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The Academy Awards can still regain its fading luster

The Academy Awards can still regain its fading luster

The Academy Awards can still regain its fading luster
March 24
12:36 2022

The snubs. The dwindling ratings. The accusations of racism. Such makes up the public image of the Academy Awards. What was once seen as the Super Bowl for movies has now become a three-hour slog that feels like mandatory job training for filmgoers. The Oscars have definitely lost their luster and prestige as the film market is becoming increasingly oversaturated. However, though the gold doesn’t glitter as it once did, the Oscars are still the premier award show and has a massive influence on its industry and pop culture as a whole.

Despite the years of endless controversy, the Oscars still hold a powerful influence on the film industry. The glitz and glamor are kept relatively intact, as is the ceremony’s ability to spotlight films that fell by the wayside due to a summer blockbuster’s success. Known as the “Oscars effect,” films that win the little gold trophy tend to enjoy a box office boost.

Within just a week of its historic Best Picture win, 2019’s “Parasite” experienced a 20-percent bump in box office profit. The argument could be made that the film’s residual success would never have been if it weren’t for the academy.

It’s a foreign film, complete with the dreadful implementation of subtitles that statistically deter some viewers from watching it. It was a beloved indie darling, telling a story of class disparity that was uniquely tailored to South Korean culture. However, it wasn’t until Bong Joon-Ho won Best Director that casual viewers took notice of the film.

The director is now a household name and rightly regarded as one of the most unique voices in the entire film industry. Cinephiles have always known that — the difference is how the general public knows that too.

There’s a reason why we cheer when an actor or filmmaker wins after years of just being nominated. Despite the years of rightful scrutiny and criticism, filmmakers and actors can’t help but dream of saying the words, “I want to thank the academy.”

That influence is a double-edged sword, however. The academy’s status as the ultimate award show makes it equally susceptible to shoot itself in the foot.

When “Roma” was being recognized for depicting the beauty of everyday life, confusion and shock enveloped the film world when “Green Book” won Best Picture that year. Though generally well-received, the film was heavily criticized for its use of the white savior trope, where a film has a white protagonist who rescues a non-white character from unfortunate circumstances.

In a year where one of the nominees depicted a Black detective infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, and another a semi-autobiographical account of a family in Mexico City, maybe the cookie-cutter feel-good film wasn’t the right way to go.

As for this year’s awards, there is certainly a mixed bag of nominees that fit the academy mold and others that are genuine surprises. Among them are “The Worst Person in the World,” “Drive My Car” and even “Dune,” all films whose genre and subject matter had been relatively unnoticed by the academy. It’s clearly an effort to appear more current and even hip by recognizing more artistically driven films and science fiction odysseys.

That brings up another problem: creating new categories at the expense of not broadcasting the supposed “lesser” categories. In total, there will be eight categories that will be awarded before the ceremony begins, including Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score and Sound.

The academy has concocted the Fan Favorite Film award, which is basically a slightly modified version of the Best Popular Film category that was met with intense backlash in 2018.

Twitter users determine the winner instead of the traditional voting system. Just the mere description of this category shows how it snugly fits in the theater of the absurd. Having a category like this is counterintuitive to what the Oscars should be: a showcase highlighting the very best of the film industry, to shed light on the unsung alchemy of cinema.

The Oscars remain a hugely influential event. At its best, the academy is still able to create flashes of brilliance by celebrating performances and technical achievements. At its worst, it is a dated and tone-deaf institution that is seemingly unaware of its cultural influence.

Instead of trying to appease casual viewers by awarding a faux award to a box office smash, the Oscars must be a show that highlights the overlooked alchemy of cinema.

It must recognize films that are sincere in their artistic qualities, not the ones that are mere Oscar bait. The answer is to not make new categories on the wayside for the sake of time, — they must not know what editors do — but to inform and enlighten audiences about the very best that cinema has to offer.

Featured Illustration By Miranda Thomas

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Kevin Diaz

Kevin Diaz

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