This year’s awards season has been rough, but our panel of critics tries to find the positive things that came out of this mess.
Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)
This year’s awards season has been… a lot. Kevin Hart. #PresentAll24. “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The list goes on.
But it couldn’t have been all bad, right? The Oscars haven’t happened yet, and so we don’t know if the final verdicts will offer a measure of redemption or make things even worse (mileage will vary!), but possibly maybe there was some upside to be found in the last few months. Maybe a favorite actor finally got their time in the sun, or a certain film was boosted by a nomination? Maybe some of the broader conversations sparked by awards season or the Oscar broadcast itself led / could lead to something positive?
This week’s question: What is one silver lining of the 2019 awards season?
“Black Panther” and the Push for Better Representation
Anne McCarthy (@annemitchmcc), Teen Vogue, Ms. Magazine, Bonjour Paris
The lead-up to the Oscars has been shambolic at best; from Kevin Hart to the host scramble, to no females nominated for Best Director. But despite the lack of women nominated in this career-propelling category, there was some positive news out of Hollywood for my gender this year. Variety recently reported that the number of films with female leads hit record levels in 2018. That fact alone is a huge and noteworthy feat for Hollywood, an industry which is – as recent years have proved in a very public fashion – plagued with sexism. One of my favorite films of the year, “A Star is Born,” starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, was nominated for eight Academy Awards. It’s one of many films – along with “The Wife” and “The Favourite” (two other favorites of mine) – with a female lead that was backed by a major studio. Variety reported that from the top 100-grossing films of 2018, 40 of those films had women in the lead role or a co-leading role, as studied by USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. This increase gives me hope. A silver lining of this awards season is that films with females are coming to the forefront more than ever – both in critical recognition and box office success. And greater representation among marginalized groups is – I think – something worth celebrating.
Emmanuel “E-Man” Noisette (@EmansReviews) The Movie Blog, Facebook Fan Page, YouTube Channel
I think a great silver lining for this year’s awards season is the nomination of “Black Panther” for “Best Picture”. Before anyone overreacts, the silver lining I’m specifically referring to is how “Black Panther” is finally breaking the unwarranted genre discrimination for comic book or superhero movies in regards to the “Best Picture” category. It was outrageous that previous movies such as “The Dark Knight” or “Logan” received critical acclaim, but not even a nomination for “Best Picture”. One could probably attribute the discrimination due to the incredibly lopsided makeup of the Oscar voter at the time.
According to a 2012 report by the Los Angeles Times, Oscar voters were 94% Caucasian, 77% male, and had a median age of 62. I think what some people failed to realize is that the lack of diversity within the Oscar voters created a skewed/bias perspective in the film industry. Since superhero or comic book movies didn’t appeal to that select majority of the Oscar voters, it therefor translated to the rest of Hollywood that the genre was inferior. This select majority essentially limited comic book or superhero movies to only being perceived as being worthy of technical achievements for the most part. (The Academy does get props for recognizing Heath Ledger’s epic performance in “The Dark Knight”.)
Given the influx of a more diverse group of Oscar voters this year, there’s less resistance to discriminating against the genre. So while “Black Panther” may not be considered to be better than the aforementioned snubs, it’s still a groundbreaking shift for the genre in regards to the “Best Picture” category. There’s no reason to believe that “Best Picture” must be limited to only biopics or sociopolitical dramas. Both superhero and comic book films are evolving beyond their own traditional barriers by intermixing other genres as well. So, whether “Black Panther” actually wins “Best Picture” or not is not as relevant, to me, compared to the path this nomination creates for future comic book movies.
Andrea Thompson (@ areelofonesown), Freelance, A Reel Of One’s Own, The Chicago Reader, The Young Folks
Ohhh, this Oscar season year has been…eventful, and not in a fun way. There was the struggle to find a host, the rightful uproar over some of the awards being sidelined, and the decision of the Academy to ignore all the great work by female filmmakers AGAIN while nominating “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” for Best Picture. And that’s without the aid of a Google search to dig up even more. But out of what actually is nominated, I find hope in the films “Black Panther” and “BlacKkKlansman,” both as a kind of counter to “Green Book” and just plain remarkable in themselves. Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” is the kind of film that manages to laugh at the beliefs that fuel the very core of racist, hateful ideologies while taking the threat they pose seriously. And I find pretty much everything about “Black Panther” remarkable, from the fact that Disney let Ryan Coogler make a superhero movie like this, especially with a villain like Killmonger, who was as heartrbreaking as he was dangerous, with a last word for the ages. Even if people have mostly stopped waiting for the Academy to catch up, it’s nice when they occasionally prove they’re at least still in the race, even if they’re still hopelessly behind much of the time.
