The Oscars have been on a downward slide for a while now. That won’t mean the same thing to everyone. Some look at their choices of late and believe them to be better than they ever have been. The critics have almost complete control over the Oscars and they are micro managing them to reach a level of perfection in film award never before seen — utopia that serves the minority of sophisticated tastes that has little to no interest in what movies the general public actually sees, let alone likes.
This ideology and behavior mirrors what the Left has become overall, why Trump was elected in the first place, and why the pendulum is very likely about to swing to the right, away from the left. When you’ve lost touch with the majority of people, your power is not sustainable.
As someone who has covered the Oscar race for over 20 years, I have watched it unfold in real time. In fact, I’ve been partly - if not largely - responsible for it. When I started there was still room for big Hollywood movies like Gladiator. But in the past two decades, people like me have become far too integral in deciding the nominees. The whole thing is worked out in film festivals and at screenings long before the carefully curated pile of movies reaches Oscar voters. How much money a film makes is really just the icing on the cake but doesn’t make or break a movie anymore.
It only matters if big movies that are expected to earn big somehow don’t. Even the “small” movies that dominate the race now get a box office bump from the Oscars, but we’re usually talking about $40-$50 million, versus $100-$200 million. Success in Hollywood now doesn’t mean you make the next Oscar winner. Success in Hollywood means you get to direct the next superhero movie. They pluck the talented newbies right out of indie festivals and give them movies with massive budgets to lend a little extra art cred to the massive franchise movie that exists only to make lots of money.
It’s like of like if you attended the CSA and then the best job you could get graduating from there was a job at McDonald’s. You know the formula. You can’t deviate from the formula, but the fact that they hired you lends the perception that they care about quality. What they care about is the kind of money only branded franchise films, or hamburgers, can make. The idea is, in America, for the last two decades - fewer choices, expectations mostly met. Do not give people too many choices. Give them brands they recognize and they will trust you enough to lay down their money.
We watched as mom and pop stores vanished from neighborhoods and in their places franchise stores anyone can recognize. You can’t really tell the difference between a town in Utah or a town in Southern California. They look the same because the same stores populate the same neighborhoods no matter where you go. Starbucks, Home Depot, Target. I’ll never forget being in Portland, Oregon, and watching people flock to the Starbucks chain rather than take a chance at a tiny original store whose menu they don’t know as well.
The movies are the same. Marvel, DC, Godzilla, Disney. The brands survive more now than even the stars that used to be the brands. Sure, some stars are still brands - especially internationally, like The Rock or Tom Cruise. Meryl Streep is a kind of brand. But the movies themselves have to be, ideally, a “thing” people recognize.
There became, over time, two divergent roads of Hollywood and the Oscars — quality films vs. massive blockbusters. This has required the adaptation of streaming platforms, like Netflix, that have the freedom, the space, the money, the audience to make the kinds of movies the artists in Hollywood - actors, writers, directors - still want to make. What’s funny about that is on Netflix audiences have even less discerning taste than they do when they are shelling out cash per movie at the movie theater. Bird Box was a smash hit on Netflix.
Television is where the action is now, where the best films and long form series’ are being produced. They can take risks, take chances and make whatever they want without the market constraints of box office or ratings. But the Oscars still rely on ratings. That is what funds their entire institution. Their ratings are taking a massive hit, but especially in the last four years. This is easily traced to the moment Trump took power. Two things happened: extreme political polarization, and the Left became the “resistance.” That made everything on the Left spin out of control - including the Oscars, where they became so overtly political it was a major turn-off.
Probably, most seem to agree, that the Oscars have to remove themselves from the constraint of ratings. They have to take themselves out of the game because this is a game they can’t win. They can never be what they were. In fact, many things are going to start to dip as film, sports and everything else is swallowed into the vortex of “woke,” which is supported by a small minority of Americans and shoved down the throat of a majority of Americans.
Fixing the Oscars is going to have to depend on fixing the Left. And the Left won’t be fixed until it is rocked to its core. That was the message Trump’s win should have been. But it wasn’t that. It became a threat to an isolated utopia and they doubled down on their ideology. Worse, they began a system of purges that is not unlike a cult, a fundamentalist religion or, frankly, Marxism.
The question I hear the most is, how did we get here? I’ve thought a lot about it and I always come back to who we were when Obama rose to power and what we became under his administration.
When Obama won, he was riding the crest of the movement towards “goodness” that we all felt at the time. There was an idea that we could be perfect, raise perfect kids, “do better” with all of their buying choices. Social media turned us all into branded adverstisements for “goodness.” A new kind of American puritan was born, one that discarded our racist and ignorant past, one that discarded bullying and the indulges of capitalism that left so many behind. Our new world was open and inclusive, it was the “everyone gets a certificate” mindset that Obama helped influence. We saw him as close to perfect in every way. His presence made us FEEL good, like things in America had really changed because a black family could rule 150 years after black citizens were enslaved.
