BY LUKE HARRIS STAFF WRITER
The Oscars are far from perfect. The tiny gold statue may be full of prestige, but it also carries a legacy of controversy.
Racial equity hasn’t always been their priority, and the jury is still out on their more recent efforts. The invitation-only membership pathway gives an unfair advantage to privileged artists that are already in the Academy’s elite network. The telecast drags on way too late into the night as their ratings drop lower and lower. Studio-funded campaigning for the awards delegitimizes the winners’ credibility. The list goes on.
Given all these flaws, it only makes sense that some would advocate not even trying to pull off an Oscars ceremony in 2021 after a year of tragedy, grief and unprecedented industry challenges. But the Oscars are still worth it.
Underneath all the studio campaigning and red carpet fashion, there is an encouragement to celebrate and reflect on the movie-making magic that has been shared in the prior year.
In years like these, we need that. Even if you’re not an avid film fan, having a reason to celebrate something can do numbers for your spirit.
I’m not a football fan but watching the Super Bowl lifted my spirits. Even if it was a boring Tom Brady show, it was nice to feel that little sense of normal. I’m not a television geek, but it was relaxing to watch the Emmys move forward and know that ceremonies can be adapted during trying times.
If the Oscars were canceled this year, it would be just another item to add to the list of cancellations, postponements and setbacks that the world has faced over the past year. Thankfully, the Academy decided that they would go forward with an adjusted ceremony and recognize the works that took on the challenge of the pandemic.
If the pandemic has showcased anything, it’s that we need entertainment. When we’re locked in our homes, we stream anything we can to feel like we’re away from our homes. It’s no surprise that streaming has skyrocketed during lockdowns. But before we got television, the movies were the key source of the escapism that our world deeply desires.
It’s easy to get bogged down in Hollywood gossip about who got snubbed from the nominee list. But this gossip is a strange manifestation of celebrating the art of filmmaking. We wouldn’t talk about the snubs if we didn’t care about the awards. We wouldn’t talk about the fashion if we didn’t care about who was wearing the outfit. We wouldn’t talk about the Oscars at all if we didn’t care about them.
Some criticize the Oscars as being “Hollywood patting themselves on the back.” Yeah, that’s the point. The celebration of the industry is the original purpose of the Academy Awards. It may not sound like it’s for you, but I promise watching artists recognize artists has more value than it may seem.
For example, when a movie wins, it gets a wonderful boost in interest. Last year, “Parasite” received a huge box office assist after winning Best Picture, which is normal historically. The Oscars don’t just celebrate the best, but they promote the best too — even if the best is an underdog that wider audiences have never heard of in the first place.
The winners give attention and credit to the artists who helped them get there during their acceptance speeches. At times you’ll get Joaquin Phoenix awkwardly bumbling his way through gratitude or a “La La Land” embarrassment, but for the most part the acceptance speeches celebrate the teamwork involved in Hollywood. No winner gets there alone. That would be a lovely reminder to have during times like these.
Most importantly, the Oscars give a wonderful memorial to those that have died in the year before. In a year where Hollywood lost the gifted Chadwick Boseman and the legendary Sean Connery, it would be a mistake to not pay tribute.
Art is subjective by nature, and the Oscars are not a true aggregator of what the industry collectively thought of the movies last year. Rather, the Oscars should be watched as a means of sparking interest in the movies that industry professionals point to as valuable.
After an excruciating year of movies getting pushed back repeatedly, I would love to celebrate what the industry put forth to persevere through the pandemic. It may just be a gold statue, but this year it will symbolize much more. This year, the Oscars will remind us how during the toughest of times, art lives on.