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Great change was promised during last night’s Oscars. However, wiggling the edges of the screen in prediction, how much will we actually see?
The dust has barely settled on the goings on with this year’s Oscars – the 90th – and given there was no high-level “wrong envelope” botching of the final moment, the event wound up being comparatively pedestrian. And while it’s way too early to predict who’ll feature as nominees in next year’s Academy Awards (aside from Meryl Streep; California state law means its mandatory for her to be nominated), it’s not too early to predict what will happen in the ceremony itself.
The Academy’s efforts to be diverse will be cranked up to such a high water mark that straight, white men will be in a distinct, highly noticeable minority among the nominees. Where Oscars were once “so white”, they’ll show up for the 2019 ceremony as a very rare commodity. In fact, when one of them marches up to the podium to collect the Sound Editing award as part of the winning team of artists from Large Action Film, he’ll be booed by a righteously indignant Dolby Theatre audience for being callous enough to embody the dark past and the industry’s lack of diversity. He’ll never work again.
That riled-up audience, by the way, will be indistinguishable from one person to the next, given that the vast array of cause-themed pendants emblazoning their couture refinery will prevent us from seeing their faces. The glitz!
An effigy of Woody Allen will be brought onto the state and burnt, while Allen’s now-disgruntled former cast members throw rotten fruit at it. And quite rightly so that they’d be filled with regret and concern for acting in a Woody Allen film given the details of his case, which it just so happens have been part of the public record for 26 years…but we don’t talk about that. Woody, at the same time, will be completely oblivious to the shenanigans, working diligently as he does on the script for his latest sub-par, barely-watchable film that nobody will see; those who do see it will exit the arty cinema, shrugging, and thinking wistfully about Hannah and Her Sisters.
Ratings for the ceremony will hit an all-time low. This is partly because only one of the 17 films nominated for Best Picture will have sold more than $30 million in tickets; partly due to the fact that your younger viewers just, don’t, care…but mostly because we’re not quite living in a society where three and a half hours of well-dressed, yet angrily speechifying women is the go-to for televised entertainment. It’s not exactly what most suburban households look for when tuning in to watch Hollywood’s night of nights. At least at the Golden Globes some of the winners – and many/most of the audience members – are drunk. (Also, not for nothing, say what you will for the garish and jingoistic nature of the American awards shows, but just remember that during the ACTAA Awards in late 2016, one of the presenters was doing card tricks at the podium…look it up. Seriously.)
All presenters will keep it cutting in their opening remarks. “It is the vision of the director that takes an ordinary movie and turns it into a work of art,” Emma Stone said upon presenting the Best Director award in 2018. “These four men and Greta Gerwig created their own masterpieces this year.” Nice point, but it kind of negates the fact that of the four men, one (and the winner) was a Mexican immigrant, and one was African American, and had just minutes before been the first African American in 90 years to win the Best Original Screenplay award…no big deal, just small a reminder to keep your feminism intersectional.
MRAs will light up the Internet with disgust that they’re being destroyed and rendered extinct by political correctness. Which’d all be very funny if it wasn’t symptomatic of what has been a broader, bigger problem throughout the film industry, the broader show business and society at large. We all look forward to a point in time when tributes and political moments such as #MeToo and #TimesUp will no longer be necessary, when the awards will be doled out based on merit rather than because of any other factor. When Frances McDormand calls for film contracts to have an “inclusion rider”, she’s saying we should take steps to ensure diverse backgrounds and interests are represented. The white/straight/cis-gendered/male contingent may cry reverse discrimination, but that in itself is a rather impressively gymnastic act of missing the point while simultaneously making the point at the same time.
Straight white men aren’t under threat as a species, or as potential employees in the film industry. Most popular entertainment is geared towards our consumer dollar. So if it goes from 90% to 80% or even 50%, we’ll still be represented. And anyone who thinks that a film like Black Panther, or Wonder Woman, or any female-driven or led film is casting men aside is not identifying an emerging problem; complaining about an all-black superhero film excluding white people is the problem. There should be room at the table for everyone.
The inherent obstacle we’ll find is that within a year, the cultural zeitgeist may have changed somewhat, but the culture’s product won’t have shifted as much. The films which will be up for Oscars at this time next year have already been made, or are in various stages of production. It will take some time before Frances McDormand’s call for diversity riders are de rigeur, and the films that the major studios put out will have a commensurate level of diversity, both in front of and behind the camera. We will live to see there being four or five Greta Gerwigs in the Best Director category, but the likelihood of it being at the 91st Oscars is slim to none. The very real possibility is that things won’t improve inside of a year and the whole campaign will lose momentum, based on it being seen as having failed to accomplish in 12 months what it might reasonably be expected to do in a decade.
Such are our expectations and short attention spans. But what we can all be sure of is that it’ll be a three-hour-plus experience, which will be marginally funny at best, and your favourite film won’t win.
Some things never change.