It was all going great until it wasn’t.
When Trump won, that was the first sign that we were living in an insulated bubble that simply didn’t understand the broader America. We had no idea why they would be so angry and hateful about Obama and the Left overall. It was like 9/11 only it was here, in our own country. We’d simply cut ourselves off from reality and chose a cultivated, curated reality instead.
I used to think that the news on the left was the side that depicted actual reality. The right, I used to think, were the delusion hawkers. But 2020 revealed us to be in a new domestic Cold War. Last year, their side had no choice but to drive a specific narrative that would put Joe Biden in power. He didn’t even have to campaign. All that mattered was that he was a stand-in for a step back to when they last felt safe. Add a woman of color as the VP and you have exactly what the Left needs to help bolster itself and remember who they are after Trump.
Without freedom of thought, expression, ideology - without the basic principle that everyone is entitled to their opinion, no society can function properly, and certainly no artistic community can. In America, especially, its citizens will lean towards freedom, not away from it. But the ideology has blanketed all of the institutions with the same group think. This means films, books, news programs all music must comport with the doctrine or face extreme backlash from Twitter. Twitter gets mad for a 24-48 hour period and then it’s over. No one is being put in a gulag or a concentration camp. Losing your status or job is a drag but it’s not a life or death threat. It is, quite simply, public humiliation. But that is also PR and no major corporation can risk bad PR so they go along with the purges.
The Oscars, unfortunately, are stuck in this same trap. They can’t have a host because Twitter would get too angry if that host had not led a pure and ideologically flawless life. Forcing the Oscars to forgo a host emboldened the Left on Twitter. With every minor victory the can gets kicked down the road. Sooner or later, someone has to stand firm and withstand the blowback until it passes. They can take a lesson from those who are routinely trend on Twitter. They can survive it, if they can survive it. Very few can. Ricky Gervais is among the few who can.
This video of Ricky Gervais bravely making — wait for it — JOKES has already gained in one million views since the Oscars. That is how popular it is.
The Left threw a fit. The Globes dropped him as host and hired instead ideologically compliant Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
His big crime here? Making jokes at the expense of the utopian left. Bill Maher and Joe Rogan routinely trend on Twitter for “wrong think,” and somehow they still manage to draw eyeballs. Why, because people are CRAVING courage. They want leaders to stand up to the mob. They want people to speak the truth loudly and clearly and stick their middle finger up to those who never run out of telling other people what to think, what to eat, what to drive, what to wear, what words to use, who should be cast in what movie, what that movie’s message should be - they carefully measure the casting choices, the director choice, even the writers of either source material or the screenplay.
We are in the midst of a pendulum shift, very likely, because if we weren’t we would not be afflicted with full blown mass hysteria mode. It is a sign that the end is near. Why would be so afraid of dissent? Because we are clinging to something that is slipping away. We appear to be weak, desperate, paranoid, and not trustworthy pack leaders. It feels like it’s all teetering at the precipice of something really really bad.
Put here by Lionel Shriver:
A country that allows dissent, including the derogation of the state itself, looks strong — and in this respect the control freaks of the CCP, frightened of their own people, look weak. But a country that adopts self-excoriation as its national pastime also looks weak. The Chinese are keeping attentive watch as the West denigrates its heroes, debunks its previous sources of pride, vandalizes its icons, denounces its cultural heritage, slanders its popular majorities as indelibly stained with original sin and rewrites its history to make its past appear as wicked as possible. The spectacle inspires contempt. The Chinese see the self-flagellating throes of the West as the certain bellwether of terminal decline. We’re making ourselves look pathetic. In countries and individuals both, a penchant for self-criticism is only healthy when balanced by some measure of self-belief.
The Left has become the side that is in full support of censorship, of silencing dissent, of firing authors, of banning books, of “cancelling” anything that threatens their ideological grip on American culture. And I can promise you, this is not a sign of any kind of renaissance. It is a sign of a culture in collapse.
But you know what? I remember when the Left fought for free speech. I remember when it was all flipped, when the Conservatives were the ones banning books. Like this scene in Field of Dreams:
Look at the anti-establishment films from the 1970s, like Network or All the President’s Men or The Godfather movies. The Left, back then, were not the establishment so they were free to express themselves artistically. Now, they are the establishment, they are the utopia and dissent has been disallowed. So the movies must pander to the ideology or they won’t even make it through the gate. One wrong thing, one wrong director and they’re OUT.
