Oscars So… Popular?

The now Oscar-winning Avengers: Infinity War was being touted as the new gold standard of how art meets commerce among many industry executives backstage..

Hangover 4 rebooted the entire franchise with its recent Oscar win and Warner Bros. is now talking multi-episode story arcs along the lines of Star Wars as Bradley Cooper circles a revamped multi-pic deal with the studio through his freshly-minted Wall Street-backed production company as director-producer-star…

Of course, THE viral moment of ANY Academy Awards ceremony occurred back in in 2019 when seven-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close, finally a winner for that year’s The Wife, was forced to pick up her trophy during a commercial break in a filmed off-camera segment and tersely growled I’m not going to be ignored! – an oft-quoted line from her box-office hit Fatal Attraction – before justifiably storming offstage and out the doors of the Dolby Theatre…

Oh yes, it can happen. And more.

Don’t toy with me, Chairy

This week the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences announced without warning to its 6000 plus membership – and us – that its Board of Governors voted for some noteworthy changes to future Oscar ceremonies that include:

1- The addition of a new Oscar for Best Popular Film.

2 – The presentation of some Oscars off-camera (who knows, it may even be backstage)…during commercial breaks…in categories to be determined

3- An earlier airdate from late February to early February.

This is certainly not an emergency situation given what is going on in the world at the moment. Still, if you’re an inveterate Oscar watcher – whether as cheerleader or snide, smack-talking comment-maker – it is one more assault on one more of the dependable and seemingly scarce growing pleasures left on the planet Earth.

but for real… when does it end?

It seems that millions and billions of dollars in profit should be enough, doesn’t it?   No. Michelin will soon be awarding 4 or 5 stars to the top McDonald’s franchise, People Magazine will no doubt be forced into doing a Sexiest Armadillo Alive issue for disenfranchised pet lovers and the Nobel Peace Prize for Best Villain Whose War Was Prevented by a Treaty of Nations could most conceivably and likely be awarded to our current sitting American president at some future date he deems to his own liking by way of Oval Office pressure privately applied.

The latter analogy is apt because changes by organizations like the Motion Picture Academy don’t just happen, even when they seem to be doing so. That’s like believing the mere election of a Person of Color as a U.S. president created the corrupt crop of American racism aka Nationalism that is sweeping the country. It pays attention only to the mere tipping point without acknowledging the tides of this nature that have been sweeping and swirling about for decades, if not centuries.

ABC-Disney broadcasts the Oscars and the show’s ratings have been steadily declining in recent years. In fact, last year they dropped a whopping 19% to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, marking the first time in 10 years they registered at less than 30 million.

Big Bang Theory has the highest weekly ratings on TV with approx. 18 million viewers per week. #PERSPECTIVE #embarrassmentofriches

This means that even though The Shape of Water was a genre film and more popular than the previous year’s indie best picture winner, Moonlight, it didn’t seem to matter. In fact, research over the last few decades showed the only times the ratings could be counted on to seriously tick up was when blockbuster grossing films like Avatar or Lord of the Rings were in serious contention.

Nevermind the general decrease in television ratings among younger demographics and the competition of online and streaming entertainment. Something had to be done.

The urgency of this can be certainly be attributed to commerce. Networks justifiably do not like to lose money, especially when we keep being reminded of how well the economy is doing.

But…well…there is something about these changes that smell a little to those with a sensitive sniffer – or who are just sensitive (Note: Which used to be the euphemism used for all artists, not to mention the gays and lesbians among and outside them).

See, Disney – that is half of ABC-Disney, in case this is becoming too complicated – is also the distributor and defacto partial financier of all Marvel Films. That’s pretty much the majority of all the Oscar overlooked superhero hopefuls.

So yeah.. basically this.

It’s also the distributor and defacto partial financier of all Pixar Films. That’s pretty much the majority of all of the Oscar overlooked animated films before the installation of the best animated Oscar category in 2002.

