Oscar Asterisk

There’s been a fair amount of uproar (in fact, I’d go so far as to call it a hullabaloo) recently about the Academy Awards. Before the awards were given, many actors (rightfully so, mind you) decried the lack of diversity among the nominees, which led to thinkpieces about those actors, whether or not their assertions were valid, and what we can do about the astonishing whiteness of the Oscars.

Naturally, this led to other (i.e., white) actors being asked their thoughts on the lack of diversity in Hollywood, though why we need to know where Meryl Streep stands on the fight for equality is beyond me. So then there were commentaries about what the second group of actors said, whether they were right or wrong, repeat ad nauseam.

But we weren’t done there, because all of this was then followed by articles about the first and second wave of thinkpieces and what those mean. All of this, of course, led to the completely logical conclusion of having Stacey Dash show up to the Oscars to…just stand there awkwardly, I guess. Yes, Stacey Dash, best known for “Clueless,” being Damon Dash’s sister and for showing up on Fox News whenever they’ll have her to spout the Cosbyfied version of respectability politics to the masses.

So to sum it all up, there have been untold thousands of words written about everything leading up to the Oscars, God knows how many interviews conducted on the topic, and a seemingly endless amount of media attention paid to the lead-up to the Academy Awards. Assuming the purpose was to get people talking about the racial exclusivity of the Oscars, then it was by all accounts a rousing success.

But the larger question remains: Who gives a shit about the Oscars? This is the same organization that gave Marisa Tomei a Best Supporting Actress award for “My Cousin Vinny.” This is the same organization that let Martin Scorsese’s work (including “Goodfellas,” “Mean Streets,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Gangs of New York,” “Taxi Driver,” and “Raging Bull”) go unrewarded for decades, but saw fit to toss him a pity Oscar for “The Departed” (which I like, but come on). This is the same organization that gave “Forrest Gump” the Best Picture award in 1995…over “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

The Academy Awards consistently reward films that appear to push the boundaries without actually doing so (hi, “Crash”!), and they favor stories that anybody with a working knowledge of Google and a free afternoon could find out for themselves (good afternoon, “The King’s Speech”!) They are laughably, hopelessly out of touch with what the general public thinks makes a good moviegoing experience; rather than rewarding movies who say “The awards don’t matter- let’s make the best film possible,” they largely lavish praise and statues upon the films that proudly scream “WE BETTER GET A FUCKING OSCAR FOR THIS.” It’s one colossal circle-jerk, and it has been for years, and yet, we still watch, even though we know going into it which movie is going to win Best Picture. (Is it the story of Hugh Glass, a man left for dead by his companions who willed himself to survive and track them down? Is it the story of the 2008 economic collapse, the likes of which this country hadn’t seen since 1929 and from which we’re still recovering? Is it however you’d like to categorize “Mad Max: Fury Road”? NOPE IT’S THE MOVIE ABOUT A NEWSPAPER, FEATURING A SIMMERING MARK RUFFALO.)

As an institution, the Oscars are well past their prime. With the advent of Netflix as a financier for films, the traditional power structure in Hollywood no longer requires actors or the viewing public to be beholden to the studio system. Cameras are cheaper, editing software is readily available, and finding people with whom you can collaborate on a film is easier than ever, which means you don’t need to go through Hollywood to make a movie that people will see. Of course, Hollywood has yet to grasp that fact; similarly, the Academy Awards have yet to realize that outside of the two weeks of discussion they get all year (one when the nominees are announced, one leading up to and directly after the ceremony), nobody really remembers or cares about the Oscar winners of years past. Which is probably why they don’t mind all the furor this year: more people have talked about the Academy Awards this year than in any time in recent memory, and there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Also, Whoopi Goldberg has a fucking statue. The Oscars are bullshit.