Oscars 2018: Before its 90th edition, challenges faced by the awards show are unprecedented
The goof up that happened last year when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the winner of the Best Film Oscar was unprecedented in 89 years’ history of the Academy Awards. Little did we know that the blunder at the fag end of the ceremony was just setting the tone for a difficult balancing act that the Oscars will need to strike this year. The 90th edition, the nominations for which is to be announced on 23rd January, without doubt will be the most keenly watched Oscar in recent years because of the numerous controversies that has recently dogged Hollywood.
Come 4th March, the challenges Oscars 2018 is expected to face could only be termed as Herculean. The previous edition which was rocked by the #OscarsSoWhite campaign has now only become bigger with #MeToo, #TimesUp and the royal ignore that female directors have faced this year at the Golden Globes.
Thanks to the recently concluded Golden Globes, we can safely assume that they’ve got the organizers at the Academy Awards worried. The manner in which Golden Globes embraced and addressed all that ails Hollywood, during the award ceremony, has set these awards apart for a progressive approach. When Oprah spoke at length about the #MeToo issue, the world listened, similarly Frances McDormand mentioned that the women were not attending the show for food and wine but for work, it struck a chord. But it was Natalie Portman who mouthed the line, which will have its resonance in the years to come. Her jibe at the all male list of directors worked like a sledgehammer.
The combined might of the #MeToo and #TimeIsUp campaign
Oscars have always been considered a traditional award ceremony in the sense that most of the things that transpire are perfunctory with a proper approach. Feels strange today, that a speech of Richard Gere on Free Tibet made him a pariah and Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins had to bear the brunt of raising the issue of detention of HIV positive Haitian immigrants in 1993. In all these cases, the organizers had an upper hand and the only one to face the music was the actors. With the #MeToo campaign gaining strength with every passing day there is no way the organizers will have their say when the final ceremony happens on 4th March. While most have dissociated themselves from Harvey Weinstein, it would be a challenge for the organizers to delete any reference of films that were produced by the man. For trivia sake, his films alone have garnered some 300 Academy Awards nominations and is the second most thanked person in speeches, just behind Steven Spielberg. Oscars will do well to have a PR strategy and statement in place, just in case a winner gets called out post his win; almost a concerted effort that has negatively impacted winners of the Globes this year.
The callousness of ignoring Women directors
Golden Globes failed miserably, and BAFTA has followed suit. It’s startling to see not a single women director making it to the list of best directors category. Natalie Portman’s jibe at the ‘all male directors list’ could not have been uttered at a more opportune time. More shameful was the speech of Guillermo Del Toro not acknowledging this lacuna in his victory speech at the Golden Globes. Greta Gerwig not making it to the list despite Lady Bird winning the coveted Golden Globes for best film and best actress is surely a sham and raises fingers at the selection of the HFPA. BAFTA could have surely omitted Dennis Villeneuve’s name from the list and made amends with Greta Gerwig. Here too the challenges are enormous before the Oscars. This is also one of those rare years when three female directors have been making rounds of news space across all platforms for their exceptional work. Apart from Great Gerwig, Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman and Dee Rees for Mudbound have made people’s head turn. If Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a film which came from nowhere and managed two nominations in 2011, the Oscars can surely do better this year. If Greta is third time unlucky then that will also coincide with the dive in the credibility of the Academy Awards. While Dee Rees has a tough task ahead to be featured in the category, Patty Jenkins definitely stands a chance for the simple reason that Wonder Woman is a deviation in the genre of superhero movies. The worldwide success of the film has only made a very strong contention for Patty’s inclusion. Surely Kathryn Bigelow was given an Oscar in 2008 for The Hurt Locker, a decade later guess its time for encore.
The diversity issue
The 88th Academy Awards was criticized for its lack of diversity. Not a single non-white could win an award forget nominations. The award ceremony was an all white affair. It was a welcome relief when Academy took the issue earnestly and initiated the process of extending its membership to people from different ethnicity and race. With inclusion of films like Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures it showed a positive intent during the 89th issue. This year the challenges have resurfaced. The most favored films to garner nominations are The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Florida Project, I Tonya, Lady Bird, Molly’s Game, Darkest Hour and Get Out. Out the films mentioned, only Get Out makes it to the cut if diversity is the criteria. Get Out has received universal acclaim but barring its lead actor Daniel Kaluuya, Jordan Peele, the director and the film itself has remained out of bounds from most of categories at award events. It would akin to sin to overlook this. One only hopes that organizers have taken a deep dive to fish for films to nullify the hullabaloo of #OscarsSoWhite when the nominations are announced on 23rd.
The winner takes it all. Really?
The attitude of Hollywood till now has been pretty pro-active for the #MeToo campaign. Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner are people with whom the Academy have shared a very close relationship for years. It would be tough for them not extending an invitation for the final ceremony to all those who have come under the scanner. The flip side being does James Franco stands a chance now? After he took home the Golden Globes no less than five women came forward with their unpleasant experience they have had in the past with the actor. Though the actor has denied all accusations, but does it really matter when Harvey Weinstein too have denied all allegations. The organizers might just see it prudent not including his name in the list of best actors. They will again be in a quandary to call Casey Affleck to give the best actor award. This year, can we witness a departure from the set tradition? History of allegations of sexual harassment came to fore after Casey won the best actor award last year. It’s a given that Gary Oldman will go home with the trophy this year but given his statement on Mel Gibson calling him a product of Jewish conspiracy will be sitting somewhere in the minds of Jewish members of the Academy.
Updated Date: Jan 21, 2018 12:14 PM