It was the longest Oscars telecast in a decade and some are already calling it the worst – EVER.
The room was certainly stuffed with the self-important, a situation which always risks devolving into melancholy boredom. Putting the silly politics of the evening aside (which no doubt made the affair equally laughable and intolerable) the night’s greatest offense was its lack of awarding talent in film in favor of painting by numbers.
Let me explain.
“Moonlight” won Best Picture.
It wasn’t – not even close.
What it was was a mildly interesting, highly imperfect, mish-mash story of a young black man’s search for identity amidst the conflicts of poverty, race, and sexuality, that despite being beautifully filmed was overall, less beautifully told. “Poetic” was a word commonly used in reviews to describe the film. Poetic? Yes. A great film? Not really. A top 10 of the year? Perhaps.
The awarding of Best Picture was no doubt influenced by Hollywood’s over-sensitivity over having been criticized recently for not giving more awards to minorities. It’s an odd conflict is it not where an industry finds itself pressured into making minority performers the majority award winners? Such a situation makes the Oscars less an award show and more of a social engineering project – something that does little for the industry or genuine improvement in race relations because it is based upon a falsehood and only the most intellectually inept would fall for it. It also does a terrible disservice to those wonderful minority performers who are more than capable of standing on the merits of their work alone without the need for the Academy to give them a manufactured pat on the head.
Of the Best Picture nominees, the films “Manchester by the Sea”, “Hell or High Water” and “Lion” were superior to “Moonlight” in almost every way. (With the possible exception of cinematography) And of those three, “Manchester” is the only one that leaves you coming back to it long after its initial viewing. There is a line in the film that was so simple, so profound, so powerful within the context of the story – none of the other films approached its depth, its humanity, its craft:
“I can’t beat it.”
It is a moment that is not mired in race, or culture, or sexuality, but rather transcends it. The pain, the fight, the quiet rage is universal to ALL people, regardless of categories – be they self-imposed or appointed to them by outside forces.
And yet, Oscars 2017 muddled its way forward going simple instead of profound where the awards were doled out to check the boxes instead of acknowledging true skill and craft.
It is why Hollywood is failing, cannibalizing itself in a seemingly perpetual cycle of empty self-gratification. How appropriate then to see it conclude on such a disastrously failed moment where it finally and openly, descended into outright parody:
D.W. Ulsterman is a bestselling, award-winning author and socio-political commentator.
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