Like I said in my last piece, the Oscars are meaningless and incorrect, I am right, and they are wrong. I acknowledged this would be my excuse if my picks were their picks, so given that I got half incorrect, I’ll use the excuse. I built myself this backdoor, and now I shall leave through it.
However, if I want to drag out my pain and analyze my faults, the main problem with my predictions are that the Oscars are weird and incredibly hard to understand. If you give them too much benefit of the doubt, they’ll prove themselves stupid. If you give them not enough benefit of the doubt, they’ll suddenly act smart. It’s a strange Goldilocks situation, where you have to see that Academy voters are both smart and artistic as well as incoherent and out of touch.
The big winner of the night was Parasite, a Korean language foreign film about class struggles in South Korea. Usually, this is the kind of fare that makes the old white Oscar voters confused and causes them to fall back on their bread and butter, such as war films like 1917, which I predicted to win the top prize. Yet Parasite won Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Film, and Best Original Screenplay. It was the first film from South Korea to win Best International Film and the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture – obviously a historic night.
What made it hard to predict that Parasite would win so many awards is that it’s a good movie. As I said before, somewhat jokingly, the Oscars are usually bad at knowing what good things are. The purpose of an awards show is to award the good things which makes this fact strange, but it’s still a fact.
Good movies are sometimes hard to understand, so when a movie is good but confusing, it’s unlikely for the Oscars to vote for it. 1917 illustrates the opposite situation. It’s arguably a pretty good film, but it’s simplistic and in a package that Academy Voters understand and respond to. Parasite is in Korean, which would usually be enough to scare them away, but this time it didn’t. I have no explanation for why this broke the mold. Perhaps the overall message of the film, which highlights class divides in South Korea and explores the fighting within the working class, and its relatability to our domestic situation triumphed over the language barrier. Or maybe it was just a fluke, I don’t know.
So yeah, I was wrong. But it’s a better outcome for the state of the Oscars than the outcome I had predicted.
For my other incorrect predictions the reasoning was the opposite, I gave them too much benefit of the doubt.
For Best Actress, I had thought that given nobody saw Renee Zellwegger’s movie it would be hard for her to win. I was wrong. Another Oscar trope is that they often award films about the film industry, mainly because they really really like themselves. Renee Zellwegger played Judy Garland, a Hollywood legend, in the movie she won the award for. I don’t know why I didn’t remember that. Maybe it’s because I didn’t see Judy, but neither did any other person on Earth.
For Best Adapted Screenplay, I thought that maybe the Oscars might try to make up for not nominating any women for Best Director by awarding Greta Gerwig for Little Women, a film she was not nominated for Best Director for. Wrong on that one too.
Yet apparently they cared enough about their errors in the nominations to continually make jokes about it throughout the entire telecast. The fact that the Oscars annually neglect to acknowledge the contributions of women and people of color to the film industry is shameful. But the fact that they think they can make up for this by instructing comedians and presenters to mock the lack of diversity throughout the telecast is even worse. This weird cycle has been going on since the ‘Oscars So White’ controversy, yet the number of diverse nominees has not consistently improved. Maybe it’s time to attempt to make some changes to the voting process.
For the most part, I think this Academy Awards did well with awarding the right things within the parameters they had set, given that The Academy failed to nominate many of the defining works of the year. Notable shut outs for films like Uncut Gems, Us, Knives Out, The Farewell, or Midsommar made for a non-representative nominee pool. If we’re judging whether or not the Oscars awarded the right films from the stringent selection they gave themselves, they did a mostly good job. If we’re judging the entirety of the process, nominating included, the Oscars did not do a good job.
Recognizing Parasite is a good first step, but maybe next year they’ll apply the same forward-thinking to the entire process.