The Academy Awards have a chance to be taken seriously again; but will they take it?
There are a few interesting races to watch on Sunday, but let's be frank: the only one anyone cares about comes at the end. Will "La La Land" ride its freight train of dreams and hope to the top prize or will the academy come to its senses and name "Moonlight" Best Picture? Let's make one thing abundantly clear: "Moonlight" is the best film of the year and the most deserving of the Academy's top award. There's no argument here.
It's the most important film in a year a racist demagogue rose to power in the United States and it comes following a year where the Oscars again became embroiled in a debate over its structurally racist nature. It runs against yet another film that sucks at the teet of the industry that produced it. "La La Land" is not without value, but it is often without substance. It would not be here without Hollywood, and Hollywood loves it.
Hyperbole is required: This is a battle for the soul of the Oscars. A win for "Moonlight" shows the academy can get over itself for just long enough to pick the film that means something in a year we desperately need a winner that strikes an emotional chord. To do so means voting against all the self-flagellation that has brought the Oscars to its knees in recent years.
It means no "Birdman," no "Argo" and no "The Artist." These films are harmless alone, but as a piece of a bigger picture show a troubling trend: Hollywood loves itself far too much for its own good. That's always been true, but at least the academy has done us the favor of faking it. That's the point of the picture business, right? Faking it for our own good.
Not anymore. The veneer is long gone. The Oscars are racist and exist to love themselves. Beyond the obvious at stake here, "La La Land" features Ryan Gosling as a character looking to save the soul of jazz from a black man who thinks the genre is dead. Let that sink in for a moment: a white man telling a black man what's up with jazz. Can someone tell Damien Chazelle to chill the fuck out for a second, please? White people didn't invent jazz, Damien. Just a heads up for you, pal!
This all feels academic, though. The Oscars will do what they always do. Celebrate themselves like they always do. The final award will be handed out, likely to "La La Land," and it will hardly feel like a surprise. Will there even be any disappointment? Any outrage left to be spared for the show? With so many real world problems does it even matter that this silly show has tanked itself?
Maybe not. That's too bad. With the way the world spins, it would be nice to have the Oscars as an ally instead of a laughing stock. Perhaps we get the world we deserve. We certainly have gotten the award show we deserve.