“Cold War” and its Frigid Beauty
Luke Hicks (@lou_kicks), Film School Rejects/One Perfect Shot, Birth.Movies.Death.
The Oscars are a total mess, and I, like many of you, just want them to go away so we can start talking about all of the good films of 2019 at length (because there have already been several). But, there is most definitely a silver lining to all of this and it is “Cold War.” It is one of the most beautiful, impressive, and profound films of last year, and I had no hope of it getting Oscar recognition outside of Best Foreign Film. Needless to say, Lukasz Zal’s cinematography nod and Pawlikowski’s director nod were very pleasant surprises that are incredibly well-deserved. I should probably count my blessings with the fact that it was nominated in those categories at all, but instead, I’ll be going for broke as I put all my chips in those three nomination baskets come Oscar night. And if one of them wins, maybe this whole Oscar thing will have been worth it after all. Just kidding, I’m not that sour. I just really love “Cold War.” Like, best of the century kind of love.
“The Favourite” Earns Yorgos Lanthimos His Due
Robert Kojder (@writerobwrite19), Flickering Myth
Without a doubt, one of the best and only positive notable aspects of this year’s Oscars is the Best Director nomination for Yorgos Lanthimos on “The Favourite” (including a whole bunch of other awards). Admittedly, this is his most accessible film to date but I certainly would not call it mainstream, so it’s nice to see this disheartening body of Academy voters nominate something truly bizarre and eccentric (and just downright wonderful to watch) alongside the nonsense garbage your grandparents are probably rooting for (“Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”).
Equally worthy is Spike Lee finally getting some recognition in that same category. “BlacKkKlansman” deserves to win for anything it is nominated for. Also, if a Spike Lee film essentially loses out to “Driving Miss Daisy” again, it’s time to pull the plug on the Academy. Please don’t fail us.
“Roma” and its Stars
Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film), The Wrap, Remezcla, MovieMaker Magazine
Five months after the world first became aware of her name at the Venice Film Festival; teacher-turned-actress Yalitza Aparicio is already a global icon and a shoo-in candidate to be featured as one of TIME’s Most Influential People of 2019. Triumphant, she’s walked red carpets, appeared on late television, traveled endlessly, participated in countless Q&As, and collected an Oscar nomination for her star-making and heartbreakingly naturalistic turn in Alfonso Cuarón’s lauded “Roma.”
The platform such exposure has given her this awards season is invaluable, and is the most positive outcome of what often can seem like a frivolous process. It’s of utmost significance in the same way that it was last year for Chilean actress Daniela Vega and the representation of the transgender experience. Aparicio, a proudly indigenous woman from Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, has, by virtue of her undeniable abilities in an arthouse juggernaut by one of Mexico’s most notable directors, become a symbol for a segment of the population that has seldom been visible in entertainment.
Her hard-earned success represents a turning point for Mexicans to confront their attitudes towards race and class in a country intrinsically divided along those lines and where indigenous is equated with ignorance, poverty, and unwanted physical traits. Aparicio gracefully stumps on those disgusting views with her talent as a performer, her untainted dignity, and her courage to accept the responsibility that comes from being a trailblazer.
If I could choose one moment to carry with me forever from this nearly disastrous season, it would be the clip where Yalitza Aparicio finds out she is nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress in a Leading Role. If you listen closely, you can heard the joyful sobs of millions of people who in that moment felt vindicated, proud, and empowered to keep fighting for the old ways of oppression to die.
