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Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather report live from the red carpet about why they’re not headed into the Kodak Theater for the Oscars. They talk about the Western Canon, problems falling asleep, and why Oscar season is different in different parts of the country, and they read some listener comments.
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- Oscar Winners
- The Western Canon by Harold Bloom
I watch the Oscars every year for the same reason I watch the Super Bowl every year. I love the spectacle of it, even when I don’t have a favorite in the contest.
Also, I feel the Oscars reflects where we are as a culture, both good and bad for a particular year. This year, the we had trouble getting our stuff together and had to go ahead without a host, much like how our country had to go forward without a budget for the first few months of the year. The only difference is I barely noticed the lack of a host at the Oscars, while the shutdown was extremely noticeable.
For the fifth time in six years a Mexican filmmaker won the Best Director Oscar, which I feel reflects Hollywood attitudes on the immigration debate.
Several of the Best Picture nominees were about race relations. Many were from the perspective of black people and were directed by African Americans, and two actually had the word “black” in the title, but the top award went to the one race film where the main character was white, directed by a white guy, written by a white guy and has the word “green” in the title.
There is so much to unpack.
Did anyone else notice the odd choice of music from “Bohemian Rhapsody” whenever that film won an award? They looped the guitar section from the titular song, which has an awkward turnaround that doesn’t flow well. More importantly, though, they missed the very very obvious song choice that was staring them right in the face: “We Are the Champions.”
Complaining aside, I am glad that the band still plays the love theme from “Cinema Paradiso” during the show. When that gets canned, then the Oscars will truly be beyond saving.
Apparently they played “We Are the Champions” at the top of the show, so that makes at least some sense as to why they didn’t use it when the movie itself won. Couldn’t they have done “Don’t Stop Me Now” instead though? Anyway what I’m trying to say is that I obsess over the brief little snippets of music that barely anyone else pays attention to. Something something something it probably doesn’t deserve.
I was playing Oscar Bingo and my card had a space that said “Queen does not play ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.'” Technically, the did not play it on the show, we just heard clips so I claimed the spot and got a Bingo.
The Oscars are not good because they don’t need to be good. What they need to be is the Oscars.
Very few people, even inside of the industry, have either the time or the inclination to spend more than a few hours each year thinking about what the “best” picture is. The question itself is inane, for one thing.
So dressing the show up as a major celebrity extravaganza and also a social barometer is key to not only disguising the fact that its stated purpose is pretty silly but also to giving it a real purpose after all: the Oscars are a way to show everyone that Hollywood is still running this joint.
Except that it’s not. At least Old Hollywood isn’t. The game belongs to the worldwide box office now. It belongs to China. Domestically, it belongs to Kevin Fiege almost exclusively.
So nobody cares about the Oscars because the Oscars don’t care about anybody else. Why show up to a game that my team isn’t even allowed to play in?
That’s an excellent point. I never gave it much thought in previous years, but as of the last few, it’s been bewildering to hear people talk about what the Oscars “should be like” or “which movie should win,” as if the concept is anything but a bunch of self-proclaimed elites spending a ton of money making themselves look important.
I mean…if they can’t be trusted on whether Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are OK guys to hang out with, does their opinion on Black Panther really matter? Given that context, should their opinions on movies reflect anything other than their own biases?
So, I don’t know if this is a perspective unique to myself among Overthinking It listeners, but I will admit to spending way too much time browsing the grodey fandom corners of the internet. Like, I actually spend time lurking on the Marvel Studios subreddit. It’s not great but it’s more entertaining and less toxic than other social media like Facebook.
Anyhoo, one of the more interesting developments has been the evolution of the anti-Black Panther trolling.
At first, it really offended legitimate fans. Here they were on a special little corner of the internet designated for unironically and unabashedly geeking out about a film franchise and EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. that Black Panther came up there would be an unfortunate sub-class of naysayers proclaiming that it was “at best middle-tier Marvel” or that people “only liked it because it had black people in it”, etc.
Then eventually it became a meme. The fans deflated the power of their trolls by making jokes about it, especially ones calling out the redundant nature of the complaints (which, as a lot of people speculated, could be active measures propaganda coming from Russia).
But something really interesting happened when the Oscars nods started rolling around. The trolling morphed into a weird defensiveness about the “integrity” of the awards. Mind you, this is a subreddit that has done some demographic polling and consistently found that the bulk of the users have been 16-25 years old. Why would they be invested in this argument at all?
Of course, my mind races with possibilities. Most of them cynical. I don’t think that my personal theorizing would really add much to the conversation, especially since most people here are probably already on the same page.
But I did find the whole spectacle to be really interesting. Watching an appeal to quality morph into an appeal to authority without skipping a beat. I believe it was Pete Fenzel that pointed out that the conversation about quality is the most boring conversation you can have about a movie. I think maybe now I might know why that is.
Black Panther was a poor film, and arguably racist. Trying to defend Disney because “Russia” just shows the Orwellian nightmare we’re living in. BP should never have been near the Oscars. Pandering hurts everyone.
Someone’s really still pitching the laughable “pointing out racism is the real racism” idea? And denying the existence of well-documented Russian troll farms going after pop culture? Good luck with those…
I appreciate the idea that there’s some sort of Platonic Ideal best picture, here, that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the movie’s appeal. It makes it clear that, in the end, the reason that the show isn’t much different than reading some listicle is that the show is, at its core, a dramatic reading of a listicle written by the Academy, interwoven with a clip show and (when there’s a host) some jokes.
On the Netflix issue, I assumed that the money spent was bait for future talent. “Not only are we a Respectable Source of Respectable Movies, but here’s what we do to ensure that our people get Important Shinies to put on their mantles,” to hedge against the media conglomerates starting their own streaming services.
Streaming the show to theaters, though, is genius. They technology’s already in place, after all, and it makes a lot more sense.
Maybe an interesting addendum, Steven Spielberg is apparently going to officially grump about streaming being different than getting charged an arm and a leg for stale popcorn. http://collider.com/steven-spielberg-netflix-oscars-rule-change
I have to honestly wonder how many indie films fit his “films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week” description..
I liked the Oscars when I thought they were based on popular opinion. Finding out it’s based on a cabal is just off putting. Haven’t watched it in a decade or more.