Next Sunday, March 12, one more delivery of the Oscar Awards will take place: the most important ceremony of Hollywood cinema in which every year there are fewer surprises and the results are almost sung. Because? Because a while ago the cinematographic quality was replaced by the merit of the best electoral strategy. A more harmless game than political filth, but with the same tricks and vices.
By Juan Pablo Castiblanco Ricaurte // @KidCasti
For many years the Oscars have been the seal of quality of the not-so-commercial cinema that can compete with Disney and Marvel for the box office, but that is not so arty and alternative as to compete in festivals such as Berlin, Venice, Cannes, Toronto or Sundance. Much of the charm of the Oscars has resided in the glamor and luxury that they summon, which make the previous two hours of the red carpet as interesting, if not more, than what happens inside the auditorium. Saying this is nothing more than pointing out that art, cinema, has passed into the background. It’s there, like the music at festivals, but it’s no longer as important as the glitzy luxury of entertainment.
This year, however, another mine exploded that continues to undermine the credibility of the Oscars. The nomination for the British Andrea Riseborough as Best Leading Actress for her work in To Leslie, at the beginning was only considered one of the traditional sticks that are in each edition since the film had a modest box office collection in its passage through theaters and did not it had made a lot of noise. However, when looked at with a magnifying glass, Riseborough’s selection in the select group stripped problems in the rules of the game for the awards, since it is alleged that it was not a clean campaign, relying on the influence of weight figures such as Cate Blanchet, Kate Winslet, Amy Adams, Edward Norton, Gwyneth Paltrow, or the producer Judd Apatow, among others.
For a movie or person to win an Oscar, they must go a long way that begins something like this: production houses register their works according to a series of rules defined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Then, the electoral race begins with its first objective, the nominations. At this moment, the Academy has close to 7,000 registered people divided into different branches (direction, production, acting, script, technical departments); each sector votes for the specific nominations of its trade, except for Best Film (chosen by all), Best Foreign Language Film, Documentary and Animated (special committees are set up for the previous three). Then comes the hunt for the jackpot, the statuettes, where there are once again general votes and media campaigns that, for being short, cost 1.5 million dollars and up.
At the Oscars each year the system reveals itself to be more vulnerable. When there are no racist, sexist or xenophobic biases; when they do nothing to change that rude category of Best Foreign Language Film that crams into five chosen ones the production that is made in more than 150 countries around the world; the Riseborough case appears that some public relations experts point out as cheating.
As Álvar Carretero, from the Joshua Jason Public Relations/JJPR agency and a specialist in this type of advertising campaign, declared to the newspaper El País in Spain, cheating was done because the rules for film promotion campaigns were violated; for example, only one weekly ad can be sent to voters, and there can be no parties or meals after the screenings. In theory, rules that seek to equalize the game and that there are no differences between large and independent studios. I mean, you can’t buy votes. I mean, yes, but no.
It is curious that Riseborough’s nomination has been classified as “cheat” and until now has caused the Academy to rethink its methodss. Above all, taking into account that it has always been a competition between the big studios (and now, the streaming platforms) to measure their power, instead of a celebration of art, and that, furthermore, in the series of events known Like “awards season”, the same 20 movies are repeated in all. Is the taste of the Actors Guild the same as that of the critics, the producers, the British industry and the foreign press? Is there no room for divergent views, even within the enormous US annual production?
The Oscar race has become an increasingly predictable path that begins from the very conception of the projects. For performances, it is already known that embodying a real life character and perfecting their imitation can already put them at the top of their career. In 2022, Jessica Chastain was awarded for her role as evangelical preacher Tammy Faye, and Will Smith for playing Richard Williams, father of the most important tennis players in history. This year there are Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, and in past years they were Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland, Christian Bale as the politician Dick Cheney, or Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, among many, many others.
The same goes for movies. The representative of the cinema honoring the cinema has been repeated (this year they are The Fabelmans, and before they were Mank, The Artist, La La Land, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), the biographical, or the inspirational that makes us feel grateful to life and that everything is about smiling and manifesting. The Oscars are not the only ones who suffer from these traced patterns or preset formulas which in theory increase the chances of winning awards; between joke and joke, you can already make a list of clichés that are liked in competitions like Cannes or Berlin.
The bad thing is In any case, none of that ensures success because at any time someone else can apply the formula with more success.. Don’t let what happened to Maluma in 2019 happen to them when he didn’t have any Latin Grammy nominations, triggering a tantrum worse than when his earring was stolen, and he said “a very fucking disappointment not even having a Latin Grammy nomination, so much effort, the best record I’ve ever made in my LIFE, the togetherness I always dreamed of, Madonna singing in Spanish, hits like HP, 11PMa sauce produced by the greatest Sergio George (…)”.
Maluma should be reminded that, although at one time the great artistic prizes marked popular taste, today we can all shape ours as we want and enjoy what we want. We no longer need Oscars that tell us which movies to watch or which ones are good, or Grammys that certify if what we hear is within their validating criteria. Awards are a capricious wind that blows where power and money are most convenient for them. And that doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.