The Oscar Awards held last Sunday have had the worst audience in its entire history, confirming its trajectory of free fall in recent years. Since 2015 it has not exceeded 40 million viewers. In 2017 was the last time it exceeded 30 million, and in this latest edition it has not even reached 10 million viewers.
The flop is monumental. Far from making self-criticism and asking why this can happen, they try to justify the debacle by arguing that it is due to the pandemic, that one that has more people than ever confined at home without much else to do than watch TV.
The Oscar Awards have always been criticized for the same reasons: that they are a purely commercial ceremony; that they are biased and subjective and do not reward “true quality” but rather box-office success; or that they are not very diverse and only reward American films and filmmakers, especially white ones.
These detractors have always been few, but very vociferous, and have always been linked to the most anti-capitalist and anti-American left.
Despite these criticisms, as old as the almost century-old Oscar Awards, the gala has always been the cinematic reference par excellence for the whole world. Oscar night used to be a sleepless night for all moviegoers around the globe.
However, ever since the organizers of the Oscars began to listen to their critics and detractors, and began to bow to their demands, more and more people have ended up disliking the gala.
For some strange reason, if the BAFTA Awards only honor British productions and artists, no problem; if the Césars celebrate French cinema, no problem; but if the Academy gives the statuette to a white American, and not to an Uzbek with a Lapp father and a Senegalese mother who plays a gender-fluid character in a Chinese-Canadian film about the social injustices of capitalism, then the Oscars are racist, imperialistic, and not very diverse and inclusive.
When Marlon Brando turned down his Oscar for The Godfather in 1973, and sent instead Sacheen Littlefeather, an Indian-American political activist who came on stage barefoot to collect the statuette, with a 15-page speech handwritten by Brando complaining about racism, what the organizers did was to set clear rules and well-defined boundaries for acceptance speeches at subsequent galas. They did not create an ad-hoc category for films about Native Americans, nor did they institute the possibility that each award-winner could send an activist for his or her favorite cause to collect the awards on his or her behalf.
That same night in 1973, when Clint Eastwood came out to present the Best Picture category, he said he did so “on behalf of all the cowboys shot in John Ford westerns over the years.” Everyone made fun of a decadent Marlon Brando, who spent the last years of his life as a destitute hermit, living off his social security, and having to sell his possessions in Tahiti in order to survive. The gala had 85 million viewers.
Since 2014, the gala has been suffering a boycott by several black actors and celebrities, accusing the Oscar Awards of lacking diversity, with Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith being among the most vocal in this complaint. Jada said she was inspired by Sacheen Littlefeather.
Although since then Will Smith’s professional career has gone from failure to failure, and his love life with Jada seems to be going in the same downward line, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to listen carefully to his advice and bow to his demands.
The Oscars are becoming more “inclusive”
Thus, last year Academy announced that by 2024 they would completely change the formal requirements for film eligibility, and that as early as this year, diversity requirements for race, ethnicity, gender and people who”differently abled” would gradually be introduced in four categories.
The result, apart from a meager 10 million viewers, was that the winners of the Oscars could already be guessed in advance. Why watch a film for which you already know the ending?
The award for best film went to Nomadland, a film with a clear anti-capitalist message. Its protagonist has taken the award for best actress, another one for Frances McDormand, who already in 2017 turned her Oscar acceptance speech into a feminist vindictive routine.
The best original screenplay went to a feminist film apologetic for the Me Too movement. The supporting actor went to a character from the political group Black Panther Party, considered by some as a violent and terrorist group. The award for best director went to a Chinese woman, while the supporting actress award went to a South Korean woman.
The only surprise that did not please the usual detractors of the ceremony (who now seem to be the only ones who still watch it to criticize it) was that the award for best actor went to Anthony Hopkins, whom they described as an “old white guy,” and not to the sadly deceased Chadwick Boseman, which they considered an affront to the black community.
It used to be that playing a good death scene on screen could win you a statuette, perhaps from now on the Academy will consider automatically rewarding off-screen demise.
The Academy didn’t allow the elderly Anthony Hopkins to participate via videoconference in the ceremony and he preferred to sleep peacefully in Wales. It is curious that, in this case, the Academy has set itself up as a kind of guardian of the essences and the most ancestral traditions, disavowing technology, and yet they have decided to ruthlessly dynamite the tradition of awarding prizes on the basis of merit and excellence, and now hand them out by quotas or postmodern criteria of inclusivity.
If they are going to innovate, perhaps they should consider calling them Hollywoke Awards, and thus beat the minimum audience record, making what used to be the “dream factory” now only produce the desire to fall asleep.