FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Madness of the Academy

The Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film isn’t winning many popularity contests itself. The announcement on August 8 of the newest “Oscar” has been received with far less enthusiasm than this year’s megahit movies like “Black Panther” and “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” that will vie for the statuette.

The new award’s intended purpose is to supplement a Best Picture trophy consistently won over the last decade by films appealing mainly to the Academy’s insider circle, despite popular movies being included in an expanded slate of nominees. After all, the big bucks spent by mainstream moviegoers are what not only turn big-budget movies into blockbusters but, via advertisers, pay for the Oscars telecast.

Instead, both industry professionals and the general public have made it overwhelmingly clear that they’re more insulted than intrigued. As populist outreach, it comes off as phony as Nurse Ratched rigging the vote on which TV program her patients can watch in the Oscar-winning “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The misfire exemplifies what cartoonist Jules Feiffer called the “ignorance of authority,” satirized in his Best Animated Short winner “Munro,” in which officials maintain that the four-year-old of the title is a diminutive adult.

In “Karl Hess: Toward Liberty,” which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject in 1981, Hess observed that “if energy can be picked up from any point on the earth, it sort of suggests to you that you don’t need central mechanisms, that you can produce important things at a local level.” This applies just as much to creative energies that inspire filmmaking as to the solar energy that powered Hess’s house. Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum noted the irony of Hess’s message being “delivered courtesy of the Academy and AT&T’s Bell System” while the onetime political insider talked of leaving such “big organizations” behind. Yet film production and distribution have already been steadily evolving in Hess’s decentralist direction; even the major studios have moved on from the era shown in “Hail, Caesar!” of filming their Biblical epics, musicals and Westerns all within the same backlot.

While Guillermo del Toro won the most recent Best Director award for the esoteric “The Shape of Water” rather than for one of his crowd-pleasers like “Blade II” or “Pacific Rim,” his arthouse and multiplex fare both illustrate the contention in his acceptance speech that “the greatest thing our art does, and our industry does, is to erase the lines in the sand. We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper.”

Maybe the real issue is the notion that the Academy Awards, or any one award ceremony, should or even can be the ultimate arbiter of quality in a diverse world. The assumption that other film awards are merely lead-ins to (or the Razzies’ caricature of) the Oscars does a disservice to both. The venerable ceremony would do better competing on an equal footing with newer awards taken just as seriously than as the center of attention by default.

More articles by:

Joel Schlosberg is a contributor to the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org). He lives in New York.

September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savoir
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail