Burned film — the woes of the Oscars, an institution fighting for relevance

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“After paying attention for several years, it has become increasingly and dishearteningly evident that trends, quotas and agendas are what fuel nominees more than ever.”

Music and Society Editor

For the past seven years, it has been tradition for my aunt and me to embark on what we have dubbed “The Oscar Quest” — that is, to view all the Oscar-nominated films in the Best Picture category. The excitement of traveling to different theaters, spending time together and, most of all, discussing the films at great length has been a mainstay of my youth, as well as a formative experience for me in terms of inspiration to write about entertainment and appreciate the arts.

The Oscars are an outlet to expose the public to films that have great cultural, artistic and technical merit, regardless of popularity. Getting to see films that aren’t necessarily massive box-office successes but instead challenge, confuse and entertain in a unique way was, and continues to be, appealing to me.

After paying attention for several years, it has become increasingly and dishearteningly evident that trends, quotas and agendas are what fuel nominees more than ever.

Many of the Best Picture nominees this year were simply undeserving and tarnish the legacy of past winners while increasing the blow for more deserving films.

Freddie Mercury, the legendary lead singer of Queen, was given a shallow greatest-hits compilation of his life with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Dick Cheney was lambasted in what amounted to an exhausting — and at times inaccurate — smear campaign in “Vice.”

“Black Panther,” a slightly better-than-average superhero movie with an all-black cast got a nom in the Popular Film Category. And, what could have been a thrilling historical drama was made into a somewhat boring but well-acted critique of racism in “BlacKkKlansman.”

The story of a real-life jazz pianist and his driver, “Green Book,” stood out from other nominees but didn’t offer anything truly unique or revolutionary in terms of an American narrative about the segregated south.

While all of these films had merit in some aspect, Best Picture nominees should be the full package and be honored for the summation of the performances, screenplay, cinematography, score and editing. Choosing films based on popularity, the “important” political message they project or the diversity quotas they fulfill takes away from the artistic integrity of the Academy and diminishes the Oscar award.

Furthermore, making the decision to hand out the “less popular” technical awards, such as cinematography and sound editing, during commercial breaks when the ceremony airs serves as a final slap in the face to not only the deserving artists but those who are truly interested in film. This is the first year I am blatantly angry and frankly offended at the Oscars.

“A Star is Born,” “The Favourite” and “Roma” were the only three films that felt worthy of the award. What made these films stand out was how fresh and inventive they felt in their artistry, especially in comparison to the other nominees. Their stories were gripping, the performances stunning and their technical features nothing short of awe-inspiring — as nominees should be.

“A Star is Born” painted a devastating portrait of the inner-workings of the music industry, the price of fame and the power of true love with one of the most memorable movie soundtracks in recent memory.

“The Favourite” subverted the period piece and made it into a zany satire of court culture, exploitation and excess with eclectic cinematography and an added queer angle.

Finally, “Roma” gave a beautifully poignant and brutally honest look at the realities of poverty, womanhood and political upheaval, and managed to have a captivating vibrance despite being shot in black and white.

The aforementioned films stood out in 2018 but the amount of blatant nomination snubs is truly perplexing and begs the question, “How is the Academy so out of touch?” In their attempt to be relevant and political, they missed some of the most socially conscious and impactful films of the year, including the haunting tale of modern disillusionment that was “First Reformed” and the window to the struggles of adolescents growing up in the digital age that was “Eighth Grade.” The moving Mr. Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and the powerful drama chronicling struggles of the black experience “If Beale Street Could Talk” are also among the snubbed.

The Oscars are losing a lot of steam and their attempt to appeal to popular sensibilities and increasing viewership by streamlining the broadcast is not the answer to their woes. They have only succeeded in alienating the people who are truly interested, like myself, by sending messages that they don’t care about what is most important and should be the central focus — film as an art form.

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