Comment Culture Film & TV

Are the Oscars relevant anymore?

Have the Oscars become overshadowed by controversy or are the awards an important platform for change in Hollywood? Two of our writers sound off.

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Spike Lee celebrates his first competitive Oscar win. Credit: Independent.ie 

NO!

by Thomas Petch

Over the past few years the Oscars have experienced a shift in the public eye. They’ve been slated for racism with the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, mocked for their bad hosts, viewing figures have been falling annually and recently they’ve had a revolving door of drama both on and off the stage. With all of this going on, the question of whether or not the Oscars are relevant has become more and more prominent.

Over the years films like Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour and Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl have been critically acclaimed and generally well liked, yet often dismissed as “Oscar bait” because they seem specifically designed to win awards. Whether or not this is actually true however is irrelevant, what’s important is that people now view the Academy as an elitist group who only award and celebrate films that have been designed to be awarded and celebrated, as well as use the ceremonies as excuses to rub shoulders with celebrities.

This is made more evident by the fact that many actors and people involved with the industry have referenced this fact. Denzel Washington even joked about this in an acceptance speech a few years ago. Since the Oscars are no longer seen as a celebration of cinema and more of a clique patting each other on the back, general audiences lose interest in the Oscars since the films that they see and respond to are usually snubbed.

Last year the Oscars announced that they would be introducing a “Most Popular Film Category” that is intended to focus on the big blockbuster films that are the more anticipated and financially successful each year. However, this decision was clearly an attempt to try give blockbuster films more recognition without compromising their “Best Picture Award”. Less than a month later this new category was postponed and the film Black Panther was nominated for best picture. This lead to a backlash since it seemed that the only reason the film was being nominated was because it was a well-liked, financially successful blockbuster, rather actually deserving to be nominated. After all, is Black Panther really a better comic book film than The Dark Knight?

So what does this all mean? How does this all effect the relevance of the Oscars? If the Oscars want to remain relevant and modern then they have to return to what they used to be: a celebration of cinema as a whole. Right now however the Oscars don’t matter anymore, people know more about the controversy that surrounds the Oscars then the actual winners. So if Black Panther is nominated for an Oscar, it should be because it deserves it not because the academy wants to appear relevant to its audience.

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Ruth Carter, Oscar winner for Best Costume Design (Black Panther). Credit: Fashion Town

YES!

by Cameron Gray 

Rest assured, Black Panther did not become the first comic book film to win Best Picture: but after Green Book’s victory, is that really a good thing?

When the winner was called, Spike Lee, the trailblazing director of BlacKkKlansman and Do the Right Thing, heel-turned out of the Dolby Theatre.

The Academy chose to reward a film about race, told from the perspective of an older white man: side-stepping the cultural impact of Black Panther and the urgent social commentary of BlackKklansman for Green Book, which ties its racial story in a neat little bow with the artistry of a lifetime made-for-TV movie. Green Book is not a bad film, even if it’s an ugly winner.

Yet, the Academy are a body in transition after injecting hundreds of diverse members to its predominantly old, white and retired boys club.

The ripples of this representation could be seen last night. Three of the four acting winners portrayed queer characters and Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler became the first African-American women to win for best costume design and best production design, respectively.

If anything, the job of The Academy is more relevant than ever.

As the steady stream of first-timers took to the stage, they delivered boundary-breaking speeches, calling on the industry to do better, to be better. The stories these films tell matter.

Rayka Zehtabchi, a freshly-minted Oscar winner for ‘Outstanding Documentary Short’ delivered one of the most memorable speeches when her Netflix project, Period. End of Sentence won.

“I’m not crying because I’m on my period, or anything. I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!”

The Oscars provide a mainstream platform that has the power to break stigmas and change perspectives.

The voting body may not always do the right thing, but every winner that doesn’t look like those that have come before, or shares a story with the ability to shape lives, make all the Academy-politics and Twitter-snarking is worth it.

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