Opinion — The Oscars are the epitome of America’s cultural collapse

Opinion — The Oscars are the epitome of Americas cultural collapse

Hunger Games Capitol jokes aside, Hollywood will have to try harder than that to persuade America to care about exchanging golden trophies of prestige from one arthouse aristocrat to another.  

There was something left to be desired in every speech, because this year for an actor, what is there to say other than despite their adversity, their privilege prevails, or thanking one white person to the next while protests happen outside? Viewers are not asking actors and directors to reinvent the wheel, but for supposed creatives, their Oscar speeches were suspiciously uninspired. 

The interruptions of entertainment from Ryan Gosling’s sparkly pink number and John Mulaney being himself were the aloe on a burn; a temporary and quickly fading distraction from the hot, pulsing pain of abjection the rest of the show seared into our senses. 

The night was not a rare glimpse of genuine humanity among pompous elites, but rather an extended performance, as if the actors are incapable of unsynthesized emotion. Jimmy Kimmel’s half-hearted delivery of overwritten playful jabs has a harder fall each year they’re repeated.

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Speaking of falling…

Some nominated films for best screenplay were incomparable– Anatomy of a Fall, an artistic feat of resentment, perspective, and ambiguity, does not exist in the same realm as formulaic writing for marketability, like Barbie. The commodification of political ideology, like the plastic feminism boasted in the hit summer film, is the epitome of artificial advocacy and originality broadcasted from the rest of the big-budget movies in the last few years. 

Greta Gerwig’s earlier, independent films like Frances Ha and Lady Bird, hold much higher respect for feminism in their subtle nuanced themes of girlhood and identity than the Facebook mom-level monologue from America Ferrera. It’s as if the money flashed before Gerwig made her lose all concept of “show, not tell.” I didn’t need to watch Oppenheimer to know it was better.

As for the results, they remained unsurprising. If Ryan Gosling had won Best Actor over Cillian Murphy, the Oscars would have been worth watching for the controversy itself. Although, I find it perfectly fitting for a man to win an Oscar in his supporting role in a movie supposedly about patriarchy that’s technically a commercial.

Emma Stone should win every Oscar anyway, and Robert Downey Jr. was much overdue for one and is as much of a ham in real life as he is on screen. I knew The Boy and the Heron would win Best Animated Feature because it was the only one that played at the Marquette Theater. 2024’s Oscars makes one wonder who they’re putting the show on for at all. 

While it’s not the Oscars’ job to be unpredictable in their selections, speeches, or performances, it is advantageous for them to have some awareness or empathy outside of issues that don’t pertain to them. While Jimmy Kimmel spewed about the writer’s strike, Mark Ruffalo hurriedly shouted “Shut down the Oscars tonight” to journalists outside in support of the Palestine conflict.  

Hollywood’s interpretations of culture and social justice are so far estranged from reality that they’re only convincing through marketing tactics of plot and characterization for monetary validation that they’re human. The hypocrisy of Poor Things, nominated for best feature film, is that despite its dark critique of capitalism, it maintained a hopeful, coming-of-age aura– capitalism is only hopeful for the rich and famous. Additionally, while it held a favorable stance on female sexual liberation, it was abundantly clear the depiction was from a male director’s perspective and contributed nothing to critical conversation. 

Ultimately, the Oscars are a critique of culture both in their creation and evaluation of content. What does it say about our culture that 19.5 million people tuned in to watch Ryan Gosling’s custom Gucci, crystal-encrusted pink wool suit shimmer in his drawn-out ‘battle of the sexes’ dance, while our country’s south actively is abolishing female reproductive rights? It says it’s obvious that Hollywood is just as isolated as we thought, and that we’re more easily captivated by a digestible mirage of representations of injustice than injustice itself.

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