Thinking of modern Hollywood, I’m reminded of Screwtape’s advice to his nephew: “The way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would think it was our job to teach!”
Only, of course, the devils’ jobs are to befuddle; Hollywood has the much more wholesome duty of storytelling, which it’s largely rejected in arrogant disgust to appoint itself the national moral advisor. I don’t think anyone advertised for such a position, but I’m quite sure that if we had, we wouldn’t have picked a bunch of actors and artists to fill it (particularly not the current crop).
The days when the Oscars were even theoretically a celebration of the best of film are long gone: the days when the likes of It Happened One Night, An American In Paris, or even Braveheart would win Best Picture are as long gone as Bob Hope and his warm-hearted humor.
Today, the award is not for the best story best told, but rather for the best teaching aid; the one that most encompassed what they, the instructors, meant to convey to the students.
I don’t think there’s been a line up that more clearly demonstrates this than the embarrassing nonsense we’ve got tonight, specifically this year’s token “film the viewing public have actually heard of” nomination for Best Picture. As we all know, it’s Black Panther, which is also the first superhero film to receive such a supposedly high honor (not Superman: The Movie, not The Dark Knight, not The Incredibles, not Captain America: Civil War. Black Panther). Any other year, that would merely be laughable: Black Panther isn’t a good movie, but a lot of Best Picture nominees aren’t that great, especially these days. But, as it happens, there were two other films in the same franchise this same year, and one of them was Avengers: Infinity War.
In case there’s any confusion, Infinity War is indisputably one of the best Superhero films ever made. It’s a huge story, told with tremendous skill and brought to life by some fantastic performances (Josh Brolin at least probably deserved a Best Actor nod, CG or no), all in the service of conveying big, universal ideas about right and wrong. Not only that, but it’s the culmination of a ten-year, nineteen-film series that represents a truly groundbreaking achievement in filmmaking.
In any awards seriously meant to honor the best achievements in filmmaking over the past year, nominating Infinity War over Black Panther isn’t even a question. It is objectively, undeniably the better film in every way. The fact that the Academy chose to nominate Black Panther is just a clear statement that the Oscars aren’t about achievements in filmmaking, but achievements in politics. Black Panther is an almost-all Black blockbuster, clumsily issuing didactic talking points about ‘Black issues’, so in the Academy’s eyes, it deserves a nomination.
That’s why I don’t care. I like movies; I don’t like politics, and I especially don’t like it when someone tries to talk about politics under the guise of talking about movies.