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2019 could mark a major change in the Academy Awards

Claude Brun and Ian Davino, Staff Reporter and A&E Editor
Originally published March 8, 2019

The Oscars in recent years

Facing steadily declining viewership since 2015, the Academy has been trying to shed their image of being made up of a bunch of old snobs desperately clinging onto “traditional” film by choosing best picture nominees from a broader range of movies, many of which don’t qualify for the “Oscar bait” label. From “Mad Max: Fury Road” in 2016, “La La Land” in 2017, and “Get Out’s” nomination last year, the Oscars looked to be taking a turn towards becoming an awards show more accessible to the average moviegoer.

The Academy has also been leaning harder than ever into supporting racial equality. “Get Out’s” nomination was one of the few times they actually got it right, as a movie about black people that was actually directed and produced by a black person.

This move in the right direction was short lived, with “Green Book” taking home the win this year, yet another movie about racism from the perspective of white directors and writers. This way, they kill two birds with one stone, acknowledging the importance of racial awareness while still rewarding the old white men that have always sat at the top of the industry. Perhaps the most surprising part about “Green Book’s” victory was just how unsurprising it was—in a year where the Academy seems so desperate to change its image, they chose to give their biggest award to a film that could have won any other year.

Attempting to please the masses

There is a silver lining to this though, as “Black Panther” became the first comic book movie to receive a best picture nod and it was also made up of a mostly black cast and crew, placing it in two areas that the Academy tends to refrain from giving the nod to. The downside, however being that by many accounts, “Black Panther,” as a film—not a social statement—doesn’t deserve the title as the first comic book movie ever nominated for the coveted award. This just makes the snubbing of movies like “The Dark Knight” all the more bitter.

This exemplifies a symptom of the Academy’s attempts to make the Oscars more accessible to draw in viewership: movies are being nominated for the optics—as statements of the Academy’s social standing more so than for their quality as films. Why wasn’t another blockbuster film of similar quality such as “Avengers: Infinity War” nominated instead, or even in addition? For the optics: the fact is that the academy was making a subtle statement that they want to recognize the movies that the majority of moviegoers have seen…then went on to give the award to a movie that few people saw and fits perfectly in line with the host of Oscar bait movies that have one since the Oscars have been prominent.

Animated Feature Film

With the past six awards for Animated Feature Film rotating around Disney/Pixar productions, snubbing unique animation studios without hesitation, “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” winning brought a breath of fresh air to the previously stagnant section. Previous voters openly admitting to not having seen all of the nominated films, a standout year being 2015 when “Big Hero 6” won over Studio Ghibli’s “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya,” the rationale from many voters being that they only watched animated films that their children had seen.

In a survey with The Hollywood Reporter, Scott Feinberg reported that one of the Academy members referred to “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya” as an “obscure freakin’ Chinese f**kin’ thing that nobody ever freakin’ saw.” Knowing that uninformed and frankly disrespectful Academy members can cast votes only furthered the “old snob” perception of the Oscars. It’s important to acknowledge that the opinion is a fraction of the variety of voters, but many years felt as if they discredited animation and the effort required.

With those past years and nominations in mind, “Spiderverse” winning over “Incredibles 2” or “Ralph Breaks the Internet” comes as a welcome surprise. Sony Pictures Animation adapted a unique animation style, bringing classic comic book art to life in three dimensions, focusing more on the lack of limitations in animation rather than attempting to mimic realistic features–and it paid off. Every frame of “Spiderverse” is a work of art, hundreds of small details and blending of multiple styles executed with the highest degree of polish.

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2019 could mark a major change in the Academy Awards