2020 was a long year.
It felt like things weren’t moving, and the slow wait to get vaccinated has been excruciating(which is unfortunately still not over for some). Something that made it worse for film fans everywhere was the utter lack of films being regularly released. The summer was not blockbuster season this year, and awards season has been limited to say the least. Some films are only being seen by people that are able to get critics screeners or early access to the films that are now competing in the major awards ceremonies. Suffice it to say, the film world as we knew it was just not there in 2020.
And it is because of this that the question as to whether we should even have an Academy Awards ceremony lingers over everyone’s minds. Yes, there were several films released last year, but the scope was nowhere near that of a regular year – and this opened up streaming giants like Netflix or Amazon to receive a much larger share of nominations than ever before. Time will tell if this will be the future of the business, as they say.
The biggest lesson I learned from 2020 is about humanity’s endurance. Our resilience and our genius led us, once again, to begin the steps towards prevailing against a deadly threat. We did not let a virus destroy our way of life, and that is probably why the Academy boldly moved ahead with an unconventional ceremony to award the best achievers of the year. In that sense, the Academy Awards could be taken as an ode to everything that was good last year (yes, despite everything, good things also happened). So if we want to look at this as a positive tale, that is where I would start.
There is, however, another side to this. As you’ve probably heard, Academy Awards ceremony viewership has steadily and surely declined over the last few years. Ultimately, a legitimate lack of imagination coupled with an unattainable and misguided millennial understanding that awards should compensate for social justice has resulted in a waning interest for what used to be the biggest night in Hollywood. These days, the question “what movie won the Best Picture last year?” is just not that relevant (it was “Parasite”, by the way).
So, why do we even need to have a ceremony to award movies that the majority of audiences have not seen on a year where everything that most people loved about it (such as the red carpet) will not be there in the sense that we’re familiar with? If ratings have been low before, it’s more than likely that the trend will continue on a social distanced, Zoom-enhanced ceremony. This works as a counter argument for the ceremony being a symbol of resilience, because it sort of makes us wonder if the Academy Awards really represent anything drastically relevant anymore.
I can easily see both sides of the argument, and it is unfortunate that I am one of the few that are still thinking about it. The Academy Awards have become nothing short of a common misfire, and one that appeals to a very specific section of film buffs… and few others. Sure, there will be outrage on Twitter (“WHY DIDN’T MY MOVIE WIN?!?!”), but it will more than likely come from two-sentence accounts of real events, which misses the nuance of what talent recognition should be about. The Oscars, just like Twitter, seem to have strayed from the point.
So, what can we expect from the Academy Awards?
Nothing more than prior years, and likely a lot less. The Academy has demonstrated that it has become harder for them to come up with ways to make these ceremonies engaging. This year is unlikely to change that trend. The Academy Awards are the leftovers of a time well past, and we are perhaps passed the point of realizing it. Modern audiences are just not as interested in talent recognition for filmmaking if it doesn’t mean something for them. But, as it turns out, there has not been a person smart enough within the Academy to come up with a reason to find relevance in an old-fashioned ceremony for audiences that spend so much of their day on social media, deciding what the “best films” are by themselves (e.g. people that call “Joker” a masterpiece… sigh). And that is, unfortunately or fortunately, what we are. Oscars or no Oscars.
To somewhat quote the controversial “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (i.e., another alleged Twitter masterpiece that really isn’t that at all):
“Should there be an Academy Awards ceremony this year?”
(pause) “There is.”