Oscar Awards 2023: The Award for the Most Obedient Film

It is impressive how the Oscars have become more predictable every year, not because the quality of the award-winning films is undeniable but because the Academy's criteria for awarding them are increasingly prominent. Have they become prizes for political correctness?.

Frame from the films 'Everything everywhere at the same time', 'All Quiet Ahead'

Photos: YT-Diamond Films, Netflix

LatinAmerican Post | Staff

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Leer en español: Premios Óscar 2023: el galardón a la película más obediente

The 2023 Oscar Awards occurred at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles this Sunday. Although these prizes have already lost some relevance, they are still valued by some and commented on by all. Criticism has already primarily disengaged from the Academy's increasingly prominent criteria; nevertheless, this ceremony closes the awards season and has the most audience.

Two productions were awarded the most this year: "Everything everywhere all at once" took essential statuettes, and "All quiet on the western front" took all the others. These recognitions, although they were expected, were highly criticized. We'll see why.

Political Correctness in the Movies

We know that for a few years, Oscar-winning films have always claimed the rights of some minorities or denounced some social, historical, or current injustice. But it always has been like that?

It is not that the cinema of denunciation or vindication is a phenomenon of this century. In the eighties, for example, Spielberg had already made "The Color Purple," a drama about an African-American woman who leads a life as an enslaved person at the beginning of the 20th century, despite having been nominated 11 times, was It was that year without an Oscar. Also, by the 1990s, Spike Lee had a well-formed and demanding film career. However, it was not until 2019 that he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for perhaps the lightest and most obedient of his films: "BlacKkKlansman."

What changed in Hollywood? Although the Academy has preferred inspirational stories that protect and move the viewer for almost a century, in 1994, the year of the premiere of the Oscar winner Forest Gump, the topic of "political correctness" began to be discussed. "Well-intentioned political correctness was intended to end oppressive and offensive speech. Thus, they began to censor racist, misogynistic, and homophobic jokes. The idea was, of course, not to offend anyone.

However, Fernanda Solórzano explains in her book "The mysteries of the darkroom" political correctors did not accept ambiguities. So even jokes that parodied those who were racist, misogynistic, and homophobic began to be condemned. Not only did the concern not to laugh at the most vulnerable people's expense begin, but we should also not offend those who violated them. This leaves a narrow range for dark humor or almost any type of humor.

The Me Too era and the Representation Debate

The feminist debate in film criticism is not new either. By the sixties, film critics were already thinking about how women were represented. Actresses like Jane Fonda have advocated for women since then and denounced the trivial roles the writers wrote for them. Added to this recently was the Me Too era. This united the actresses and us, the spectators, in demand for a more essential and exciting representation of women on the screen.

Some minorities and other communities would later join feminists to make Hollywood more diverse. Thus began the debate on representation. There was not only a demand, then, for more critical female roles (which, in any case, there have been in the history of cinema, although not in the quantity that we would like), but also for gay, trans, migrant, and other cultural characters.

Hollywood and the Academy, neither short nor lazy, met the market's needs.

Read also: The Oscars 2023 Awards: a ceremony with little out of the script

The Cinema Slave of the Conjuncture

So, for a few years now, the winners of the Oscar for Best Picture must always comply with the dictates of political correctness (not to make anyone uncomfortable) and with the demands that we, the public, have demanded. Of course, this puts many directors and writers in trouble.

This year the award for documentary feature film went to "Navalny," about Alekséi Navalni, leader and opposition activist of Vladimir Putin. It was evident that he would win the Oscar since his formula is the sum of the favorite ingredients of the Academy, prey to the situation. Thus, other stories that perhaps do not denounce but are interested in themes such as love, nature, jealousy, or friendship are easily ignored due to their little apparent importance (despite these being the themes of universal literature).

This can also explain the sweeping victory of "All Quiet on the Front," a German film about the trench battle in the First World War, a theme still in force today, a century later, in the face of another war being waged in Europe. These productions still deserve the award. It sheds light on what is most urgent for the Academy and the public to award.

This year's Dispute

In her Best Adapted Screenplay speech this year, Sarah Polley thanked the Academy for not being offended by the closeness of the words "women" and "talk" in her film's title. This statement is meant to be disruptive, yet it is made on the stage of the Dolby Theatre. This irreverence is celebrated, but, as I have said, it is only apparent. The Academy has not been offended by this for a long time since this speech has brought royalties for a long time.

Following the representation debate, organizations that follow these issues have invented criteria to measure some films: how much time women speak on screen, how many leading roles for black men, etc. Thanks to this, we have been able to realize the sexism, racism, and homophobia of Hollywood. However, these criteria have also helped writers and directors learn the new formula for receiving awards. So this denunciation tool has become somewhat underground to make films tailored to the new audiences and the voters of the Academy.

However, meeting a list of requirements does not necessarily make a movie excite, shake and move us. So movies are still being made that flout these criteria and get us, the public, and the Academy, in trouble.

This is the case of "Tár," starring Cate Blanchett, which presents a female protagonist who will surely pass the criteria for the time she speaks on screen but who also does not meet the other requirements that, for some time now, has the excellent feminist. It is an elusive film with this list of criteria and conditions, which also questions them. Contradictory and ambivalent, "Tár" (the film and the character) is unabashedly human.

Of course, no statuette was taken. Before Blanchett, Michelle Yeoh, star of "everything everywhere all at once" who plays a migrant mother who owns a laundromat and learns to accept her lesbian daughter after traveling through several universes, won. This film meets the new Academy criteria and is very current in its ways: fast-paced and wasteful of time and money.

However, this is not the end of the cinema. Disobedient movies have always been around and haven't been Academy Award-winning. Now that the criteria have changed, perhaps the difference is the appearance of irreverence. And yet, we will all know that those who did not obey the algorithm are the ones who go home without any statuette.

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