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The Oscars

Give us movies we can actually enjoy

Oscar winners Youn Yuh-jung, Daniel Kaluuya and Frances McDormand. Matt Petit/AMPAS/Getty Images

This year’s Oscars were a pitiful affair, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph. At a time when we need cinematic escapism more than ever, all we got were gloomy films and ghastly stars. The winner of the best actor award, Anthony Hopkins, didn’t even bother turning up: he was “asleep in Wales” instead. It was the right call. “My guess is 83-year-old Hopkins would have very little tolerance for the kind of virtue-signalling his younger colleagues go in for.” The evening was less a competition in film-making than a battle in wokeness. Every acceptance speech was a chance for winners to prove their social-justice credentials. And nearly every film nominated was worthy to the point of boredom – “big on diversity and short on mass-market appeal”.

I’m all for more diversity, says Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. But films still need to be fun. It’s good that half the acting prizes were won by people of colour, that two women were nominated for best director and that stories are no longer just decided on by a “fetid pool of replicant white guys”. The problem is that sex, glamour, excitement and mystery have become “relics of a bygone era”, with Hollywood now focused on films that are “worthy, relevant, socially conscious and lugubrious”. No wonder viewing figures for the Oscars ceremony are at an all-time low: films such as Nomadland are unwatchable. Hollywood’s big players need to remember that they’re in “show business”, and that viewers don’t want endless doom and gloom. After all, Covid has pushed cinema to breaking point. To survive, “it needs to find a way to marry its past storytelling chops with the exciting new forces of its future”.

The growing trend of moralising entertainment is by no means exclusive to Hollywood luvvies, says Sarah Ditum in UnHerd. Books and theatre are plagued with it too. It’s because “we live in an era of relentless individualism” – we’ve become so self-obsessed that the only entertainment we deem worthwhile is entertainment that betters us. But that misses the point. “Why do I read? Largely because I hate to be bored, and books are my favourite way of not being bored.” Theatre is the same: I watch it for joy and escapism. Anything else sounds exhausting. If you want to read a novel, see a play or watch an Oscar-winning film, you should do it for pleasure, not for self-improvement. “It should feel like a luxury, rather than an obligation.”

Make the Academy Awards great again 

Donald Trump also took a dim view of the 2021 Oscars ceremony. “What used to be called the Academy Awards, and is now called the ‘Oscars’ – a far less important and elegant name – had the lowest television ratings in recorded history,” said the former president in an emailed statement. His advice? “Go back 15 years, look at the formula they then used, change the name back to THE ACADEMY AWARDS, don’t be so politically correct and boring, and do it right.” It’s funny, because “Trump basically is the Oscars,” said US chat-show host Jimmy Kimmel. “Old, bloated, completely self-involved and obsessed with gold.”