La La Land won best picture, until it didn’t. An Oscars show broadened to include political denunciations and speeches on current affairs flubbed its most basic mission, to give out the awards to the winners the academy designated.
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty reading the wrong best picture winner works as Hollywood in microcosm. An industry built on entertainment and art now does propaganda. Is anyone surprised that box-office receipts declined last year and in seven of the last 10?
The mission creep ensured that the creeps accomplished their mission. They get their political point across. But the audience gets their point across by heading to the exits. Americans may want a sermon on Sunday, but not at the Oscars.
“As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being,” actor Gael Bernal Garcia informed last night before presenting an award. “I’m against any form of wall that wants to separate us.”
Ezra Edelman strangely dedicated his best documentary win for O.J.: Made in America to the “victims of police violence, police brutality, racially-motivated violence and criminal injustice.”
“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Iranian director Anousheh Ansari wrote in a statement read in his stead after he boycotted the show in solidarity with those affected by President Donald Trump’s travel ban. “Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fears, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.”
Blah. Blah. Blah.
It all sounds the same. And the movies Hollywood makes increasingly look the same.
Just one original, live-action film squeezed into the top 20 ticket sellers last year. Remakes, reboots, sequels, cartoons, and films based on old comic-book characters constituted the rest of the best at the box office.
The 2016 box-office bigs included Star Trek Beyond, a sequel in the reboot of the original Star Trek films based on the television series; Batman v. Superman, a sequel of sorts to Man of Steel, a reboot of the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, which followed a Saturday-morning cartoon, a black-and-white television series, a comic-book series, and much else; and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, an offshoot prequel to the Harry Potter films.
We’ve seen this movie before. And we’ve seen last night’s Oscars before, too. From Marlon Brando citing the treatment of Native Americans for refusing his Oscar for The Godfather in 1973 to novelist John Irving thanking Planned Parenthood after winning an Academy Award for The Cider House Rules in 2000 to Leonardo DiCaprio’s “climate change is real” speech after winning best actor for The Revenant last year, artists who captivate on the silver screen bore on the small screen.
Show us something different, on film and at the end of February. The Academy Awards show, like the films it fawns over, feels like a formula. That’s why early ratings show a four-percent drop for Sunday night’s broadcast after the box office endured a .4 percent drop for 2016. People pay for entertainment, not boredom. Hollywood gets this on one level. The academy favors movies such as Moonlight because it strikes as creative and balks at honoring Captain America: Civil War because it hits audiences as going-through-the-motions rote. So why put on the same trite awards show every year?
Creativity built Hollywood. Copycatism kills it.