This past year it was clear that the Oscar race was going to be like the Presidential race. History was going to be made and everyone was going to be on board with it. First women of color was going to win, period. That meant, essentially, it was from the beginning of the critics awards, through to the Golden Globes and the guild awards “a year without white men.” The only push back at all came from the BAFTAS who were not only called out and targeted as racists last year for their all white nominees, but a special committee was brought in to choose their nominees for them. That was meant to infuse the nominees with enough people of color to show that SHAZAM! Now they weren’t racists anymore.
No one in the film community was even going to talk about whether someone “deserves” to win or not. It wasn’t about that. Equity requires that you remove the part where anyone earns their place or deserves to win.
Everyone on the Left must be on board with this, as it reaches all the way to the very top of the Biden administration. Equity will ensure the utopian vision for America under Obama holds and that it doesn’t slip back into its old ways, before Obama rose to power and America changed. Equity mandates that everyone gets the same successes because America is unequal and everyone has to be equal or there is something very wrong with our country and ourselves.
But the problem with equity and the Oscar race is that it becomes more about the people bestowing the awards making themselves look good rather than it is an organic win for someone everyone believed deserved it. The trap, of course, is that is if you believe inherent bias is preventing people from appreciating a performance then equity steps in to correct the bias. But unfortunately, those who benefit from equity are never really certain whether their achievement is “deserved” or not. Will Chloe Zhao always been seen as a woman who won because of her gender and ethnicity and not her film? That is how people perceive Kathryn Bigelow’s win in 2009.
What is even the point of awards if they are to be based on equity though? Whom does that serve? Even if you believe that representation matters, is it the ONLY thing that should matter? Why not just hand them out? Why bother competing at all if the system is so unfair there is no way for anyone other than white people to achieve anything?
In the end, neither Chadwick Boseman nor Viola Davis nor Andra Day won Oscars. The BAFTA voters revolted against the agreed upon narrative that this would be the year where no white actors could win and they chose instead Anthony Hopkins and Frances McDormand. They believed they gave the best performances but most everyone else was angry. The reason being, the entire awards community, including film critics, bloggers, industry voters had, up to that point, agreed on equity as a way to award the contenders.
After the BAFTA voters charged forward with Hopkins and McDormand, the Oscars followed suit and that was that. Does this mean the fight for equity will continue through next year? Is this the new normal? Will there ever be an Oscars where it’s just about who “deserves” to win?
The pendulum is swinging and it will be a necessary shift to re-center this country away from the insanity of right now at the hands of the Left. They are being held hostage by a small group of very vocal people on Twitter who are dictating who gets to keep their job, who is fired, what truths are acceptable, what is offensive, what isn’t. Standing up to, or pushing back against, or ignoring Twitter will be key to bringing things back to a point where we can be more truthful and honest about how we feel and what we think without being severely punished for dissent.
In my opinion, both the Left and the Oscars should try harder to face the truth about who they are, hate each other less, stop this pointless religious war that is tearing America apart. We can’t survive if artists can’t tell the truth. We can’t survive if the Oscars subvert their entire purpose. It was put rather nicely by Tyler Perry, who was the only person on Oscar night who seemed to understand what is really going on.
Perry’s plea started out as what the Left thought it would be, another indictment of Trump supporters or white people. But as you can see, it doesn’t go there. They didn’t know what to do with this. They clapped at first, then they stopped clapping and they blinked in that way people on the Left do when you hit them with the truth. Why, because we don’t do that anymore.
“My mother taught me to refuse hate. She taught me to refuse blanket judgment. And in this time, with the internet and social media algorithms and everything that everyone wants us to think a certain way, and the 24 hour news cycle, it is my hope we can teach our kids, and all of us, to remember to refuse hate. Don’t hate anybody. I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican, or Black or White, or LGBTQ, I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer, I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I would hope that we would refuse hate. I will take this Jean Hersholt award and dedicate it anyone who wants to stand in the middle, no matter what’s around the walls, stand in the middle, where healing happens, that’s where conversation happens, that’s where change happens. It happens in the middle. So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this is for you too.”
Hate is what drove me from the Democratic Party and the Left overall. It makes me sick to see it fuel Twitter — ON THE LEFT — as well as the right but the Left dominates Twitter. I stand in the middle, proudly, with Tyler Perry. I stand up for and with anyone who puts humanity over political party. There is no winning this new domestic Cold War and if it it continues, it will be a hot war.
Recently, one of the King’s of the “woke Left,” Jimmy Kimmel hosted Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy and if you spend any time in Trump world you will know who he is. It shocked me that Kimmel did this, but I see it as a good sign. More of this, please.
That is where the Oscars need to be too. They need a host. They need to stand up to Twitter. They need to remember why they make movies in the first place. They need to be less judgmental of each other and of their audiences. They’re putting on a TV show, not holding a religious revival meeting. It’s time to stand up to Twitter and start standing up for humanity.