The 93rd annual Academy Awards kicked off with an in-person ceremony in Los Angeles, even though hardly anyone has seen the nominated films in-person during the pandemic-fueled 2020 movie season. The Academy of Arts and Sciences refused to be ruled by COVID restrictions and banned virtual acceptance speeches in an attempt to recreate some measure of normalcy.
Despite the luxury, the presentation was about political activism, as it was last year. It becomes dull to hear the wealthy and much-lauded entertainers, artists, and celebrities preach from the golden stage.
Even despite the push for diversity, prominent black films didn’t win the big awards. International films and artists took home most of the honors. Why make all the noise if not to raise the volume?
This Oscars was touted as one of the most diverse presentations in the history of the little gold statues, a major focus of the broadcast since the #OscarsSoWhite protest campaign sprouted more than half a decade ago. That’s why the diversity on stage Sunday was no accident and no coincidence. Instead, the Academy of Arts and Sciences instituted intentional diversity quotas for this year’s awards.
To be eligible for an award, now a film must meet criteria that have nothing to do with its content, structure, or artistic merit. Even so, that didn’t do anything to push the black films to the front. It kind of makes the quotas even worse.
Tyler Perry offered a stand-out speech during his win of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, inviting people to refuse hate, saying also, “I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer.” Perry is so often the voice of reason. But, in that, he was mostly alone.
H.E.R. won Best Original Song for “Fight for You” in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” saying “I am always going to fight for my people.” That’s as close as the big, black-helmed films got to taking prominent trophies.
Americans aren’t totally on board with these new requirements, either. A national poll conducted by SurveyMonkey and commissioned by The Daily Wire found 63 percent of Americans agree that “films should solely be judged on their artistic merits” when being considered for Oscars, while 24 percent said “diversity should be a significant factor.” The advertisers were all on board with the diversity requirements, with Target specifically stroking its ego on its commitment to black-owned businesses.
The pervasive feeling, both of the presentation, the presenters, the winners, as well as many of the nominated films, was of adhering to a specific, leftist ideology that checked all the big boxes. All of it combined was telling viewers how they were supposed to think and feel, shaming us, perhaps for wanting simply beauty, or laughs, without political overtones.
They are just all so sure of their own righteousness, that there can be no question of their narrative. That isn’t art, it’s propaganda, and worst of all, it’s boring.
The movies didn’t feel special. None of them had even come close to capturing the national imagination. The films that were nominated for Best Feature were pretty much unknown foreign and independent-feeling films that had little impact on American culture. Each of the nominated films, in past years, would have felt obscure and small—and because hardly anyone has seen them, they still do.
The Academy’s relevance and ratings will only sink further as it continues to be more focused on its interest in satisfying social justice and not on art that appeals to our national character.