Once it was the Oscars. It was a night the whole world would look at, longing to discover which movies and films would fill theaters, which actors and directors were the most deserving, who had been best at making up, or picture or photography or any of the several different categories the Academy Awards (the official name of what everybody calls the Oscars) are divided in. The weeks and the days before the event, tens and maybe hundred of millions of cinema lovers would debate on nominations, on the number of prizes a movie would bring home, five, six, maybe seven: who would be nominated best actor and best actress. And on that long-awaited night, a whole lot of people would spend hours watching the ceremony, the Night of the Oscars, and newspapers the world over would give the winners their frontpage and more pages inside. Once it was the Oscars.
All this seems to be gone. Gone with the wind, as the world known movie said. All you have, now, is a night where cinema and movies are second line. Just an accident, a justification for being there. The red carpet? A place to show the latest creation of the best fashion stylists, in the past years. Today, a place to strike and create scandals. The stage? No longer THE place where actors and actresses, directors and storywriters, creators of the best tricks, those that make the magic of cinema true and real, would ascend the highest peak of their careers. Today, it is a place to send political manifestos to the world.
2016 made the news because many were offended by the absence of black people in the crowd of those awarded the prize. Set, ready, go, the 2017 edition of the Academy Awards have seen two colored actors, Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis, win the prize for the best supporting actor and actress, in Moonlight and Fences respectively. They might have deserved the prize, but I can’t help feeling their award is mostly due to what happened last year. Mahershala Ali, just to add to the feeling, is Muslim, and that goes along with the mainstream movement against Donald Trump and his ban on Muslims.
Donald Trump: yes, the new President of the United States has been the target of most, if not all, of gags and comments in the movie Mecca. There is strong evidence several of the awards are not due to actual merits and capabilities, but to belonging to a specific group. Asghar Farhadi, for example, surely benefited of his being Iranian, a country hit by the ban issued be Trump. I wonder who would have won the prize without the ban.
Is this political activism doing any good to the film industry? Maybe. Probably not. People are not going to see The Salesman, Farhadi’s movie, because he is Iranian, or because he is one of “the victims” of Donald Trump’s ban. People will only go and see the movies and films they like, and that happens by word of mouth. If I like a movie, I tell my relatives, my friends, my neighbors. If I don’t, I tell them as well. Time will tell if The Salesman deserves the prize, or it was just a political decision.
What is undoubtedly true, is that the Academy Awards are on a declining trend, far from the life and desires of common people. The so-called white collars and blue collars, those who struggle daily against problems and troubles, trying to make ends meet everyday. Those who voted Donald Trump as President of the United States. A preference based, first of all, on him being “enemy” of the political and economical establishments. And the cultural establishment as well. The very establishments the Academy Awards personify and defend. But America, the world, is not inside the Los Angeles Dolby Theatre, it is outside.