This Sunday will be in Hollywood for the 91st time Oscars were awarded. The next prize season came out as chaotic as never before, and even traditionally reliable indicators (who wins here and will be nominated there, the Oscar) for almost the first time in history do not say anything at all. The recent spate of scandals, from the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag to the shaming of Harvey Weinstein (who was praised more often than God at the Oscar ceremonies), could not help but leave its mark. Noticed by academics and tectonic shifts in the film industry - everything goes to the fact that the streaming giant Netflix will win a handful of golden idols, including the Oscar for the best film of the year (everyone is crazy about Roma). But why dissemble: the organization distributing the figurines is as old as the worst of prejudices, and its relevance is being questioned from year to year. Preparing for the evening in the company of Alfonso Cuarón (nominated five times and doomed to win at least three times), consider the most compelling arguments of the defenders and opponents of the Oscar.
Text: Sergey Stepanov
The variety is there
Admitting 2,000 new members, including sensationally few elderly white men, the Academy opened Pandora's Box, already making possible the sensational triumph of "Moonlight" (a penny indie about the growing up of a gay African American who knocked Hollywood Goliath in the face of "La La Land”) And not stopping there. The current Oscar pool and its most visible category "Film of the Year" is a multifaceted mix full of first-of-its-kind nominees.
The first Netflix delegate, it is also the first film predominantly in Spanish and partly the Mixtec language ("Roma"). The first film by Spike Lee, also nominated for the first time for Best Director ("Black Klansman"). The first adaptation of the comic book, it is also the first movie about superheroes ("Black Panther"). It seems that Pavel Pavlikovsky's Cold War was just a little too short of the nomination, which would make her the first ever candidate for the main Oscar from Eastern Europe. Finally, the ten-nominated Favorite, a quasi-historical farce of the eccentric Greek Yorgos Lantimos (he and Pavlikovsky also received nominations for directing), does not at all look like a conventional contender for the awards.
But the "old school" is not asleep either
Old habits are the most harmful, and the backbone of the Film Academy made it clear that, like baby boomers, it is not so easy to get rid of it. Despite the problems that left noticeable scandalous trails (from accusations of inappropriate or criminal behavior against their authors to clumsy disclosure of key topics), the morally outdated tragicomedy Green Book and the ordinary biopic Bohemian Rhapsody by Freddie Mercury were not left without a heap of nominations.
It is symptomatic that even when academics are guided by theoretically correct considerations, they make highly dubious choices. So, insiders argue that the once favorite "Star is Born" gave up its position to "Bohemian Rhapsody", because the latter supposedly has something to say, and Bradley Cooper's film is just a melodrama. (For nothing that says "Rhapsody" with its mouth full of porridge, while "Zvezda" is a love story for centuries.) However, if the general weakness for "Rhapsody" can also be justified by the number of people who grew up on Queen's songs, then "Green Book" - one of the main mysteries of the prize season. If academics value academic cinema so much, what happened to the technically perfect Man in the Moon?
Think well, better yet, change your mind
Having again changed the producers of the show, puzzled by its steadily falling ratings, the Film Academy tried to accept a number of amendments to the Oscar regulations or decisions designed to cheer up the ceremony itself.The problem is that each of these measures turned out to be stupider than the previous one - so much (and this is also a precedent) that academics were forced to back up every time. Steven Spielberg was rumored to have spoken against the frankly silly idea of the Best Popular Film category (in a year when Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star Is Born and Black Panther were among the leaders of the Oscar race). Last year's winners did not like the proposal to replace last year's winners in the list of presenters, and the idea of excluding the performance of songs that are not hits from the show angered Lady Gaga, who wrote one of them (who - again according to rumors - threatened not to sing her "Shallow").
Finally, the news that the Oscars for Best Cinematography and Editing will be awarded during commercial breaks ran into an open letter signed by Scorsese, Tarantino, Pitt and Clooney, and perhaps not in plain text asking “are you crazy ? ". The tedious fuss with the host (the comedian Kevin Hart approved for this role did not want to apologize for the old homophobic tweets and rejected) against this background - sheer nonsense. One way or another, none of the unpopular resolutions survived until Sunday's ceremony.
But change is clearly overdue
However, this whole circus exposed a couple of really serious problems: the current bosses of the Academy have absolutely no idea of the audience for their own show and, apparently, are in a rather toxic relationship with the broadcasting TV channel ABC, which insists on reducing its regularly flirting with the 4-hour mark. There is a grain of sound in the demands of TV people: Oscars are really long and often boring, but coming up with categories worthy of the Teen Choice Awards, or spitting in the souls of people without which cinema as art is impossible, is not the best possible solution.
It is much more reasonable that, for example, Christopher Tapley from Variety proposes: to make a separate mini-ceremony for authors of short films (as in their time - for seniority awards), to combine two sound categories into one (still very few people understand what's the difference) and arrange ahead of time with Dwayne Johnson's agents to host the next five or six ceremonies. Minus four very few interesting five-minutes, plus a superstar that everyone likes (and maybe even the long-overdue "Oscar" for the best tricks or a stunt ensemble). As for TV, why not keep up with the times and give the ceremony for live streaming on the same Netflix (which is clearly matured before)?
Inertia is a dangerous thing
Another bad habit of the Film Academy is to perceive the victory at the Oscar as joining a certain closed club, guaranteeing for several years not only employment, but also a repetition of the past. This is at least a lazy attitude to the case, because of which Mahershala Ali rushes ahead to the second Oscar in three years (although his role in the Green Book is anything but secondary), but remained unattended for two decades Sam Rockwell receives a second nomination in a row for a trivial role by his standards. So Tom Hooper (The King Speaks!), Brought by the same Weinstein to the director's Oscar, by inertia led to the nominations the unbearable musical Les Miserables, which followed him.
But Oscars are necessary and important
While talking about who to entrust the opening monologue and whether Netflix is choking the cinema, it's no wonder you forget about what, in fact, Oscars are needed for. Ethan Hawke (who, in turn, was not nominated for Outstanding Performance in The Shepherd's Diary) spoke out better than many on this topic in an interview with Empire in March: “Most people are not crazy about movies and watch one or two films a year. The awards act as a curator, suggesting what kind of arthouse cinema these people might be interested in. When the awards go to an indie film, it's like winning a duel with the system.And when a movie like Boyhood or A Shepherd's Diary wins the system, it’s a miracle.”
Oscar ratings will fall until Netflix (which does not share its ratings) starts showing them, because - surprise - even Super Bowl ratings have been falling in recent years. But the Oscars are needed also then, why is the Super Bowl (or the Olympics, or the New Year) needed. This is the last point of an important cycle for many, and those who still watch them are not interested in the name of the presenter or the distribution fate of this or that film. For them - and there are still millions of them - it is a holiday.
Photos: Netflix, FOX, WDSSPR