Oscars, how badly have you let down the people of this country in the past year? The rather long and boisterous run of retirements, including Elba and Henson, not to mention the notable name of Whitaker a while back, is perhaps partly to blame.
But here’s the bigger problem: Something about the Oscars is crazy.
The show, which will be hosted by Kevin Hart again on 28 February and is already ridiculous by that time, is designed to produce one of those moments of American domination we had so much of in 2018. But what we got was the first year since 1993 when an American film won the Best Picture.
That film was Black Panther, the breakout hit of the year, but not the world’s most successful movie. The film did smash through some box office records – and in a summer full of sequels and reboots it still didn’t top the box office – but it’s also absolutely the kind of film that the Oscars usually overlook.
So if you’re wondering what the biggest conversation has been this year, and what issues may be addressed as a result, it’s probably Black Panther. The movie was fantastic and one of the best films ever made, and yet it got virtually no mention.
There’s definitely room for this in 2019, although the way the decision was made likely makes for a more generous debate than would actually exist. It was announced that the host would not be white, and was written up by the ceremony’s organisers as a groundbreaking victory. This was followed by the fact that Katt Williams had reportedly walked off the stage during some awards and would not return. He was handed a lifetime achievement award, of course.
As if all of this weren’t already a mess, The Talk’s Whoopi Goldberg took to her Twitter to declare that the Oscars “needed an award for best guest appearance by a dickhead” – a real joke.
Best In Show! Picture Hooray for @theoscars for awarding Wold’s #1 grossing movie with the most popular actor in the entire world the People’s Choice Award for best picture (black PANTHER!!) And peace on earth and all that jazz…
What a jock. pic.twitter.com/jL6jkjitTT — Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) January 7, 2019
Of course, in the present scenario, you could argue that Goldberg may have been taking a shot at Mahershala Ali, who won Best Supporting Actor earlier in the evening. But as comedian Kumail Nanjiani noted in his acceptance speech, after he’d thanked the makers of Moonlight for inspiring him to write the film, Ali suddenly announced he wanted to make a private citizen declaration, a way of getting himself on the ballot for the 2020 presidential election.
That doesn’t make sense, since the Oscars have only recently opened the process up to all eligible voters, and even then Ali is so well-known that the foreign press didn’t even have to ask him for his name.
All of this doesn’t even take into account that The Oscars have consistently showed a historic disrespect to black performers – many of them deserving of recognition. Speaking as someone who’s been nominated, but did not win, the Oscars are a thoroughly unfair game. The difference is that this time, the Oscars are also an overtly racist game. Just be glad you don’t have to attend the ceremony, and don’t send your children or grandchildren.
The Oscars are a game of rivalry, and the winner is usually important because it hits a cultural moment. When Moonlight won Best Picture in 2016, for example, it became the first independent film to win the award in almost 80 years. When Birdman won Best Picture in 2014, it was the first for a film directed by a gay man.
The problem here is that the game is rigged against popular films and filmmakers. The Oscars reward sentimentalism, just like the Grammys, with a bunch of other award shows whose hosts spend the whole show gushing about artists they already hate. There are a lot of writers who are more familiar with crushes than awards shows. They’d rather talk about the good stuff online – and then fix what’s broken.