Like many others, I stayed up all night to watch the most renowned award presentation last night, 9th of February 2020, and like the year before I was looking forward to who was granted the honor of an Oscar. Still, I feel that there are a few things that I would like to comment on which includes the ever-rising tensions coming from a lack of diversity.
First of all, congratulations to all of the winners and nominees! All of them put so much work into the film industry so we can have a nice night out at the cinema or can just laze around in front of the T.V.
The Oscars 2020 is the 92nd award ceremony and much has changed since 1929. This is continually referenced in the speeches, with Chris Rock and Steve Martin blatantly stating that in 1929 there were (due to obvious reasons) no black nominees, and much has changed since then because this year they have one (!) black nominee. Another point of irritation for many was that the category of “Best Director” was an all-male ensemble, which was heavily criticized by those in attendance and those announcing the categories and winners.
The Oscars should remain an award for excellent achievements in the film industry regardless of race, gender, sexual preference and origin. Nevertheless, there is a responsibility in the film industry to present something in which everyone can potentially be represented. Now let me give you an idea of where I think the Oscars tried to be inclusive and positive and where I felt there was room for improvement.
It is necessary for the academy to put in that bit more effort. I know that they probably work very hard and already have a lot to do, but one thing that would really help the Oscars would be short explanations why this or that person was either nominated or even won the award. For example, “for an outstanding performance in credibility and historical accuracy” could be a short reasoning that gives the audience at home an idea of what the actual achievement was. If the Oscars are marketed towards an every-man audience then they also need to make sure that there is some understanding behind their decisions. I had personally not yet heard of Parasite which won Best Picture and without the information why it was chosen there is a very slippery slope that invites the audience to think “well maybe they just got it to fill the diversity quota” and that is not something you want overshadowing the achievement. Yes, the academy has a voting system but without some transparency the Oscars remain vulnerable to all kinds of claims.
Furthermore, for an award show that already feels like it lasts a lifetime, it felt awkwardly rushed. There were a few people that pointed out that they can only speak for 45 seconds, and that’s fine you don’t want someone blabbering on for 20 minutes but the way that winners were ushered off the stage with the next category being already announced was quite strange and these things can be bridged with a constant host, which is why I believe that they are making a mistake foregoing hosts for the evening. This was most noticeable in the moment that everyone had been waiting for: “Best Picture”. After Kwak Sin Ae gave a short speech, the lights dimmed and turned to Jane Fonda to close the ceremony, but it was clear from how awkward she looked and the chanting that started shortly after that there was still something to be said on the main stage. Again, here a host could have bridged the situation by congratulating the winners and by handing the microphone over to the next person.
Nevertheless, I distinctly remember when they tried to show that they are working on their diversity and that was by announcing Maestra Eimear Noone to conduct the category of “Best Original Score”. It’s not a lot, but it’s something. Personally, I feel that if they added the short statements why someone or something was picked as a nominee or winner many of the discussions might stop. This doesn’t mean that I am not supportive of more diversity, I am, but I feel that excellent achievement should be honored not quotas. There are inherent problems in the industry itself, such as there being less recognized female directors as there are male and the Oscars is where it always shows. Some people might feel that it is disrespectful to call these things to attention when you are invited to an event, but in my opinion, that is the perfect opportunity because in that moment it has incredible relevancy whereas the rest of the time it might be overshadowed by other political or social news reports.
If all we see on the big screen is white old males then we start to believe that that is all there is. The film industry has a responsibility to show who and what is out there and the Oscars will remain a tense affair until it is clear on what basis we should consider the given category nominees as the best of the best.