Ken Bakely (@kbake_99), Freelance for Film Pulse
One thing that’s been exciting to observe is the very notion that “Roma” can be an Oscar frontrunner—though it has the power of Netflix’s extensive campaigning at its aide, it’s still pretty remarkable to see a foreign-language film collect ten nominations. In fact, let’s not forget that three out of the five nominees for Best Foreign Language film are nominated in other categories. If there’s one thing we should keep from this otherwise exhausting awards season, it’s that the Oscars should routinely champion movies from all over the world in the major categories, and not just default to English-language releases.
Candice Frederick (@ReelTalker): Harper’s Bazaar, The Wrap, New York Times
There are actually quite a few silver linings among the Oscar nominees this, but Marina de Tavira takes the cake. I don’t recall her ever even being a notable snub in any of the award precursors, so when I saw that she was nominated for an Oscar it was unbelievable. Though Yalitza Aparicio is a literal dream in “Roma,” de Tavira similarly runs a gamut of emotions as a mother whose relationship with her husband is slipping out of her grasp just as a her children need her the most. De Tavira delivers a vulnerable, complicated, and authentic performance that was rightfully recognized.
Joel Mayward (@joelmayward) Cinemayward.com
A black-and-white foreign-language period piece film from Mexico–a film with zero American movie stars distributed by an Internet streaming service–has the most Oscar nominations this year, and a good chance of winning Best Film *and* Best Foreign Film. Think about that, how unlikely it may seem. Yet here we are, poised for “Roma” to deservedly sweep the Oscars. Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira’s nominations for “Roma” were surprising, even though they shouldn’t be–these are two of the most nuanced and affecting performances of the year. There is something beautifully subversive about it all, and I love that Mexican filmmakers–Cuarón, Del Toro, Iñárritu, Lubezki–have been honored at the Oscars over the past decade. During a volatile season where immoral politicians attempt to build inane walls or keep Latino refugee children in cages, these artists are breaking down barriers and building cinematic bridges across cultures. I’m grateful for their work.
Jordan Ruimy (@MrRuimy), The Playlist/World of Reel
The silver lining for me is the fact that an artful and completely plotless film such as Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” is the Best Picture frontrunner. A film that, if it wins the top prize on February 24th, will have most mainstream moviegoers scratching their heads in total and utter confusion. This would have surely never happened in any other decade. You can feel the influence of the great neorealist filmmakers like Vittorio de Sica and Roberto Rossellini all over this film, which justifiably leads me to believe that a win by “Roma” would be akin to an “Umberto D” or “La Strada” winning a Best Picture Oscar back in the ’50s. Unthinkable! Has the “Oscar-bait” film finally died? Can a
“Roma” win finally put to rest the idea of what an “Oscar movie” should be? Maybe, just maybe, the academy’s tastes in film are being refined with each passing year. Of course, this theory could be completely sabotaged by a “Green Book” win, and we’re right back at square one.
Oralia Torres (@oraleia), Cinescopia, Malvestida
The American awards season of 2019 have been a HOT MESS, I’m in awe. Mediocre movies getting big awards despite many brilliant and innovative movies got released in 2018? A disgrace! All will culminate in next week’s Academy Awards, the most prestigious and celebrated film awards that are the film reference all around the globe. The Academy’s lack of touch with its audience is amusing each year, yet this year’s biggest changes -from proposing a Most Popular Award to cutting some of the most important awards of the night for being done offscreen to finding a host- show they’re having an identity crisis linked to ratings and being out of touch with the people that actually watch the awards and care about them. Among the chaos, the best part has been the brief, better distribution of foreign movies -I highly doubt ‘Capernaum’, ‘Cold War’ and ‘Shoplifters’ would’ve been in Mexican theatres if they were not nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film-, and the broader conversations around movies and their impact, why certain movies are chosen as The Best Of The Year, what is the selection criteria and why. It’s thrilling to hear and read so many takes on movies, each one arguing why or why not certain film should be seen and appreciated. At the same time, the themes and stories presented on movies can spark important conversations on aknowledging the present and find ways to improve it.
