With the Oscars done and dusted for another year, it again falls to we who make our living in the crucial industry of cultural criticism to explain to the masses what they mean. It’s important work: if we did not write about what the Oscars mean, politically, socially, psychologically, and culturally, people might get the impression that they’re just a bunch of people getting trophies for making movies. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we will see.
Firstly, what did the Oscars mean for the Trump presidency? A watershed moment came when Best Supporting Actor winner Brad Pitt said that he had 45 seconds on stage, “Which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week.” This incendiary piece of weaponised satire sent shockwaves through the Washington establishment, with White House insiders reporting that President Trump has been working on his resignation speech ever since he heard it. This will have major repercussions for world politics down the line, obviously.
Pitt’s was not the only speech to shatter existing paradigms. Joaquin Phoenix, accepting his Best Actor award for his performance in Joker, spoke out vehemently against the exploitation of cows – making explicit the central metaphor in Joker, a film that, at its heart, is about dairy. It’s likely that after Phoenix’s statement, very few people will be able to put milk on their cereal in good conscience. He has also opened the door for other celebrities to speak out about cows, a trend we expect to continue well into the next century at awards shows everywhere – if they need to, of course, since the dairy industry may well collapse entirely on the back of the Oscars.
It wasn’t just the speeches making history: what of the awards themselves? The triumph of Parasite in the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay categories has put an end once and for all to Anglophone cultural hegemony. We can look forward to the gradual eradication of the English language from the film industry, as more and more filmmakers realise what a dead end it is. This is before we even get to the political message behind the movie, which has dealt the final killer blow to capitalism.
Meanwhile, Sam Mendes’s war epic 1917 fell short of expectations it would take out the big gong. The message is clear: to gain critical favour, movies from now on must consist of at least two shots. This will be revolutionary.
We should also note the political significance of the fashions. Natalie Portman wore a dress featuring the names of female directors who had not been nominated for Oscars. Grown men were seen weeping with shame as they beheld the frock, which confronted them with the disgrace of their own privilege. Not to say the battle has been won: victory cannot be declared until either every nominee for Best Director is a woman, or every woman attending the Oscars has women’s names on her dress. Either one will do.
But perhaps the biggest revelation of this year’s Academy Awards is the fact that television ratings for the ceremony were the lowest they’ve ever been. This level of apathy among the general populace, despite the many vital and groundbreaking political statements being made, proves the greatest truth of all: people are stupid.