Movie critics weigh in on awards shows

The landscape of international movie awards has settled into a torpor, underscored by a predictability that stifles the very essence of cinematic celebration. What we encounter time and again is the unanimous opinion that reigns like a monochromatic palette over the film industry, daring little to cast a differently colored stone against the conglomerate of popular judgment. It is evident when films like “Oppenheimer” are universally lauded, suggesting a homogeneity of thought that overlooks other masterpieces such as “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which could arguably rival its acclaim. After all, it is the diversity of preference and perspective that injects vitality and vigor into the dialogue surrounding the arts.

The ceremonious aura encompassing the award shows has also grown wearisome, shrouded under a guise of solemnity that robs it of its former spontaneity and joy. These events seem to have forgotten that the arts cannot be quantified with the precision of a sports score, making the attribution of ‘best’ a subjective and often contentious verdict. Rather than fostering impassioned discussions, the atmosphere has become templated—an echo chamber of repeated sentiments.

Quentin Tarantino, in his book “Cinema Speculation,” pointedly revisits Martin Scorsese’s reaction to “Taxi Driver’s” polarizing reception to underscore this point. The commentary that films and their makers deliver has increasingly become a cautious exercise in moral positioning, with the pervasive gaze of social media in every crease of expression.

Even films that deviate boldly from the norm like “Saltburn,” which spins off the charts in ingenuity, are sidelined—perhaps their narrative of being “just a story” pales in the grand scheme of world-changing cinema. The paradox shines through when we recall that even movies such as Nolan’s “Inception,” which profoundly redefined cinematic tropes, were once overlooked due to their ‘popcorn movie’ stigma.

This year’s awards season has regrettably offered a series of uninspiring speeches, with few exceptions peppered throughout the events, such as the wit infused by Hugh Grant at the BAFTAs. Nostalgia strikes for the era of musical galas and well-crafted opening monologues by the likes of Billy Crystal, leaving us yearning for a return to inspirational creativity.

On the flip side, the current awards season has not been without its merits, notably in the recognition granted to indie and foreign films that would otherwise meander unseen. Such attention shifts the spotlight to gems like “Anatomy of a Fall,” which delivers a powerful narrative punch in the realm of art cinema.

Although there’s underlying acknowledgement that “Oppenheimer” might sweep a multitude of categories, one muses whether the accolades are entirely just. Can Rene De Niro’s performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon” truly be overshadowed by Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal? Awards have, in some instances, become lifetime achievement accolades rather than merit-based recognition, reflecting a penchant for career homage over single performances.

On the discussion of how to spice up the award show recipe, some suggest abolishing the host altogether—why not distribute the limelight among various cinematic icons to bestow honors with dignity rather than forcibly injected humor? Although, there’s a certain allure to the potential irreverence comedians like Dave Chappelle or Jerry Seinfeld could bring to the stage, with their brand of humor that risks off-color jest yet promises memorable monologues.

It’s apparent that as the consumption of award shows fragments into the brevity of online clips, there’s a pressure-cooker environment for presenters—speeches are laboriously crafted to be soundbite-worthy, gunning for virality rather than authenticity. Surprise victories are craved, if only to disrupt the premeditated choreography of applause and speeches.

Despite growing calls for change to reinvigorate the longstanding traditions of award shows, the upcoming Oscars, poised to be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, seem reluctant to take bold strides away from the safe harbor of the conventional. Time will tell if the winds of change will eventually blow strong enough to reawaken the spirit of these cultural galas, restoring them to their former glory as platforms that truly celebrate the multifaceted and subjective artistry of cinema.

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