For example, ‘Roma”s international success has sparked long-postponed conversations on racism, classism and sexism in Mexico since its opening last november. Every conversation around ‘Roma’ has revealed who and where we are as a country: on one hand, the film has pointed out the domestic worker’s current struggles to get their laboral rights recognized in the country, while opening the long-postponed conversation around domestic labor and who should do it. On another, it showed off the country’s virulent racism and classism, from its most casual side to its most dangerous form, almost undistinguishable from certain president’s terrible, racist and horrifying political platform. Yalitza Aparicio’s brilliant performance and overnight success has provoked surprising-not-surprising outrage by Mexican telenovela actors, journalists and non-industry related invidivuals, ranging from disqualifying her work with racist slurs and phrases to trying to veto her from the upcoming Ariel’s (the Mexican equivalent for the Oscars) acting nominations. Her Oscar nod in the Best Actress category is big, yet the social change she’s aiming for, through visual representation in film and media, is greater.
Caroline Tsai (@carolinetsai3), The Harvard Crimson, Birth Movies Death
In this dumpster fire of an awards season, Yalitza Aparicio has been a beacon of light. The rising star of Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” Aparicio delivers a performance that’s equally shattering in quiet moments of day-to-day life as it is in scenes of vulnerability or climactic tension. Since becoming the first Indigenous woman to be nominated for Best Actress, Aparicio has faced vicious racist attacks and addressed them with composure and poise. In an era increasingly dedicated to furthering representation, Aparicio is both a deserving Oscar nominee and an important new voice in the conversation — a role that extends off the screen.
Spike Lee Feels the Love
Robert Daniels (@812filmreviews), 812filmreviews, ThatShelf, Freelance
Spike Lee finally getting some directorial Academy love feels right. Yes; he has an Honorary Oscar. But before “BlacKkKlansman,” Lee could only show two competitive nominations: “4 Little Girls” (Best Documentary) and “Do the Right Thing” (Best Screenplay). The Academy’s previous honoring of Lee was so pitiful that BlacKkKlansman—alone— more than doubled his previous competitive Oscar tally.
The fact that one of those nominations, Best Director: a category that still has not witnessed a Black winner (and probably won’t this year)—after Lee was shut out from the honor for so long, is even sweeter. It’s sweeter because of Lee’s previous history versus the “establishment.” It’s sweeter for the reasons I outlined in this piece, because the perceived “angry Black man” is rarely respected or acknowledged in America—even when highly talented. Lee has triumphed in his career in his way. And though Lee’s films never have the conventional fairytale ending, the story of an outsider whose sheer talent and perseverance causes his previously caustic opposition to laud him when the error of their ways have been “fully” realized, ironically feels more fairytale than the two racially maudlin films—inextricably linked in time and culture to his brazen work— that have bookend his career.
Lee finding this “fairytale” ending, especially if he were to win, makes this uninspired and dysfunctional awards season more than worth it.
Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG). Contributing Editor of Wicked Horror, freelance for Birth.Movies.Death, Vague Visages, The List
This awards season has been disappointing for a wide variety of reasons, chief among them the lack of consideration for female directors. None of the Oscars’ Best Director nominees are women, in spite of the fact Debra Granik, Lynne Ramsay, and Marielle Heller (among others) all released inspired, life-changing features this year. At least Heller can take solace in nods for her screenwriters and actors Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant — if there’s any justice in the world, Grant will nab Best Supporting Actor over Maheshala Ali for the ghastly “Green Book” — but Granik and Ramsay have been completely left out in the cold, for no discernible reason.
Seriously, did Adam McKay deserve a nod over these hugely talented women? Is anybody truly convinced that “Vice,” “Green Book,” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” will stand the test of time over “Leave No Trace” or “You Were Never Really Here?”
The much-promised diversifying of nominees didn’t extend to Barry Jenkins either, who shockingly wasn’t nominated for “If Beale Street Could Talk”, again for no apparent reason. The Academy seems fixated on honoring race stories that make white people feel better about themselves rather than those stories originating from marginalized communities themselves. Last year’s nomination for Greta Gerwig’s wonderful “Lady Bird” and Jenkins’ big win, the year before, for “Moonlight” seem like sadly distant memories. Although “Black Panther”s Best Picture nom is worth celebrating, both for what it means in terms of diversity and the hopeful scaling back of snobbery about what constitutes an awards-worthy movie, director Ryan Coogler isn’t nominated in his own right. It’s like one step forward, ten steps back.
