Unless you're knee-deep in the movie industry or you're a die-hard zealot of movies in general, odds are you went to sleep last night blissfully unaware that the Oscars were taking place.
You probably woke this morning, flicked through a couple of tweets or articles about it, then moved on with the rest of your day. Nothing big happened.
Except it did.
Chloé Zhao became only the second woman to win Best Director, as well as being the first woman of colour to win. That's a huge deal for representation, for the future of the industry, and for both women and people of colour. Daniel Kaluuya, as well, won Best Supporting Actor for his searing portrayal of Fred Hampton in 'Judas and the Black Messiah', a provocative biopic-thriller that scored a total of five nominations last night.
Yet, how many of these movies have you actually seen? 'Nomadland' won't be available here in Ireland until the end of the week if you have a Disney+ account. 'Judas and the Black Messiah' has been available since March, but you'll have to pay €17.99 and you can only watch it on Google Play. 'The Father', the movie which won Anthony Hopkins his second Oscar, hasn't even been shown to critics in Ireland yet. We've no idea when we're going to see it, if at all.
Right there, you have the winner of Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor out of reach for most audiences. Yet, even if they were more accessible to audiences and we weren't living in a global pandemic that's brought cinema to its knees, would any of us have gone to watch them? More to the point, would it matter to the Oscars themselves whether or not you did?
The malaise that's gripped the Oscars for some time now can be traced back to the likes of 'Shakespeare In Love' and the birth of the modern Oscar campaign. Industry-types will tell you that the Oscars are given out not on Oscar night, but in the weeks and months long before it happens. It starts at the Venice Film Festival, with the awarding of the Golden Lion. Next, it's on to the Toronto Film Festival. Then you've got TIFF. You might even start back earlier for Sundance. By then, the Oscar campaign shifts and snakes its way to the Golden Globes, which is currently in the grip of its own scandals over how and who it awards its blessings of gold-covered tin.
'Nomadland' was the lock for Best Picture months ago. Frances McDormand, likewise, was guaranteed Best Actress for her performance in it. Anthony Hopkins as Best Actor, sure, that might have been a surprise. Most people expected Chadwick Boseman to win posthumously for 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom'. Even look at the Best Animated category. 'Wolfwalkers' has been hailed by US critics and insiders closer to the heart of the awards as the best animated movie of the year. Yet, Pixar won out once again for 'Soul' - the studio's seventeenth win to date.
At what point do you think about maybe doing something different, if nothing original or unique like 'Wolfwalkers' can get through? When you've compounded that amount of familiarity, is the whole thing worth saving at that point? Probably not.
Last year, 'Parasite' shook up the proceedings by winning Best Picture and even drew illiterate unemployed dumbass Donald Trump into opening his gob about it. For those of us watching the Oscars these long years, it felt like they had actually picked the correct winner after 'Green Book'. Yet, the ratings for the Oscars have been steadily declining. Of course, it simply may be just that that ratings are not an accurate barometer of interest anymore, but even with that, this year's Oscars felt particularly dull.
The lack of a red carpet can't be attributed as the fault. Giuliana Rancic was hurling questions at those who attended from a safe distance. Regina King looked stunning in a dress that featured 62,000 sequins and 3,900 crystals. The lack of a host made no odds, as that's likely to become the norm from now on. There was no back-slapping, self-congratulatory moment like Tom Cruise's very odd moment after 9/11.
This year, the world has had to contend with the realities of inequality in a way that's been simmering for a long time. The Oscars aren't as bad as a completely ill-judged rendition of 'Imagine', but they're not far off. Now more than ever, we don't need a room full of rich people congratulating themselves. We didn't really need it before either, but we especially don't need it now.
The distance between where the Oscars are and where everyone else is has always been huge. It's the same with celebrities. Before, people were happy to engage with it in some regard because it was a distraction. Now, it borders on insulting. Add to that a general lack of excitement about the Oscars, and you're left with only questions and few answers. Why are they still a thing? Why does anyone care anymore?
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably decided yourself already.