I have elegant friends who consume Oscar movies as if defending a master’s thesis. One such pal recently turned down a lunch invitation because she had to get home to watch three films to stay on schedule for this Sunday’s 94th Academy Awards. Which movies, I asked? She pulled out a detailed phone index and said something about Denzel Washington.
Incredible! Inspiring! I wish I was that devoted to, uh … anything! To be honest, she should probably run the National Treasury!
Now, you’re scratching your head, going, huh, the Oscars, huh, is that right? Huh. Have I seen any of the movies? What even are they? Is Dune one? Huh. Well, I saw Dune.
Reader, 10 movies currently contend for Best Picture. I shall list them:
The Second Molar. Tree of Woe. Walter Smucker’s Incredible Toe Jam. Gratuitous Mirror Scare. Tasteful Midriff. The Third Ex-Wife’s Revenge on the Fourth Ex-Wife. I Think My Baby Hates Me? Historical Chin Prosthetics: The Musical. Oops, This Was Offensive. Dune.
Good news. You don’t need movies to enjoy the Oscars ritual. By “enjoy,” I mean get comfy with a box of wine and bag of Bugles (finger hats!), tweet gleefully when a presenter arrives wearing a shower curtain belted with Fruit Stripe gum, force yourself to stay up for the In Memoriam reel, then awake with a snort, gasping, as if resuscitated after a brief and dramatic drowning.
It’s no revelation that consumers flock to big, blowy-uppy movies over critical darlings because we only have so much free time. This isn’t new. As a source, I cite the three instances I attempted to watch Gosford Park. I have still never seen Gosford Park (cue sleep drowning).
These days, too, choices are crushing. Content! So much content. Movies live not only in the historical dig site called a “theater,” but on one of 647 streaming platforms that chisel money $7.99 at a time in the stealthiest Ponzi scheme this town has ever seen. It is tempting to reject all intellectually challenging works in favor of Love is Blind, then read more horrifying news and drift away in the toasty Oscars couch nook (drowning in 3 … 2 … ).
And yet, I will always watch the Oscars, no matter how stupid I am about film, no matter how torturous the event turns out to be.
The show’s viewership has declined for almost a decade, tanking the most last year. Tastes are changing and the movie industry’s impossible whiteness continues to dry like soaking wet paint. Producer Will Packer, a St. Petersburg native, is leading the first ever all-Black Oscar producing team. Meanwhile, the film academy is striving for relevance and snappiness, relegating certain categories to the pre-show, including documentary short, original score and makeup and hairstyling. Preposterous in a year when The Eyes of Tammy Faye is in contention!
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Promising: Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall are joint hosts. Not promising: Showrunners vow more “audience entertainment and engagement,” a red flag for cringe TikTok skits and probably something involving James Corden.
See, that’s fine, though. For better or worse, the Academy Awards are one little glimmer of shared human experience in a fractious time. An unscripted flub will happen, alighting the internet. Everyone will complain about the run time. A star will show up half in the bag, like Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born. We’ll pretend to hate the experience together, but we won’t really.
Movies? There’s time for those later.
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