What is art? It’s time we get into the nuts and bolts of this whole Oscar drama.
All this time the narrative around the Academy awards is that it is the ultimate winner medal for art. An Oscar win is considered the highest achievement possible for a movie. But on the other hand who decides what is a good movie?
Consider the Marvel argument. Spider-Man: No Way Home was a celebration of almost two decades of Spider-Man fans and stories. The movie has grossed over a gargantuan $1.89 billion at Box Office, clearly indicating how much people loved the film. But the academy doesn’t think so.
To them, it is not artistic enough. While I do think that most Marvel films have repetitive stories and a fixed formula that is followed in almost every movie, it cannot be ignored how much people enjoy this franchise, with it being the most successful one of all time.
The Matter of Arts: Who Is to decide?
So what is artistic enough? Consider the movie with the most Oscar nominations this year – Dune.
Denis Villeneuve’s Sci-Fi epic was no doubt a technical masterpiece, but was it a good movie? I didn’t think so, and for all its praise neither did the general audience bother much for the film.
The movie grossed 400 million dollars on a budget of 165 million. Compare it to a movie released at the height of Covid with a dual release on HBO Max – Godzilla Vs Kong. It made 470 million worldwide against a budget of 155 million, earning more profit than Dune.
So is Netflix’s Godzilla Vs Kong a better movie than a movie about people having the same age-old problems but in space but with large worms? Yes.
And is Dune a better movie than two ridiculously large monsters fighting? Also yes.
The answer to both questions is yes because it is all about perspective. Different people like different things. What art is to one can be trash to another.
The thing I am getting at is, that it is not fair for the Academy to have an elitist mindset about what is considered artistic and what is not.
What’s the Artistic Parameter?
The box office is also not reflective of how artistic the movie is, but it is time to recognise what people actually like. Not that people did not like Dune, but people also liked other stuff which for some reason is always ignored. There isn’t a fair selection of the nominations.
The Oscar mentality of selecting ‘artistic’ movies would make sense if they were picked from indie films. But when movies made on such a massive budget are picked, it is not fair to just pick the ones the Academy deems worthy.
For all its technical excellence in using practical effects and VFX, there is nothing new that previous sci-fi movies haven’t already done. As much as the Academy likes to scorn them Superhero movies have better visuals and VFX than Dune.
Is this a knock on Dune? No, it is a brilliantly made film that deserves all its accolades, but if it is the level of technical brilliance required to get an Oscar nomination. There are many other equally brilliant ones which The Academy doesn’t deem good enough to even be nominated in the Best Picture category despite 10 spots because they were franchise movies. (Looking at you Spider-Man, Godzilla v Kong)
An Eye-opening slap?
The disparity between what the Academy feels is good versus what the people feel is good keeps growing each year. Which is the reason why the number of people tuning in to see the Oscars keep dropping each year.
It is telling that the most attention the Oscars got was because of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock instead of CODA, a groundbreaking movie telling the story of a girl who is the only member of the family who has the ability to hear.
The reason being the Academy’s constant refusal to see even acknowledge what people like drives that public away. Not to mention their ability to piss off people within the industry who work so hard on the movies we see, like cutting the whole best-edited movie section and taking it off the air.
In conclusion, the Oscars have been a weird award with an even weirder selection strategy. In my eyes, Christopher Nolan is the greatest filmmaker of my era but does an oscar-less existence for Nolan mean he is not great? Absolutely not.
On the other hand, Eminem won an Oscar for 8-Mile but he didn’t even bother turning up, because what does an Oscar even mean to the greatest rapper of all time?
Art connects differently with different people, that is what is so unique and beautiful about it, that is why a movie seems so personal to you but your friends may laugh it off.
So enjoy what you love, and don’t let a lack of Award recognition take away the love you have for your favourite projects.