Not to mention, it also distributes and serves as the defacto partial financier of all the Star Wars/Lucasfilm movies.

These are all very POPULAR FILMS. In fact, consistently among the MOST POPULAR. Though certainly they are not among the biggest Oscar winners. And often they are…gasp…not even in contention.

Well… except for Best Visual Effects

As a person with year-round season allergies, even I CAN SMELL something rotten here in Hollywood beyond the phony Donald J. Trump Walk of Fame stars some right wing conservative group pasted directly onto the streets last week.

BARF

We seem to be living in a world where money is not enough and massive amounts of fame proves to be inadequate for the insatiable. The next bastion seems to be legitimacy in the form of some type of higher class of award or recognition usually reserved for the artistic and/or intellectual.

Next, we resurrect Edward G. Robinson to give away the award for best false idol

Of course it’s impossible to argue at this point that all Oscars are consistently high class, intellectual or even the most artistic. Yet if over the years you compare the winners to the Golden Globes, People’s Choice and MTV…well, our standards are our standards.

Yet somewhere it has now been decided that the producer/director of a short film or documentary who did something brilliant and/or original (and is likely maxed out on their credit cards) doesn’t deserve that kind of international attention for artistic achievement, especially if it can be given to someone the world is already familiar with.

Sort of like an American president pushing the president of a tiny country – say, Montenegro – out of the way in order to get one more photo op to add to the many millions accrued previously or to be added in the future.

There is no known cure

Never mind the fact that all outstanding leaders in their fields deserve some attention, even those of more modest means, in those rare moments when the spotlight happens to turn on them.

The more categories included, i.e. the more awards given, the more diluted and less prestigious any honor will become. This is one reason why the Oscars has managed to maintain whatever star quality and specialness it has left – it limited itself to 24 categories, eliminating some others while adding a few more over time.

Then, some years ago, when ego and commerce and the omission of a best picture nominee like Dark Knight dictated – rules were changed to include up to TEN best picture nominees – with hope for some more superhero or at least commercial inclusion, if not winners.

because all movies are the same…. right?

When that didn’t work…well…now there’s the popular film – dragging along all the other Oscars along with it so they can be awarded TWO OR THREE WEEKS earlier in hopes they can at least capitalize on some additional amorphous awards buzz along with everyone else. Forgetting entirely that sometimes you want to stand out from a group instead of delivering a cheap imitation of what everyone else has already grown so used to.

This kind of strategy slowly makes irrelevant not only a date of broadcast but the very awards themselves.   Much like a bad leader can do to any organization, corporate leader or country.

Wicked Cast – “Popular”

 

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Monkey Business?

There is no escape.

Not from Trump metaphors in art generally or in movie sequels specifically.   Even if all you want is a good summer film.

Of course, this also means there is no running from the news of the day, even if you don’t care a whit about the future generally or the human species specifically.

Stay with me… I’m about to get there

You might think you can turn it off by reading a classic novel and transporting yourself into another world. But try it. Chances are there will be some authoritarian figure somewhere bellowing belligerently from the rafters about what’s good for you, your neighborhood or your country in a voice you want to stab to death at any given moment. This being might be the voice of a dictator but, trust me, it can also be your parent, a friend or even your own inner voice.

Sure, I could be talking about just me but, truly, I don’t think so. When one lives in extreme circumstances one unfortunately finds resonance everywhere – and often in the most unlikely of places.

This weekend I went to a Writer’s Guild screening of War for the Planet of The Apes.

GURLLLL

Well, why not?

Sure, it’s the NINTH film of the Apes series, I don’t like sequels and reboots generally and, more specifically, I missed the last two. But I did read some synopses to catch up and there were the stellar written and word of mouth reviews for this new one

I heard it’s fantastic!, related a good friend who spoke to a good friend who knew someone who saw it.

Jeez, did you read this? It’s a rave, yelled my husband across the room over breakfast and our printed newspaper this past Friday morning. An eschewer of movie sequels generally and franchise action films specifically, I got the sense if he wasn’t working on a deadline to finish his new book he might have even joined me and paid the price of admission at a real movie theatre to see it.

