Monday, February 10, 2020

Thoughts on the Academy Awards

Watching the Academy Awards every year usually diminishes the exciting films I enjoy watching throughout the year. It's long, mostly boring, and it takes itself too seriously at times and not serious enough at other times. No wonder every year its ratings get worse and worse. I'm not arguing in favor of a short and fun Academy Awards ceremony, but I am arguing in favor of it being more interesting. Of the 3.5 hours or so last night, I think only about 3 or 4 minutes was interesting. In order for the Academy Awards to be great, at least half of it should be interesting. I've studied many films, I know what makes them interesting, but you never get the sense that films can be interesting by watching the Academy Awards. Many critics argue that the reason the Academy Awards tanks every year is because they talk about boring subjects and films no one watches. They think the answer is to get rid of certain segments, make the show more fun, and reward films people actually see. I sort of disagree with all these approaches. The answer is to get people so interested and excited about the films nominated and awarded, that they will want to go out and see the films as soon as humanly possible, and if they have seen them they should inspire them to want to watch them again.

I can probably write a long essay on how to make the Academy Awards interesting and exciting, but I'll just offer a few quick examples from last nights show. Let's start with the 3 or 4 minutes that were actually interesting. Of course we all want to see who wins Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Picture, even though we often disagree with the choices and winners, and this is somewhat interesting and exciting, but for me the most interesting part of the night is when they announce the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. A few years ago they began giving examples of what the script of the film actually said and it shows at the same time how it was all played out in the film. Even though it lasts for only a few seconds for each nominee, I find it to be interesting. Hollywood should be the center of storytelling around the world, but when you see Hollywood displayed in the Academy Awards you wonder why they leave behind their sense of storytelling. For a brief moment when they announce the Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay, you get that sense, but it quickly goes away and is usually replaced by some narcissistic virtue-signaling buffoon preaching at us and telling us that we should care more about what they care about and if we don't then we are very bad people unlike their enlightened selves.

Below are just three (I could offer dozens but I want to be brief) very simple off the top of my head examples of how they could have made the Academy Awards more interesting and exciting last night.

1. I have no issue with Joaquin Phoenix winning Best Actor and Renée Zellweger winning Best Actress. Both are well-deserved and indeed probably the best of the year. One gave an unhinged speech that was somewhat entertaining while the other gave a boring speech. But why wasn't it mentioned that Renée previously won an Academy Award for supporting actress for 2003’s “Cold Mountain” and was nominated for lead actress for both “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Chicago,” while Joaquin was previously nominated for "Gladiator," "Walk the Line" and "The Master" but this was his first win? I find it lazy that something so obvious to mention wasn't mentioned. Some behind the scenes footage would also have been interesting and perhaps a story about the filming or the character or the movie itself. Instead, all we heard about was Joaquin telling us all to become vegans and not inseminate cows and Renée giving some boring speech about entertainers as heroes.

2. Though Joaquin Phoenix and Renée Zellweger deserve their award, I think the most fascinating and interesting actor and actress of the past decade were nominated alongside them but lost - Adam Driver and Saoirse Ronan. Though they didn't win, they are much more interesting people than Joaquin Phoenix and Renée Zellweger, and since producers already know who is going to win and lose, they should incorporate the more interesting people that will lose more into the show.

3. The movie that won big last night was "Parasite," which is a great film and well deserving of its awards. But there is so much more that could have and should have been done. For example, it was only mentioned in passing that this was a South Korean film and it is the only foreign language film to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Why not tell us why South Korean films are so great right now, especially in the Sci-fi and Horror genres? How about tell us a little about the obscure director Bong Joon Ho, who also won Best Director? Why not mention that he has other great films people should watch, such as "The Host" and "Snowpiercer"? Why don't they give some audience reactions after they saw the film to show how much people actually liked it? So much more can be done to make these wins more interesting and exciting.

These are just some of my quick thoughts on the Academy Awards. More can be said, but I don't want to ramble on and on. Besides the writing and production of the show, I could also say a lot about the Academy itself and how it makes its choices. For example, we are told that Adam Sandler ("Uncut Gems") and Eddie Murphy ("Dolemite Is My Name") were snubbed this year from being nominated for Best Actor, which they deserved, simply because they are not yet worthy based on their not so good previous work, and only if they give a second great performance will they be considered. Another reason they weren't nominated was because Adam Sandler said in an interview that he better be nominated this year or else he will make the worst movie of his career next year, which the Academy found to be offensive, and Eddie Murphy appearing on Saturday Night Live this year and not in previous years as a campaign to get nominated was also looked down upon by the Academy. A lot of people don't realize that you have to campaign to get nominated, which also lessens the standards of the Academy Awards. But this is another issue that shows why the Academy Awards are such a mess. I realized long ago the Academy Awards is not for film lovers and fans, but just a display of how much Hollywood lives in a bubble and likes to publicly reward itself, expecting us to be in awe.