Dudley Nichols

Culture Warrior

Criticizing the Academy Awards is becoming a tradition as solidified as the Awards ceremony itself. The ink spilled over anticipation of who will come out swinging during Awards season is typically followed by an anticipated – but, when well-argued, often necessary – critique of the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony itself. Now that we’re neck-deep in Presidential election season, the time dedicated to polling, statistics, and manufactured drama all in the service of something ultimately unpredictable resonates alongside the earliest Fall predictions of the Winter’s Awards competitors: no matter the race, we can become hopelessly invested in every detail in the process of competition. As Matt Taibbi stated bluntly in an editorial on the Presidential race, this is not what democratic participation should look or feel like. Nor, for that matter, is immersing oneself in the Kool-Aid of Oscar anticipation what a genuine investment in cinema should look like. While I’ve bloviated more than enough on the Oscars, it’s something different entirely when someone who ostensibly stands to benefit from the institution itself to criticize it, as potential Best Actor nominee Joaquin Phoenix did recently. Perhaps criticizing the Oscars is not the bravest thing a wealthy famous person can do (perhaps), but the exact form that it takes is certainly worthy of attention because such instances evidence certain power relations and possibilities in Hollywood. Why do some Hollywood figures participate in this criticism, and others don’t?

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