Still, if there’s one ray of hope in the seemingly endless and depressing 2019 awards season, it’s undoubtedly Spike Lee. Finally up for Best Director after a decades-spanning career spent making the kind of urgent, boundary-pushing work most filmmakers could only dream of, Lee could justifiably walk away with the golden statue on the night. Sure, “BlackKklansman” arguably isn’t his magnum opus, but “The Departed” wasn’t Scorcese’s either — sometimes it’s just time. Even if he doesn’t win it, the hilarious footage of Lee surrounded by white, male directors, at various industry gatherings promoting the upcoming awards ceremony, with precisely zero fucks to give, is worth its weight in gold. Actual gold, too, not just stupid little gold men.
Mike McGranaghan (@AisleSeat), The Aisle Seat / Screen Rant
The silver lining that makes everything else okay for me is that Spike Lee finally got nominated for Best Director. He deserved to be nominated — and win — for “Do the Right Thing” in 1989 and “Malcolm X” in 1992. He was inexplicably ignored both times. This year, with his masterful “BlacKkKlansman,” he is finally getting the recognition that he is due. I don’t know if he’ll win or not, but the fact that he’s in the running makes me unspeakably happy.
Don Shanahan (@casablancadon), Every Movie Has a Lesson and Medium.com
One welcome development that has come out of this year’s awards season is the increasing recognition to place Spike Lee among the cinematic medium’s best and most important storytellers. So often operating in a creative gray area between entertaining satire and eye-opening condemnation, Lee’s works have always had urgency and purpose. The trouble is they have not always been properly embraced for those qualities. “BlacKkKlansman” isn’t Spike Lee’s career-defining masterpiece, but it is a lightning rod and touchstone all its own for weaving the social and political commentary parallels possible across eras. The brazenly bold film is a reminder that no one writes or films these levels of provocative messages quite like Spike. It’s high time he gets a proper Oscar, not an honorary one, for the voice he represents and the stature he deserves.
Richard E. Grant Is Recognized and Charming
Photo by Mary Cybulski
Fran Hoepfner (@franhoepfner), Bright Wall/Dark Room
I’m no doubt preaching to a certain subsection of the film Twitter choir, but the enduring silver lining of this year’s awards season is the presence of Richard E. Grant. Nominated across several awards bodies for his supporting role in Marielle Heller’s excellent “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” for a genuinely wonderful performance (do NOT get me started on the scene where his character Jack Hock smokes a cigarette from the bar at a drag club and watches Lee Israel enjoy herself from afar), Grant may be the only person still enjoying this year’s Oscar season to the fullest.
It’s thrilling, of course, to see a long-working character actor get their due (I feel similarly about Sam Elliott’s well-deserved nomination for “A Star As Born,” too), but Grant ever-cheerful presence––especially on social media––is a constant reminder of how much fun film and filmmaking can be. He’s a clear fan of not only the medium but everyone he’s surrounded by. He’s enthusiastic to attend every event and panel and take photos with fellow nominees. I was lucky enough to see him introduce a screening of “Gosford Park” a few weeks back, and it seemed like he had stories to share for days on end. And so much of what he preaches in various appearances is how grateful he is to do this kind of work. Every awards season needs a Richard E. Grant.
Sarah Marrs (@Cinesnark), LaineyGossip.com, Freelance
The silver lining of this year’s messy AF award season is Richard E. Grant. No one is enjoying their time as a nominee more. Every time he shows up anywhere, it feels like there should be champagne and jazzy band music. The Oscars ceremony might be a disaster, but Richard E. Grant is here for the party, and is a reminder that this is SUPPOSED to be fun. Grant genuinely seems to appreciate the recognition of his peers–and after such a career as his, well he should–but he also brings a sense of glee to the proceedings. So many actors act like going to the Oscars is a total drag, and yes, the shoes often look uncomfortable. But like, c’mon. None of us normals actually believes it isn’t fun. And Richard E. Grant’s approach to award season has been one big wink to the normals watching from the nosebleeds that yes, this is as silly and fun as you think it is. Don’t let the suffering-for-my-art brigade fool you, this is FUN. Even in a year of chaos and poor leadership, it is still totally fun to be in the thick of award season, to be singled out and feted at a serious of ludicrous entertainments, all of which are followed by parties. Richard E. Grant’s joy is infectious, and with every dizzying twist and turn in The Narrative, there is Grant with a smile to remind us award season is a glittering, pointless piece of entertainment and we’re supposed to be having fun with it. I love the Oscars, and it’s nice to follow a nominee who also loves the Oscars.
