We don’t talk about (the) Oscar(s)

By Caroline Palermo, Staff Writer

I have a love-hate relationship with the Academy Awards: a mix of admiration and utter distaste for the film award show that supposedly recognizes the best performances, films and productions of the year. 

Sometimes, the Academy gets it — like with 2020’s Best Picture winner Parasite. Other years, they decide Crash is the best film for some reason. I did not watch this year’s award show, though that did not seem to affect the increase in views this year. 

Regardless, in the past five years, the Academy has nearly half the viewership it once recorded. This is, in part, is a combination of the Academy’s own confused identity and moral values. 

This year saw several interesting choices. For one, they made the decision to cut eight other categories from the live broadcast for a more “friendly” viewership. These categories were Documentary Short, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Production Design, Animated Short, Live Action Short and Sound. 

“The new plan will allow more time for comedy, film clips and musical numbers,” Academy President David Rubin wrote. 

And of course, we all needed a live performance of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” You know, the song that was not nominated at the Academy Awards this year? But, of course, this performance was a necessity; after all, why would anyone care about the other categories that have actual nominees in them? 

The Oscars used to be this one-night-only event where you could see all of your favorite stars in one place, a once-a-year phenomenon that you could not miss. Yet, in an era where we can find these same celebrities on social media on a daily basis, this same spectacle is ordinary. If the pandemic was any indicator, the majority of the public is sick of celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio lecturing us on the importance of climate change while flying there in a private jet.

Make no mistake: there has always been a disconnect between these stars and the public. However, the introduction of social media has managed to stress it to a larger degree. This disconnect goes beyond social media, though. 

The struggle for the Academy to figure out their identity in this modern age has proved to be a continuous issue for them. While they claim they’re recognizing the best of the best in film, their actions of cutting categories from view time to supposedly please the general public contradicts this greatly. You don’t need to be a film buff to understand the importance of all of these components — score, makeup, editing, sound, design.They all contribute to the success of the films. In many cases, these elements are largely overlooked, but one night a year, they receive the acclaim and recognition they deserve. 

Of course, most of the films nominated tend to be indie studio films with limited distribution, small budgets and small audiences. Even the hosts mock this aspect of the nominated films, comparing them to the large, blockbuster films that cater to larger audiences and rake in millions. 

The movies being celebrated in Hollywood versus the ones being praised by the general public is another point of contention. So much so that in 2018, they even proposed creating a new category for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film before cutting the idea altogether. The concept would no doubt draw in more views; particularly this year had Spider-Man: No Way Home had been among the proposed nominations. 

There’s nothing wrong with recognizing influential blockbusters that do have remarkable qualities in their own right — Black Panther managed to snag a Best Picture nomination back in 2019. Even back then, it was a blockbuster movie, not a film.

In the end, the Academy needs to pick a side. They could continue to recognize these prestigious, critically-acclaimed films and embrace their dwindling viewership, or they could forgo that altogether and cater to younger audiences by focusing on more “popular” films. Either way, this issue will not be going away anytime soon. But I suppose, the Academy has more striking issues to attend to right now.