By Jack Salvadori
Once upon a time, the Academy Awards used to be a valuable and historical establishment – the film of the year was publicly acknowledged as the one award that attained the Oscar, and it would be remembered as such in the future because of its prestigious recognition. Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore, as the Oscars chose to lapse their status in favour of mere socio-political stanzas.
Last year, the media boycotted the ceremony using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, tackling the diversity issue in Hollywood, and particularly attacking the lack of black nominees. A movement that soon became a fashion, involving hundreds of celebrities who proudly shared the phony contempt. Only three years ago, Nyong’o, Ejiofor and Abdi all won acting nominations, and in the past couple of decades, Foxx, Freeman and Whitaker have won Best Actor. According to The Economist, during the current century, 10% of the Academy’s acting nominations have been awarded to black actors, and 13% of the US population are African-American, Therefore, it has been balanced so far, and if last year Will Smith and Idris Elba did not deserve the nominations for their mediocre interpretations, it is not a case of racism. The Academy’s choices have been limited, because if there are not many good films with a minorities-formed casting, it is not the Academy’s fault, but rather the film industry itself.
However this year, in order to avoid another controversy, the 89th Academy Awards pandered to the public misinformation. A ceremony unjustifiably apologizing for last year’s accusations, and robotically forcing at least one black nominee in every single category, reaching its peak having 4 out of 5 documentaries about black-related subject-matters. And in the end, after the pitiful staging of the wrong envelope, the Oscar went to… Moonlight, the greatest Oscar-bait in history. A poorly-rated movie carefully designed to get the award, about the story of a young✔, black✔, gay man✔, struggling with poverty✔ and drug addiction✔, told across three decades✔ and based on a play✔. What a surprise that it gained the Oscar for ‘Best Film’.
However, the greatest winner of the night was La La Land, the nostalgic musical that – out of the record-tying14 nominations – managed to achieve 6, almost 7 awards, considering that the Oscar for Best Film was wrongly assigned to it for a few minutes. Referencing romantic musical icons of the past to create the illusion of charm, Damien Chazelle, the youngest Oscar winning film director, made a film about egoism, where love is sacrificed for aspiration. It must have been a comfort for the Academy’s voters to see the characters’ selfish choices, as many of them will have followed a similar path, and that is possibly the reason why they felt so connected to the film.
When ‘art’ is sacrificed for politics, it is no longer worthy of attention. When cinema is turned into an ephemeral message, art does not belong to it anymore. It is the praise of commercialism – it’s transforming a potential art into a money industry. I personally wonder how it can be taken seriously as an institution that snubbed the real best films of the year, arrogantly excluding Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals and Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden, as they were not conformed to the message they aimed to spread.
Image courtesy of Focus Features