Lindsey Romain (@lindseyromain) Staff Writer at Nerdist
I agree with the general consensus that this has been a pretty abysmal awards season, coming pretty close to killing any and all excitement for what’s usually my favorite time of the year. It’s hard to feel anything other than exhausted when none of the films you care about are projected to win, and Hollywood’s worst habits – throwing weight behind films with dated social commentary, supporting work made by abusers – are on full display. But there’s been one bright light in all of this mess: Richard E. Grant, whose nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Can You Ever Forgive Me? has inspired one of the more delightful campaigns I’ve ever experienced. The veteran actor is genuinely tickled to be included, posting all sorts of behind-the-scenes photos and videos on social media that prove he’s having the time of his life. It’s inspiring to see someone in the later stages of their career still find excitement and inspiration in the things around him. Watching him fangirl over Barbra Streisand, and then get to meet her? It’s the kind of thing dreams are made of. Even if he doesn’t take home the statue, I’m glad he gave me one strand of hope to cling to this year.
Clint Worthington (@clintworthing), Consequence of Sound, The Spool
It’s a shame that “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (and to a lesser extent, “Vice”) have dominated the Oscars conversations due to a) their sheer dominance of the nominations spread and b) the fact that few people in critics circles can stand them, because apart from them this year’s crop of nominees would be the envy of any other year. Look at the other Best Picture candidates: a crowd-pleasing Marvel movie with a largely black cast! Spike Lee’s first great film in more than a decade! Another great, formally ambitious Alfonso Cuaron film!
The acting categories are also full of some fun surprises: all three leads from Yorgos Lanthimos’ riotous royal farce “The Favourite” are there, and rightly so; Lady Gaga gets one step closer to EGOTing; two actresses from “Roma” got nominated in a feat of Latinx representation; and best of all, Richard E. Grant gets a late-career moment in the sun (which has turned him into Twitter’s sweet, eternally excited English grandpa). Some categories are shoo-ins just because the likely winners are that good: no one’s gonna bat an eye at the soulful “Shallow” winning Best Song, or “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” deservedly winning Best Animated Feature.
Yes, the stink of the Academy’s mismanagement of the ceremony will linger on (no host, categories buried under commercial breaks), but it’s worth it to remember that at least some of the nominees deserve the attention they’re getting. As for Oscar night itself, better luck next year – unless they just move all the awards announcements to Snapchat to keep the speeches shorter.
The Upside of Failure
Alonso Duralde (@aduralde), TheWrap, Linoleum Knife, Who Shot Ya?, Breakfast All Day
I find it exceedingly difficult to be optimistic about practically anything related to the Oscars, but I will say two good things have come out of this season’s clusterfuck: a) The Kevin Hart debacle led to some interesting conversations, about the nature of personal evolution and improvement — and whether merely saying you have done so is the same as doing it, much the same way that saying you apologized isn’t the same as actually apologizing — and about the fact that queer people of color do exist; b) I hope that many casual observers came away from the discussion about excluded presentations with a new appreciation of the work of cinematographers and editors.
Joanna Langfield, @Joannalangfield, The Movie Minute
I’d like to think that the insane brouhaha over this year’s telecast will ultimately lead to some wiser decisions going forward. Many of my fellow critics, along with Academy members, and, of course, Twitter, sounded the alarm when each of the mind boggling “improvements” were announced. No songs? None of last year’s winning actors invited to present this year’s awards? And, last but not least, no on camera announcements of four winning categories? The collective “are you kidding me” resulted in quick reversals and tradition respected. So far.
