that the films and contenders nominated are all really good and really deserving. There isnt a weak film in the bunch. Will there be mounting controversies? Maybe. Im preparing my shit storm raincoat just in case.
Originally posted here:
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