FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 18, 2019
Gerald Sussman
Russiagate is Dead! Long Live Russiagate!
Lance Olsen
Perverse Housing Policy Perverts Forest Policy
Richard Ward
All Will be Punished
Jonathan Cook
Annexation of West Bank May Provide Key to Unlocking Netanyahu’s Legal Troubles
Judith Deutsch
People Music: Malignant Phallic Narcissism v. Being Ordinary
Jan Oberg
The Iran Floods and US Sanctions: 10 Million at Risk, But Who Cares?
Manuel E. Yepe
Assange: Between Gratitude and Betrayal
Ralph Nader
Children’s Moral Power Can Challenge Corporate Power on Climate Crisis
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Your Check is in the Mail
Binoy Kampmark
The European Union and Refugees in the Mediterranean
Arnold R. Isaacs
Looking Back at 1919: Immigration, Race, and Women’s Rights, Then and Now
Andrew Moss
Immigration and the Shock Doctrine
Michael Howard
Assange and the Cowardice of Power
Jesse Jackson
Making Wall Street Pay for the Financial Crisis
Mel Gurtov
At Risk—the Idea of America
April 17, 2019
James Bovard
Washington’s Biggest Fairy Tale: “Truth Will Out”
Yoav Litvin
The Ilhan Omar Gambit: Anti-Semitism as a Reactionary Political Tool
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Hawai’i in Trouble
Vijay Prashad
To Ola Bini, a Political Prisoner Caught Up in the Assange Debacle
Hans Muilerman and Jonathan Latham
EU Threatens to Legalize Human Harm From Pesticides
Binoy Kampmark
Delegitimising Journalism: The Effort to Relabel Julian Assange
Jack Rasmus
Trump Whacks the Middle Class
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Burning Cathedral and the Dead Turtle
Kenneth Surin
Insurgencies in Malaysia and Vietnam: Boyhood Reflections
Rev. William Alberts
Opening Tombs and Resurrecting Lives
Tom Engelhardt
How the U.S. Military Feeds at the Terror Trough
Norman Solomon
The Toxic Lure of “Guns and Butter”
George Wuerthner
How to Stop Grazing on Public Lands: Buy Out the Permits
George Ochenski
Vote-Trading for Big Coal
John Stanton
The Price of Participating in Society is the Sacrifice of Privacy and Self
April 16, 2019
Richard Rubenstein
Julian and Martin: Reflections on the Arrest of Assange
Geoff Dutton
Talking Trash: Unfortunate Truths About Recycling
Kenn Orphan
A Land Uncharted: the Persecution of Julian Assange
Patrick Cockburn
Netanyahu’s Victory in Israel Tells Us About the Balance of Power in the Middle East
Robert Fisk
No More Excuses: Israeli Voters Have Chosen a Country that Will Mirror the Brutal Regimes of its Arab Neighbours
Jonah Raskin
The French (Bread) Connection in a Bourgeois California Town
Denis Rogatyuk
The Ordeal of Julian Assange
David Swanson
Exporting Dictators
Ted Rall
Self-Censorship is Credibility Suicide
Robert Koehler
War Crimes and National Security
Lee Ballinger
None Dare Call It Fascism
April 15, 2019
Bruce Neuburger
The Border, Trumpian Madness and the Clash of Demographics
Patrick Cockburn
Calling Assange a Narcissist Misses the Point
Conn Hallinan
Diego Garcia: The “Unsinkable Carrier” Springs a Leak
Dan Corjescu
State of Apocalyptic Nature: A Contract with Gaia
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail