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Why I fell out of love with the Oscars 

By Jyotirmoy Gupta, May 4 2024—

There was a time when I would eagerly wait for the Oscars every year. It was the ultimate prize in cinema, akin to the Nobel prize in the field of cinematic arts. There was a sincerity to it, but in recent years it has become more of a moralistic popular choice award. I used to have extended debates with friends about who would win at the Oscars, and in the end, we would all be surprised in some way. But in the last few years the award ceremony has become stale with predictability.

Cinema is about pushing boundaries. The medium of cinema has a free hand in the world of imagination and  it is a way to address issues we can’t discuss freely in our highly censored world. The films that won at the Oscars are brilliant and deserve praise, but the Academy has become very risk averse. Host a gala night with the biggest stars on the red carpet, dole out awards to the most popular choices avoiding any controversy and have a good night’s sleep. After all, it is better to have a boring ceremony than a bad one.

The Academy itself is aware of its hypocrisy. Jimmy Kimmel started the ceremony by addressing the biggest snub of the 96th Oscars, Greta Gerwig not being nominated for the Best Director award. And when the camera focussed on Greta, and the audience laughed and clapped, Kimmel was quick enough to quip that you guys are the ones who didn’t vote for her, so stop clapping. I am not a fan of comedians hosting award shows but maybe comedy is the only tool available to call out the blatant hypocrisy. Jimmy Kimmel did a decent job hosting the Oscars by walking a safe territory of jokes. However, his bit on Robert Downey Jr.’s addiction problem felt mean, and dragged unnecessarily for quite a while.

Oppenheimer created such a buzz that people speculated it would sweep the Oscars before the film even released. And sweep it did; Oppenheimer took home seven awards, including the Best Picture and the Best Actor for Cillian Murphy. With Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan got his long-deserved Oscar for Best Director. But is it really the best film of 2024? In my opinion, films such as Killers of the Flower Moon, Anatomy of a Fall and Past Lives had much more to offer to the viewer than the dry political drama of Oppenheimer. But given the marketing effort behind Oppenheimer, The Academy went for its safest choice. The same applies to Poor Things, which won four awards, including Emma Stone’s win for Best Actress. Yorgos Lanthimos has made some truly groundbreaking films such as Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but Poor Things is his weakest effort. It is weird for the sake of being weird and doesn’t have the existential depth of any of Lanthimos’s previous films.

In 1973, when Marlon Brando was awarded Best Actor for the film The Godfather, a young Native American named Sacheen Littlefeather went on to the stage instead of him. She brushed aside the award being presented by Roger Moore and went on to read Brando’s letter on the mistreatment of American Indians in Hollywood. With boos going around in the hall, Sacheen continued to read Brando’s letter. Such moments of genuine confrontation and discussions our society needs to have are rare now. Instead, they are replaced by gossip-worthy moments like Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during the 2022 Oscars.

I was genuinely happy to see the song Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People) from the film Killers of the Flower Moon being performed at the Oscars, but as expected, it didn’t win any awards. Lilly Gladstone’s performance as Mollie Kyle in Killers of the Flower Moon had won the hearts of the audiences and critics alike. Her loss to Emma Stone in the race for Best Actress was probably the biggest upset of the night. Looking back at the awards ceremony, I feel much of The Academy’s nominations are a kind of lip service to being politically correct and inclusive. The only politically relevant film to be awarded was The Zone of Interest. But The Academy is so conscious of its image that it refused to upload director Jonathan Glazer’s acceptance speech to its official YouTube channel. It just reaffirmed my belief that the Oscars is becoming a choreographed pageantry with little significance to cinema. That being said, I feel the Oscars will be a source of excitement and frustration among cinephiles and movie lovers for years to come.

This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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