The Oscars Are Utterly Useless / by Nasri Atallah

The humourless and self-congratulatory circle-jerk that is the annual Academy Awards seems more anachronistic than ever. From the inane savaging of the sartorial choices of female actresses on the red carpet, to the tightly scripted opening show tunes, to the trite in-joking between mega-rich mega-powerful celebrities, to the absurd running time, to the whiteness of it all, it just seems to belong to another era.

In the age of video on demand, and streaming and Kickstarter-funded independent cinema and audience empowerment, we still get flicks like The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, Weinstein-driven (or Weinsteinesque) dramatized biopics featuring lofty performances by competent Englishmen bent on taking home a trophy. Films genetically engineered to win statuettes, but devoid of all meaning and entertainment. It was refreshing to see the twee sensibility of Wes Anderson rewarded. Although I’m not a fan of that sensibility, I find it far more in tune with the current mood of audiences than, for example, a purposefully nothingsexual Alan Turing played by a Benedict Cumberbatch who has forgotten this isn’t season 4 of Sherlock.

Birdman - which I loved almost as much as it loved itself - took home the big trophies of the night. While I’m happy that Alejandro González Iñárritu, a Mexican director, is getting deserved recognition - and using that recognition to shine a light on the injustices of immigration laws in the US - the film is so precisely what Hollywood loves: Itself. A meditative reflection on its self-worth, which isn’t of much use to people outside of the navel-gazing scope of fellow creatives.

The Oscars do serve a financial purpose, naturally. The Oscar bump having provided the vile piece of shit that is American Sniper a 10,000% increase in ticket sales, and a more modest bump between 30 and 70% for the rest of the Best Picture nominees. Are awards important? Certainly. They help us make sense of the vast amount of production that is churned out on a yearly basis. They help do that most 2000something of things: curate. Is an award mainly dished out by the overwhelmingly white, male members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences important? I'd say that's a pretty solid 'Less than ever'.