The Oscars. A Review

I suppose now’s the best time for my 1st annual Comprehensive Review of The Oscars.

I got nothing.

Look, I didn’t watch it, ok? I’m sorry, but no human should be asked to watch 5 hours of millionaires giving each other awards for doing what’s in their job description. “OMG you directed a good movie”…I could’ve sworn that’s what you were supposed to do.

It’s 2017. Nobody has the attention span for that. I stop looking at gifs that take more than two seconds, so you know I’m not watching an awards show that’s longer than the movies nominated for the awards. That’s asking too much. Especially when I haven’t seen any* of the movies nominated. If the show itself is to be taken seriously, the Academy needs to feed into our current preferences and make the show small enough for Twitter videos but absurd enough to inspire a thousand memes…

Holy shit, they did it.

I got on Twitter out of pure boredom right before they announced La La Land as Best Picture, and when I say the internet was seething, I mean it. People who had never seen La La Land were ready to scream injustice if yet another movie that wasn’t about POC won this particular trophy. And then it did.

…and then it didn’t?

Well look at that. A movie about a black man’s journey of self-discovery in the face of constant pain, conflict, and rejection won Best Picture. Never seen that before. Wow. We should probably celebrate that once we remove this elephant from the room…

Ah, yes. The biggest talking point from this year’s awards: the wrong movie was announced for the biggest award of the show. And nobody corrected the mistake until the crew from La La Land was already on stage thanking their fans and loved ones for supporting them throughout the years as they sought the highest recognition for their life’s work. This is the very type of thing that CANNOT happen at The Oscars. The fact it had not happened before last night is testament to our discipline as a species. The fact that it did happen last night is a testament to how even the smallest mistakes can have some pretty big consequences. Moving on…

I hinted earlier how Moonlight fits the narrative of Black movies that get Oscar consideration, and I was not joking. Seriously. If you look at the history of nonwhite winners in the main categories, the films usually fit the same mold. Moonlight itself contains a checklist of things Oscar voters look for in a film. And it’s not just me saying that. The Oscars have a type, and the makers of this movie clearly knew that. Given the amount of flack Will Smith gave the Academy for being a group of racists who never celebrate diversity less than a month after he himself said there was little racism in hollywood, it should definitely be noted that they often do nominate and award movies and actors who are actually good.

And Moonlight is great.

The audience is treated to a tale of a child who is earmarked as “soft” and a “faggot” by his peers long before he knows what those words mean or if they should even matter to him. As he navigates through life, he’s essentially tortured every step of the way by everyone he encounters — except for Kevin, Chiron’s childhood friend who doesn’t accept the box the other boys put Chiron in, and Juan, the Afro-Cuban immigrant who himself is bullied into conforming to the hyper-masculine lifestyle imbued upon African men since the only place you could find such men was in…Africa. So, of course, that guy dies — but not before informing Chiron that he can’t let anybody decide who he is going to be. By the end of the movie, Chiron is nearing 30 and just discovering that Juan was correct as he confronts the feelings he suppressed Kevin all those years ago. Add to that the struggles Chiron endures with his mother — a woman who is very much a prostitute motivated by her need for crack and her inability to control herself, let alone her son — and you have the making of one hell of a coming of age story.

In the context of the movie, nothing is really solved. Chiron is very much involved in drug culture and very much incapable of moving back to Miami to be with Kevin, who happens to be the only person of either sex Chiron has ever been with. In the context of the film’s importance, that’s the point. Your identity is not something that can be diminished to a two hour story, and it’s definitely not something that can be solved through one romantic encounter after three decades of society assaulting the very aspects of your being that should be celebrated. Less than 4% of the Black population identify as LGBT and less than .0001% of the American population are gay Black men. It’s a very unique experience that disproportionately lends itself to discrimination, physical and sexual abuse, and dangerous levels of isolation that often lead to self-harm/suicide. To have the most prestigious award in American cinema celebrate a movie that captures the struggles of that existence, and at a time when more people are genuinely concerned with the safety and well-being of the LGBT community, speaks volumes.

Too bad this moment will ultimately be overshadowed by the strange shit that happened right before it, though.

*It turned out I did see Moonlight a while ago, but I had no idea it was nominated for Best Picture.