And by that title, I mean I’m doubling on how down I am on the Oscars…and Hollywood in general.
Look, it’s easy for mainstream America to bash on Hollywood – some regarding the prominent political leanings, some over their demonstrated social bankruptcy, and others for jealous reasons such as their salaries. I’m not focused on any of those things here.
In the last day or so I came across someone stating, essentially, that Hollywood has moved from telling stories to selling messages (my words). Then I read, friend of the Gormogons, Jonah Goldberg’s piece at the National Review. Two things gripped me. First:
…no one should be surprised when the ratings for the Oscars are lousy, given that they mostly celebrate movies that are hostile — or simply unappealing — to vast swathes of the movie-going and TV-watching audience. Particularly when those honored are so liable to preen about how clever and brave they are.
I don’t think getting paid large amounts of money to portray a character in a movie that, as Neil deGrasse Tyson pontificated on Twitter, “challenges & disrupts [our] world view” is brave which makes them sinfully prideful when they do preen about it at the Oscars. Ok, maybe that’s not a shocker to you, dear reader. I’m open for challenging movies. I’m married to a Radio/TV/Film major and we have seen a wide range…and as bad as some have been, I’ve never walked out on a movie (although, probably should have). Where Hollywood is missing the mark, however, with regards to “selling messages” is two-fold: (1) they don’t listen to their own messaging (e.g. corrupt hierarchies of power leading to abusive behaviors) and (2) subtlety as the messages are frequently heavy handed – from Wall-E to Three Billboards (which Mrs. GorT and I enjoyed but remarked at how over the top it was with regards to the actions of various characters and the resulting lack of consequences*).
The second part from Jonah’s piece that struck me was:
John Podhoretz made an interesting point: One reason the ratings for the Oscars are down is that few Americans see most of the nominated movies anymore….This is just one facet of the larger problem with Hollywood fare these days. While there are more and better niche movies appealing to different segments of the society, there are fewer big “event” movies that everybody goes to that are also worthy of Oscar consideration.
Let me spin that another way. Where are the really great stories that inspire us through entertainment? I don’t think anyone is advocating that the actual and implied actions at the end of Three Billboards is what we want in society, for example*. Not that long ago, movies were a means of escape – 120 minutes where we could relax and be entertained. We were taken to galaxies far, far away where Good fought Evil. And on time traveling adventures that made us laugh while seeing that we can change our future. Maybe people are right and there are only 7 plots in the world: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Rebirth, Comedy and Tragedy but there are so many unique and interesting stories out there.
I’m glad A Wrinkle In Time is making it to the silver screen, it was a favorite of mine growing up. And Amazon’s adaptation of The Man in the High Castle has been awesome. But there are so many other great stories out there across a variety of age ranges: The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald, Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, and more.
I just think that the Oscars are representative of the movie industry as a whole and should make no bones about it. The Academy should come out with a statement describing why certain movies are nominated and awarded and why others aren’t. This won’t happen, because they can’t do that.
* if you don’t know what I’m referencing because you haven’t seen the movie and if you don’t care about spoilers, hit me up on email and I’ll fill you in.