The Oscar nominations were announced this morning, if anyone still cares about the Oscars in the desiccated hellscape that our country has rapidly become. Damian Chazelle-helmed awards darling La La Land, a musical throwback to a simpler time when white women wanted to be movie stars, white men wanted to be jazz musicians (?) and all of Los Angeles wanted to gently dance along with them, is undisputedly the big winner of the day, receiving a mind-boggling (and Titanic-tying) 14 nominations.
I’ve bored countless people in the Los Angeles metro area already with my thoughts on La La Land, which are mainly that it is fine, but that the purpose of the great Technicolor movie musicals (produced mainly by the fabled Arthur Freed unit at MGM in the 40s and 50s) was to showcase virtuosity of singular performers. For example, Gene Kelly was the greatest dancer in the world. Judy Garland was the greatest singer. These films were built around those immutable facts. So to pay homage to them with actors who are only sort-of-OK at singing and dancing is to completely miss the point of why they existed in the first place.
So instead I’ll focus on last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, in which the internet exploded after not a single person of color was nominated in any of the major award categories. This year, six African-American performers were nominated in the acting categories, including first-time nominees Mahershala Ali and Noemie Harris. Barry Jenkins became only the fourth-ever black nominee in the directing category, and Moonlight, a wrenching examination of a young black gay man growing up in poverty in Miami, received a whopping eight nominations, the second-most received by a film this year. Hidden Figures, about the African-American female scientists of NASA, and Fences, an adaptation of the legendary August Wilson masterpiece starring and directed by the equally legendary Denzel Washington, also received Best Picture nods. You see! The people have spoken! Democracy does work, as long as it’s extremely contained and the stakes apply mainly to extremely successful people and the professionals who negotiated their contracts for them!
But lest you think that this has all gotten too P.C., thus proving the points of the masses of aggrieved non-Oscar nominees in flyover country that led us to our current state, the Academy has thoughtfully provided something for them as well: Mel Gibson has been nominated for Best Director for his World War II film Hacksaw Ridge about a pacifist medic (you understand why Mel Gibson hates wars—I mean, look at who’s responsible for all of them). That’s right. The coastal elite Jewish bubble of Hollywood has chosen to honor a right-wing anti-Semite who was the subject of every disapproving Golden Globes reaction shot when someone said something that sounded “liberal.” Nobody can say we’re out of touch with real America—at least, not until he steps on stage so Meryl Streep can punch him in the face.