And it doesn’t even have Dr. Zaius!

For the NINTH Planet of the Apes movie???? Yes. As I said, we all need our fantasy escapes – unless of course our backs are up against the wall with work and we have discipline. Well, one of us has to.

Besides, if I didn’t go to the new Apes film I would have missed:

Where to begin…

  • Woody Harrelson ordering droves of shackled apes to BUILD A WALL to keep all the bad guys out.
  • Metaphorical strong man father figures who stick by their families at all costs and lash out when their first-born sons are threatened, mutilated and/or killed. (Note: So be careful out there on Twitter).

Well… he would if it were Ivanka

  • Whole tribes of people willing to follow a certifiably CRAZY GUY because times are tough, he talks a good game and seems to have some sort of vague plan that will save them.

Of course, this could just be me reading into the movie but, truly, I don’t think so.

By the way, know you are reading no Apes snob here. The original Planet of The Apes was one of my favorite films as a child because it confirmed all of my worst prepubescent fears about the future of the planet. Even back then I knew we were probably doomed and the best that I could hope for is that some hot guy in a loincloth who looked like a youngish Charlton Heston would take pity on me and “save” me. (Note: This was well before I was aware of his politics, not that this would have mattered to my 12 year old self).

OK well I was looking at his other “guns” #shameless

After the screening of the new Apes film the director/co-screenwriter Matt Reeves spoke to a room full of us writers and related how he wanted to marry a mythic story with the technology of the day in creating the reality of the apes. Well, fair enough, I thought, even if at 142 minutes it all felt a bit overwrought and Woody Harrelson’s nutsy bald-headed villain reminded me too much of Marlon Brando’s Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now without the sick wit. Or it all evoked a type of Bridge Over The River Kwai 2 with simians. Or The Ten Commandments without the presence of God or Charlton Heston – at any age.

I’ll keep the leopard clad Edward G. Robinson though #fabulous

But then Mr. Reeves made the mistake too many of us do when referring to our work – he began to explain it. He actually called his film as a “Darwinian biblical epic” and noted he screened the movies Apocalypse Now, The Ten Commandments and Bridge Over the River Kwai for inspiration. Oh, he did also mention The Outlaw Josey Wales, which I never saw, and now I guess probably won’t have to.

Sorry Clinty #stillanemptychair

All of this is to say, the difference between movie and real life auteurs these days is that the real life ones feel no need to truthfully explain themselves. We get codified messages from The Trump Of It All like build a wall and my (39 YEAR OLD) son is a good boy but not a lot of honest reflection about how he (It?) got to the decisions he made or why he made them. In fact, none.

And so far it’s working.

This should be a lesson for every movie director and writer out there. The moment you begin explaining what you do and why you do/did it is the precise time where you can begin to sew the seeds of your own downfall in the eyes of your audience. At least in the world we live in nowadays. Or, well, my world. A world from which there is no escape – even on a 2000 plus square foot movie screen.

or… RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

Though —

You (I?) might want to hang on to these results just in from a new Washington Post/ABC News pollThe Trump Of It All’s approval rating has just dropped six points to 36% from its previous 42% in April. Its/His disapproval rating has also risen 5 points to 58%. These are levels only reached once before: by George W. Bush near the end of his second term – after the economy crashed.

Yes, this is a slim, slim lifeline but is probably better than what you’ll get anywhere else. Of course, this could be just me but, truly, I don’t think so.

Dusty Springfield – Wishin’ and Hopin’

SPECIAL NOTE: We will be taking a brief stay-cation next week and notesfromachair will return in two weeks. During that time, our beloved Holly, the editor, caption writer and image chooser of all things notes will be giving birth to her second child – better known as Sam’s sibling – and we can’t do any of this without her. Or choose not to. Though why explain any further.

Can’t wait for you to meet her!