For 363 days a year, nobody gives a fuck about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Today is one of the two remaining days, when suckers care—and other suckers pretend to care—about who gets nominated for the Oscars, which are worthless trash and always have been.
So today is the day for rounding up the snubs. The great director, who has never won an Oscar, was not even nominated for directing that great film. The other great directors didn’t get directing nominations, either. The fantastic genre pictures were left out of the prestige categories. And, of course, there was an incredible lack of diversity among the 20 performers—all of them white—nominated for the four acting awards: “a big problem,” as The New Republic’s Grierson and Leitch, formerly of Deadspin, wrote. A problem for whom? Certainly not for people flogging the fiction of this gross party for celebrities as something worthy of your attention!
All of this registers differently when you consider what the Academy Awards really are. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that awards Oscars, is a bullshit invitation-only honorary society of a few thousand Hollywood assholes, and Hollywood is a provincial shithole populated almost exclusively by stupid, vain people with bad taste. The Academy Awards exist—and have only ever existed—for the express purpose of celebrating the aspirational sensibilities of these people, just about the most despicable group of human beings west of Congress. These are the people who found Driving Miss Daisy important and Do the Right Thing unmentionable, carrying the legacy of forebears who just didn’t think Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock measured up.
The leading complaint today is that all 20 performers nominated for the four acting awards are white, as they were last year. That is not a betrayal of the mission of the Oscars, though; it’s an accurate representation of the fact that these are the awards of the backward establishment of a backward industry. In a sane world, fans would complain when their favorite films, filmmakers, and performers did get Oscar nominations. If you loved Carol, which didn’t get nominated for Best Picture, congratulations: As of today, it officially is not the same kind of movie as Forrest Gump. The milquetoast taste, bigotry, and self-regard the nominations reveal has been on abundant display every single day for more than 80 years, in your local cineplex, in the form of the movies these industry clowns crank out every week. How can you act surprised by this, let alone offended? Placing value on those same clowns’ choice of movies to award is precisely like rending your shirt because your favorite restaurant didn’t make Guy Fieri’s list of top places to eat.
Take a scroll through the history of Academy Award nominees and winners. The Academy routinely gives its highest award, Best Picture, not just to the second- or third-best movies on offer at the expense of better ones, or to safe movies at the expense of daring ones, or to white-friendly ones at the expense of ones less representative of Hollywood’s institutional racial homogeneity, but to actual bad movies—movies that are shitty all on their own, measured not just against their competition but against any reasonable ideas of what makes a movie good.
Driving Miss Daisy’s designation as Best Picture of 1989 is ludicrous not because a better, more ambitious, and more honest movie like Do the Right Thing didn’t get nominated, but because Driving Miss Daisy is maudlin, trite, insulting, and hamfisted. It neither attempted or achieved anything of value in the field of filmmaking. If it had been 1989's most meritorious film (it so wasn’t) the appropriate response would have been to cancel the awards show altogether and replace it with a dark night of repentance and apology. The Academy actively loved it. The Academy is trash.
Here is the thing. Beyond a certain point—and that March 1990 show that crowned Driving Miss Daisy was only one of many that should have been it—continuing to treat Academy Award nominations (and even victories) as though they certify anything worth pursuing—whether excellence in film or, more horrifyingly, social progress and inclusivity—is granting the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a power it freely tossed in the garbage long before any of this year’s nominees were born. Choosing to grant the Academy that power while simultaneously complaining about its misuse of it is absurd on its face.
More than absurd, it’s dishonest. Every March, the public gathers to cop a pose of ironic detachment and tweet about the clothing choices, weird facial expressions, and clueless stupidity of the morons, lunatics, and vain twits featured on the Academy Awards telecast everybody’s watching. Two months before that, it gesticulates in angst because those very same morons, lunatics, and vain twits haven’t portrayed the Hollywood film industry as smarter or less racist or less sexist than it actually is via their choice of favorite movies. It’s a thing to care about for the sole purpose of griping about how unworthy it is of being cared about. Whose interests are served by this?
For more than 80 years the Academy has demonstrated as publicly as possible—which is to say, more publicly than just about anything shy of the Super Bowl in any given year—that what it does is give trophies to industry insiders who make mediocre, respectably-dressed middlebrow studio films grooved to flatter a certain privileged, blithely liberal-ish sensibility shared by their peers. Anyone old enough to buy a ticket to any of this year’s Best Picture nominees is old enough to know this, and to expect it, and to treat this grotesque annual self-congratulation party held by reprehensible morons like exactly the small, irrelevant, provincial curio it always has been. Probably their doing so would not fix the film industry’s structural flaws and biases and injustices. But if treating the Academy Awards like they matter could do that, it would have by now.
Photo via AP