Who knows what other snips and trims will sneak their way into the telecast? After all, the producers have been told by ABC Network to get the show over and done with by 11pm, Eastern. Make it snappy, people! But why? Even with a ratings decline that echos every other program on the broadcast networks, the Oscars are still ABC’s number one program of the year. The ads, which are sold with the excitement of the Super Bowl, still command serious money. Why cut that short?
More importantly, why treat the Academy Awards as if they are just content, stuff to be whittled down, to separate the commercials? . My silver lining is that after all the outrage this year, both the Academy and the television network I used to joyfully cover the Oscars for seem to have learned a thing or two, finally remembering the classic film quote. “Respect must be paid”.
Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail, Film Festival Today
If there is a silver lining in the 2019 Oscar mess (which follows years of increasing chaos and mismanagement), it’s that we can perhaps stop obsessing over the relevance of such awards to any discussion of actual artistic merit and/or cinematic longevity. Since the first ceremony in 1929, the Oscars have been as much about Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences politics as about the quality of the movies. Certainly, some excellent films have been chosen as winners, over the years, in a variety of categories, but we only need look at the not-so-distant heyday of the 1990s Miramax era – in which the now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein muscled some mediocre pablum (“Life Is Beautiful” and “Shakespeare in Love,” anyone?) to the top – to realize how marketing and money dilute the stature of the award. I mean, Gwyneth Paltrow beat Fernanda Montenegro (of the marvelous “Central Station”)? Really? Let it burn, I say.
On a brighter note (now that the flames licking at the academy walls illuminate all), perhaps we can turn away from the big-ticket items this year and admire the smaller works that were selected for categories like “Best Foreign Language Film” and “Best Documentary”: in the former area, I am so happy to see “Capernaum” and “Shoplifters” receive attention; in the latter, despite the snub of “Three Identical Strangers” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” I am excited for such smaller docs as “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” “Minding the Gap” and “Of Fathers and Sons” (the two bigger films, “Free Solo” and “RBG,” are also fine). Perhaps, once the smoke lifts, these less-established filmmakers can lead us into a better cinematic future.
Danielle Solzman (@DanielleSATM), Solzy at the Movies/Freelance
Between the time that the IndieWire Critics Survey question found its way to my inbox and the time that I sat down to respond, the Academy reversed course by choosing to air all the categories live on television. I for one could not be happier. Though as someone who dabbles a bit in screenwriting and wrote a script for a live-action short in immediate response, I’m thrilled in one regard but now I find myself sitting with a screenplay that is now unlikely to be nominated for an Oscar. The silver lining to this is that if the film does get nominated, at least it will be awarded live rather than tape-delayed in a future broadcast.
Pedro Strazza (@pedrosazevedo), B9
I think the biggest silver lining of this awards season is the reassurance that people who care about the Oscars to the point of getting mad about it still exist out there. Although we’ve seen some of the worst decision making in the ceremony administration this year, it was good to see people complaining in social media about changes, not endorsing quietly or even trying to come up with a plan to prevent the Oscar from committing outrageous stuff like not broadcasting live some of the categories, limiting the music performances to two songs nominated and creating some ridiculous “Best Popular Movie” prize.
This sounds childish, sure, but it’s an important resolution. As the Academy itself, we got so much used with the annual news of record lows from new ceremonies that somehow, even saying the opposite, we started believing the Oscar lost its magical touch with general audiences and was sort of deposed of its position as a media event. This obviously isn’t true in any way, but there’s this feeling that the Oscars “shrunk” in recent years and nobody could shake it out, even when ceremonies gave unforgettable moments like the confusion involving “Moonlight” and “La La Land” in Best Picture or Ellen DeGeneres’ celebrity selfie.
There are all sort of theories about this Oscar’s decadence and what should be done to correct course out there, but while I truly don’t know how to make audiences engage again with the show to the point where numbers start growing again (or even if that’s possible, to be sincere), the concern around this year’s edition was close to “What hell you guys are thinking??” and far from the “who cares?” position people tend to use when talking about other awards, and that is something to take account for. We don’t see people talking daily about the Grammy, Emmy or even Golden Globes nominees, but we do see discussions about the eight movies nominated for Best Picture, and as long this continues to happen I think the Oscars are on a safe, higher ground than it likes to think it is.