The Academy Awards are terrible at their stated goal of rewarding “the previous year’s greatest cinema achievements as determined by some of the world’s most accomplished motion picture artists and professionals”. As Linda Holmes pointed out in her post yesterday, what the Academy Award nominees and winners really tell you is what the predominantly white, male voters decide the narrative of the annual exercise is. That’s fine. The Academy Awards exist only to generate a narrative which people will repeat and debate and will lead to (from the Academy’s most hopeful point of view) people spending money on movies.
Since the awards are subjective, it is possible for us to create our own narratives around the awards. Talking about pop culture is talking about what pop culture means to us and given the impossibility of determining objective truth about art, the Academy Awards lends itself to meaning something slightly different for everyone. For me, I am very happy for Lupita Nyong’o, Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuarón because they are not white and not American. American movies are made for the world and it’s better if those responsible for the “greatest cinema achievements” look like the world.
In general, I don’t think subjective awards mean anything as they say more about the people who vote than the people who win. However, sometimes the awards mean more because the people who win make us think differently about something or make us think something new. I hope that Nyong’o, McQueen and Cuarón make people think differently about movies, about America and about themselves.
I am aware that McQueen did not win an individual Oscar. However, he directed and was a producer on Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave.
Alyssa Rosenberg has a list of five things she’d like to in movies after the Academy Awards. She is nice enough to mention a suggestion from yours truly about a future role for Lupita Nyong’o. Last night, the excellent TV and film critic Matt Zoller Seitz suggested that Nyong’o should be offered Audrey Hepburn-type roles and I suggested Nyong’o in a remake of Roman Holiday (along with Idris Elba).