Somehow my friends in London and I came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to watch the Oscars live. This, of course, being against our good judgement as the red carpet starts at 11:30 our time and the actual show didn’t end until well past 4. Nevertheless, we found ourselves plopped on the couch, pyjamas and fascinators (as was our dress code) snacking on cheese and crackers and voting on the results. From the very tired hours of the next day, I have some thoughts.
A wonderful world of art
I’ll be honest- I didn’t watch all of the nominees before tonight, though perhaps a bit more than usual! But I think from watching all the different sorts of categories you can win for, it is evident to anyone how much work, skill, and craft goes into making a film, and how great we’ve gotten at doing it!
Just looking at the trailers for the nominations, you can see the variety of stories humans have to tell. The Joker, Little Women, Harriet, and Parasite- all such different stories told in such different ways that were all in some way deserving of praise.
We’ve still got a long way to go in even recognising all of the people that excel in filmmaking. Many people pointed out on the Oscars stage the lack of black nominees in the top categories, and I have to say at times it felt like they were trying to keep making the joke of how white the Oscars was in place of actually doing anything about it. (Almost as if you joke about it, you’re no longer part of the system that is at fault for it).
But there are also so many unsung workers and craftsmen behind the work of the director, actors, costumes, fashion, cinematography, and music, who all worked to create the final product. In some sense, it’s kind of a cool image of the kind of community we were made to be in- all working together with our individual skills to create something beautiful!
But alas, this idealistic picture of Hollywood is not all there is.
The Dark Side of the Industry
I’m never more aware of our small of a bubble this industry is until they’re all in one building together. I think most of the people on the stage actually believe the work they do is the most important work on earth. We hear speech after speech about how their film and project is an important message, thanking themselves for being able to put it out there. That is, unless they go political, in which case we get into a whole other set of hypocrisies.
I can’t remember who said it but I just started laughing: During her winning speech, she said, “Raising Awareness is the most important thing you can do.” Is it? What about actually doing the thing you’re raising awareness for? You can raise awareness about cancer all you like- but the scientists are doing the work trying to cure it. Raising awareness about climate change won’t change government regulations about the way industries harm the earth. If you’re put in a position of power, it is good to use it to talk about important causes- but you can’t pretend that you are at the forefront of that cause in place of the people devoting their entire lives to that very thing.
When it comes down to it, I think Hollywood is a good image of human nature- we ultimately will do what we want to do, and gladly reap the benefits of power and money that we get if we can, but we’ll also try to paint ourselves as the hero of the story while we do it.
A good world that is broken and needs saving
I stopped writing this blog post and went and watched Marriage Story, one of the big nominees this year. It nearly made me want to delete everything I had written so far.
It seems we will never escape the paradox of humanity- we create such beautiful things and yet out of our mouths and with our actions come such destruction. At the end of Marriage Story, despite all the wrongs on both sides of the relationship, you root for it and want them to reconcile even though you know they won’t. Hollywood is corrupt for certain. But even in its corruption, it has shed light on some of the big truths of our world- human desires, complexity, selfishness, and love.
So what do we do about hollywood?
I’m not sure.
I recently read “Home Work” by Julie Andrews detailing her own years in Hollywood. Andrews is beautifully humble, always crediting someone else for the work she has done and for the success of her films. It seems that Hollywood isn’t enough to completely ruin her.
But on the other hand, over and over you see the great toll it has played on her life- the hardships it has brought on her family and her personal life. The balance of trying to be in relationships while prioritising your career, all while the temptations of fame and fortune are at your doorstep.
When it comes down to it, I think I can only summarise it like this:
Human nature is the problem, not Hollywood. But it sure does shoot a good picture of it.
My sincere congratulations to all the winners of the 2020 Academy Awards, and to everyone who didn’t win but had some measure of contribution towards the vast array of film created in 2019. I pray your art will be beautiful, your hearts humble, and your praise ultimately to God.
- Alexandra G. Kytka