It’s difficult for an institution to have its members enjoy themselves when said institution is stuffy by nature and stuck in the past. That’s how the Academy Awards came across this year – caught between a rock and a hard place as the old guard tried to follow its usual routine of celebrating the year’s best pictures but at the same time having to deal with hashtag movements and identity politics overload, all the while trying to maintain some sense of old-school decorum. The end result? Lots of wasted red roses, bitching behind the scenes, and a bunch of movies we’d hardly even heard of before today taking out the top gongs.
In case you had something better to do than watch (and we know many of you did have), a film called Green Book won best picture. Set in 1962, the film tells of an African-American classical pianist and a white jazz pianist touring together across deep south USA. Relevant? Not really. Ticking all the boxes of once-were-marginal-groups now demanding more celluloid time? Most definitely. Ultimately boring? You be the judge.
The Best Director gong went to Alfonso Cuarón, whose Roma is a semi-autobiographical look at the environment he grew up in, in Mexico (so, not the Italian ‘Roma’, after all).
Keeping the multicultural boxes continually checked, Rami Malek won Best Actor for Bohemian Rhapsody, and Olivia Colman won Best Actress for The Favourite, while Spike Lee won his first competitive Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlackKklansman.
As for the two main winners — Green Book (as said, Best Picture) and Bohemian Rhapsody (which won the most awards on the night), these have left viewers riddled with wonder. Both films are based on “true” stories but have not exactly adhered to facts on their subjects, and both films were directed by men who have recently had sexual misconduct allegations levelled against them. Oh, and both aren’t exactly fantastic movies, either, despite hype and (sorry) public opinion.
Also, are we the only ones who noticed that among the night’s presenters and award receivers, there was hardly a cis white male in sight? Until the last few scenes where a bunch of fuddy-duddy looking white dudes packed the stage to accept their award for Green Book‘s win (oh, but there was a beaming Octavia Spencer, for the record).
The only real break from either old-school stuffiness or patronising tokenism that we saw was when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won Best Animated Feature. Even then we sensed it was just a matter of the Academy doing its darnedest to stay on-point, but we’ve got to agree, Into the Spider-Verse is the best example of just about every form of animation there is. Loved that movie.
The only real break from either old-school stuffiness or patronising tokenism that we saw was when ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ won Best Animated Feature.
Anyway, until next year’s Oscars, which will probably once again be packed with all-sorts but ultimately won by something ‘safe’, do try to support this sad, tired and paranoid industry. With stream TV looking better and winning more eyes by the day, you’re the last chance it’s got.
Michael Mastess & Antonino Tati