The mostly predicative 84th Oscars are in the books. HUGO won five. THE ARTIST won five. IRON LADY won two. The rest were spread out over a bunch of other films. The telecast was borderline boring with old jokes and missed opportunities. It was comfort food for an industry that is old and fearing its relevance. The highlights and lowlights will be over analyzed by a myriad of insipid cultural ‘critics’ whose main credential is that they know how to type or have the ability to film themselves being pompous. These ‘analysts’ will spend more time wondering about Jennifer Lopez’ nipple than with what the Oscars said last night.
For that, there are two main themes. One is Hollywood is truly at a loss to figure out the changes going on in the world. The 84th Oscars looked and felt like it was 84. It is great they are still around, but we make allowances for their slowness. We understand they are not as agile as they once were. They don’t fear danger or spontaneity. They prefer predictability, steadiness and old jokes. Billy Crystal filled the bill. Giving Oscars to a lot of old men (Christopher Plummer, Woody Allen, etc.) showed that the demographic of the Oscar voter (white, 62 year old men) is voting for itself. If the Academy wants to lure new, younger people into the world of movies, they did a disservice to that notion last night.
The second thing we learned last night is that Harvey Weinstein may be disliked in the business, but his films won 7 of the top awards last night. The man has his thumb up the bums of the Academy and they love it. His blitzkrieg on the voters will only emboldened one of the more mercurial egos in the business. The word mercurial is used in lieu of some more colorful adjectives to explain who he is. Weinstein outmaneuvered the very smart folks at Fox Searchlight, who walked away with a screenwriting Oscar for THE DESCENDANTS.
Here’s a final question to ask. Will THE ARTIST be considered as Roberto Begnini’s LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is now? A film that was a popular with its singular moment in time, but has faded in critical stature as years have passed. Probably. THE ARTIST is charming, but it is derivative and small, but keeping HUGO in mind as well, last night Hollywood looked to its past to see its future. That is a trap unless modulated with intelligence and not with short term financial considerations at the forefront.
The Oscars told us last night that Hollywood is scared, out of touch and easily swayed by people who suck up to them. Never an industry to be proactive, the movies are much like the newspaper and music industries – reactive, and in so being, vulnerable, that is ultimate lesson of last night.