The Academy Award nominations were announced today and for the second year in a row, the acting nominees were all-white. Straight Outta Compton, Creed, Will Smith in Concussion, Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation were all snubbed. And so, like that Hollywood sequel you didn’t ask for, #OscarsSoWhite is back. I’m both disappointed and not surprised. I don’t think anyone is truly surprised. Discussions of race and gender in Hollywood, both on screen and behind the camera, are never-ending. But more importantly, the Oscars are rooted in industry politics and its more clear than ever that Hollywood cannot escape itself.
Expectations are now being placed on host Chris Rock to say something, anything about this year’s Oscar snubs. But before you go down that rabbit hole, keep this in mind:
As I process yet another year of being disappointed by not only the Academy Award nominations but also by Hollywood in general, I have accepted that I simply don’t care as much as I once did.
There was a time when I would get stupidly excited about the Oscars. I would go to extremes to see every nominated movie and I didn’t care about the reasons why films were or were not nominated. Obsessing over the Oscars gave me a way to channel my attention and quell the boredom that comes from living in small town. This seems like a lifetime ago now. But I’m no longer a teenager, blinded by the glamour of Hollywood.
My indifference towards the Oscars became undeniable around the year of The King’s Speech followed by the year of The Artist and then Argo, a hat trick of dull Oscar seasons. (Boring biopic, boring musical masked as a charming throwback, Ben Affleck’s ego.) I could also no longer ignore how Oscar recipients are almost exclusively white and male.
2014, the year of 12 Years a Slave and the arrival of Lupita N’yongo to save Hollywood from itself, seemed like the start of a real, palpable change. Then came last year and every non-controversy surrounding Selma. I’ve never been more disheartened than while discussing Selma with my father, who refused to see a movie that inaccurately portrayed LBJ.
Lately, the constant barrage of movies that are overly white and male-oriented, which has always existed, weighs heavily on my mind and this carries over to my film going experience. I exit movie theaters feeling underwhelmed and disappointed more than ever. My general disappointment is coupled with the knowledge that the Oscars will never award interesting, dynamic and diverse performers, directors and films. If a movie like Creed cannot be nominated for anything (a mercy nomination for Stallone doesn’t count), then movies like Beasts of No Nation and Tangerine simply cannot compete against the likes of The Martian. So I’ve stopped caring and I no longer want to see every movie with Oscar hype. I’ve evolved; the Oscars have not.
The Oscars are a component of the culture industry, a physical manifestation of what producers and Hollywood insiders decide is worthwhile cinema. These awards don’t celebrate great filmmaking; they push forward homogenized narratives and celebrate being adept at industry politics. The greatest failure of the AMPAS is its inability recognize diverse talent and electric filmmaking. But the reaction to the Oscar nominations these past two years shows audiences are hungry for more than what the culture industry currently allows.
I don’t actually hate the Academy Awards but I am certainly a passive bystander. I know the Oscars are a waste of time and yet I watch every year. I enjoy mundane cultural events and so, I enjoy the absurdity of a red carpet or an awards telecast. I enjoy how the Internet serves its only useful purpose by transforming into a collective cultural critic. (Help us if Leo wins an Oscar. Tumblr will self-combust.) Watching the Oscars still gives me a feeling of giddiness, the same feeling I used to get when going to the movies was still an event.