The 92nd Academy Awards aired this past Sunday and saw a 20% decrease in its ratings from previous years. The biggest winner of the night was a South Korean film called “Parasite,” which was subtitled for American audiences; these two facts are related because beyond the racist and ignorant views shared on Twitter, the casual viewer — which the Oscars rely upon — feels alienated from the show. On top of this, this year’s show was just being really bad TV, with more than a dozen musical performances for an awards show that celebrates movies. All of the metrics around the 92nd Oscars seem to spell doom and gloom, but the “Parasite” win shows why the Oscars will stand the test of time.
The Oscars are important because their awards serve as a window into what film meant in a given year. Midway through the telecast, Tom Hanks came on to the stage to introduce an ad for the upcoming Oscars’ museum. The Academy genuinely views their awards as representing a year in film, regardless of box office totals and Rotten Tomatoes scores.
About three months ago, Khalil Gordon wrote an opinion piece for The Griffin about the growing divide between audiences and critics. Gordon’s piece primarily centered around the political reasons critics will praise movies; but regardless of politics, there is almost always a gap. I disagree with Gordon because in many ways I feel this gap is necessary, and the reasoning is hardly political to me.
I see the Oscars as a semi-encapsulation of critical opinions over the course of a year, which necessitates a gap. The Oscars allow for the best of both worlds since “Black Panther” was a Best Picture nominee last year, followed by “Joker” this year, which also received the most overall nominations. The Academy does not go out of their way to ignore the popular films of the year, but shows casual audiences the thought provoking and creative, non-comic book films that came out.
“Parasite” is an example of a film that needed to be force fed to American audiences. Generally, it doesn’t seem the casual viewer is very open to watching a foreign language film, even with subtitles. Thankfully, the Oscars tells these resistant people “too bad.” The director of the film, Bong Joon-Ho said at the Golden Globes, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” and the Oscars agreed. It is a masterful and entertaining film that dissects capitalism and human relationships. The film is original and unpredictable, and conveys an empathetic message that is worthwhile for everyone.
The Oscars are often misguided and, at times, tone deaf, but the reason I believe in this institution is because they actually care about film history. If you take a look at the Grammys, “You Need To Calm Down” by Taylor Swift was nominated because it was a single with billboard success. However, I don’t know many people who would put that song in a top five list of songs on their album. I think it’s more difficult for music, but I don’t see the most recent Grammys as truly representing what music was like in 2019.
History was made last Sunday when “Parasite” became the first foreign film to win Best Picture. The Oscar nominations and winners may not be representative of the taste of the general American public, but its job isn’t to cater to the people. For example, despite its entertainment value, “Avengers: Endgame” did not deserve the top honors. The Oscars will alway have a lot of misses and mistakes, but even in the changing landscape of live television, the Oscars will survive because of their commitment to the craft of film.