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At Least They’re Trying…

Is that what I’m supposed to say after watching the 2020 Oscar ceremony?

It wouldn’t be false.  They did try…in that “I’m clueless to the real issue at hand, so something is better than nothing” kinda way.  Or are they even that clueless?  It’s hard to tell these days.  The internet’s ever expanding ability to pull up lost receipts (and our ability to retrieve said information) has created a turmoil that’s shifting a great many things.  It’s not always easy to form an opinion with all that information at our fingertips.

Janelle Monae and Billy Porter performing at the 92nd Academy Awards.

Do I take what I watched at the Oscars at face value or do I read deeper into what I’m watching?  I think there are problems regardless of the approach I take.  Janelle Monae and Billy Porter, members of the LGBTQ+ community, performed in front of dancers dressed as characters from great films that didn’t even sniff an Oscar nom.  Is their inclusion a real attempt, or is it simply a desire to placate the “woke” masses?

Actors and comedians alike jabbed at the Academy all night.  Some of it was scripted and some of it wasn’t.  Do I commend the Academy for taking this critical drubbing like a real man?  Is it a smokescreen to hide the glaring inequity of this most glamorous of popularity contests? 

Idina Menzel sang “Into the Unknown” from Frozen 2, along with an international roster of Elsa voice artists – in their own languages even!  Genuine?  Or smokescreen?

Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/. Bong Joon-ho holds the Oscars for best original screenplay, best international feature film, best directing, and best picture for “Parasite” at the Governors Ball after the Oscars, at th.e Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles 92nd Academy Awards

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the night (if you aren’t a movie snob or member of a film forum), Bong Joon-Ho and his film Parasite nabbed four of the biggest awards of the evening.  Well deserved, but it was also a departure for the Academy.  Was this another attempt at inclusion?  Did the Academy members even watch it?  Word on the street says Academy members don’t even check for all the nominated films.  Just ask J Lo and Adam Sandler about that.

I could go on about every detail of this ceremony, but it all amounts to the same thing: is it genuine or is it fake?  What distresses me about this question is what the Academy has done to earn my distrust.  When a year of strong film contenders yields a number of ethnic nominees I can count on one hand and absolutely zero female directing nominees, I don’t have to guess.  The evidence is as clear as day.  This is business as usual, and the Academy members are at fault.  There’s really only one question that remains on my mind.  How does the problem get solved if the members are the problem?  Here we are, screaming from the outside to be let in – and there they are, oblivious to the real issue at hand and most likely ill equipped to devise a solution.

Should we even want to be let in, though?  These days the idea of representation is to gender swap some characters and change the ethnicity of others.  These days, representation is to pander to a certain group without real thought or purpose behind the action except to sell tickets.  That’s not the representation I need or desire.  You can keep that.  You can keep your LGBTQ+ performers and your special needs presenters (shout out to Zack Gottsagen). You can keep your politically-woke speeches and sly digs at the Academy.  Until these awards represent what I’m truly seeing in my local movie theaters and my favorite indie spots, they’ll continue to earn my mistrust.  All of that noise is misguided at best, and insulting no matter which way you slice it.

My basketball coach would always yell at us between jump shots and wind sprints.  “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, he would say.  You might have meant to do it, but you didn’t…so nothing has changed.  I hope the Oscars felt the heat lapping at their heels after this one.  If not, there’s going to be something else that comes along and renders them obsolete.  Cultural shift is a pendulum.  It was way off to one side for as long as we can remember.  #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite are tipping it back to the other side.  I can’t wait to see what equilibrium looks like.  The current Academy members might not get that chance.

About the Author
An aspiring screenwriter and all around good guy who has dedicated himself to the infinite pursuit of true objectivity - except when it comes to the cool stuff. A love of motorsports explains his positive Fast and Furious scores. He laments the fact that the strongest storytelling is currently told through streaming media and video games. He wants his cinema back! But being the flexible guy he is, has invited people back on his lawn.

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