I have been ruminating on the last twenty years I’ve spent covering the Oscars. Honestly, by now, I’m fairly sure my own contribution has not been a positive one. I know that I value the readers here greatly, and they (you) are the reason I still run this site. If the awards race and the Oscars were about Film Twitter I would stick a hot fork in it and run. But that isn’t what this site has been about all of these years. It’s been about you readers who visit day in and day out, no sexy clickbait required. But to my mind, the Oscars and film awards overall, and in fact Hollywood overall is in trouble.
I can promise you that many in the industry are quietly fretting — is this the end of everything?
The ratings for the Globes tanked not just because it was a virtual ceremony – that is certainly a big part of it – but the bigger reason is what the entire Left, the Democrats and the Hollywood machine that feeds into it must come to terms with: it can’t survive if it continues to live in a bubble. It’s a bubble that allows for visible, blatant hypocrisy. It’s a bubble that condescends to half of this country. It’s a bubble that believes that art should be aspirational, always, and that everyone – even those with good intentions, especially those with good intentions, must be put before a tribunal and interrogated for anything they’ve ever done in their entire lives.
In front of the camera, behind the camera. You could be Armie Hammer one day – beloved as a golden god in Call Me By Your Name and the next day shamed out of a career for texts that people judged and decided were “creepy.” We’re all pretending like none of this is actually happening but it is happening. It’s happening and it’s weird and it is something we should all be talking about.
That politics has swallowed up the Oscars and the Globes and every other institution that supposedly honors art and achievement has rendered these awards bodies almost useless. Who are they lecturing anymore? Themselves? What more do they need to know about what they all agree on is true. What good are they if they are a reflecting pool for narcissists? They are not useful. In fact, they are simply a magic mirror that tells themselves how great they are, how GOOD they are, how honorable they are, and how woke they are.
I found it interesting that the only (truly unbearable) political lectures came from white people. Did you notice that? The idea that the richest people in the country have just endured some existential hardship that they then have to word vomit out into a country brought to its knees by a global pandemic and a most certain depression ahead – shows such a lack of self-awareness it’s mind-boggling. Yes, they mean well. I get it. But to quote Miles in Sideways — will you please SHUT UP?
Richard Rushfield’s piece was something that caught my attention because once again, this is what everyone thinks and no one has the guts to talk about it. He writes:
Last night, at a moment the world, truly the world, is in enormous pain, the face of Hollywood was selfish, self-obsessed, small, petty, and incompetent; thinking about itself, thinking about its causes, thinking about anything but what the audience might be looking for from its entertainers at this moment.
Which is just about where the traditional industry is. We’ve become this bloated goliath, disgorging these monstrous projects with a grim, plodding professionalism more befitting the insurance industry than the world’s entertainers. I mean, if Hollywood doesn’t have its fingers on the zeitgeist of humanity, then really what good is it to anyone? At all.
But a show of stars having awkward conversations with each other over Zoom—celebrities, they’re just like us!—from their couches, giving long-winded, self-important acceptance speeches for (on the movie side anyway) their roles in a bunch of films that almost no one has seen and very few have even heard of, punctuated by uncomfortable moments about the unimaginable lack of diversity in the HFPA, an organization which I imagine hardly any viewers of the Golden Globes even have a clue what it is.
Everyone tried to put on a happy face, to get through something – a process – where everyone (including me) needs to get paid because the awards industry must churn. The Hollywood machine must keep rolling. But that doesn’t mean we have to do it with an industry of journalists who are terrified of telling the truth about what is going on.
We can continue to tinker with our utopian diorama until we’ve reached a point where no one feels left out and no one is marginalized and voting members of every institution are monitored and reviewed and interrogated and constantly checked to make sure they are meeting those high standards. Just don’t expect the world to care. Don’t expect the country to care. Most of them are going to be crawling across cut glass towards something, anything, that will make them FEEL something other than shame.
That’s my advice – if you want to keep the Oscars rolling as a television show? Dump the politics. I say this as someone who gets bogged down in politics way too much myself, both with this site and on social media. Trust me, I know I too am a hypocrite. I think we can find a way through the mess of all of it as long as we can be encouraged to have honest, hard conversations. Too many of us are cowering in fear. Though it is a refrain of the much loathed right to say “You are entertainers. Stick to entertaining.” But you know what? Someone has to say it. And repeat it. And remind the richest people in the country that their job isn’t necessarily to teach Americans how to be better.
Just a thought. Rushfield’s piece is here. Subscribe and support independent journalism, which we need now more than ever.