A Closer Look at Oscars Controversy

Benjamin Schlotman

The Academy Awards–more commonly called the Oscars–are a staple of the awards season and of Hollywood as a whole. Yet each year, fewer and fewer people seem to take the awards seriously. 

This isn’t entirely surprising. The Academy voters are comprised of neither the general audiences nor of film critics, but of people in the film industry who may have a vested interest in certain movies winning. And certain decisions over the years have, in the opinions of some, damaged the legitimacy of the awards ceremony. For example, Forrest Gump winning Best Picture over Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption in 1995 has continued to be a disputed choice.

Another seemingly annual controversy surrounding the Oscars is the lack of diversity. MSA Cinematic Arts teacher and filmmaker Phillip Chidel discussed this issue. 

“It is a continuing problem. They seemed to go out of their way to pledge diversity, as they always do, but the proof is in the pudding. And when it’s not showing up in the awards, or in the jobs, then the representation really suffers,” he said.

Race was a major issue for the Oscars in 1990. The previous year had yielded two acclaimed movies about race: the heartwarming Driving Miss Daisy, and Spike Lee’s decidedly more gritty Do the Right Thing. The former won Best Picture, while the latter was snubbed in that category.

When Kim Basinger presented the nominees for Best Picture that year, she went off-book to acknowledge Lee’s film. Basinger said, “There is one film missing from this list that deserves to be on it, because ironically, it might tell the biggest truth of all.”

Chidel also commented on the Forrest Gump controversy. 

“I actually think Forrest Gump should’ve won Best Picture, I don’t agree with all that criticism. The sentimentality of Forrest Gump is rival to none,” said Chidel.

Pulp Fiction and Do the Right Thing are hardly the only movies that have been snubbed, and Driving Miss Daisy is far from the most controversial Best Picture choice. 

2004’s Crash is considered by many modern critics to be the worst choice the Oscars have made for Best Picture. It’s certainly a movie that could be considered “Oscar Bait,” a term for uninspired dramas that seem to exist only to win awards. Other examples of Oscar Bait include 2010’s The King’s Speech and 2018’s Green Book. They were successful in their attempts to “bait” the Oscars, both winning Best Picture.

But what do Novato High students think of the awards show? Many, it seems, don’t even bother to watch the Oscars.

Freshman Eleanor Hayse does not watch the Oscars. 

“They’re [expletive] stupid,” Hayse said. She did not elaborate.

This year, there was an unusual amount of support from critics and audiences for the Best Picture choice. The Academy gave their top prize to the Korean social thriller Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho. The film also won Best Original Screenplay. However, these choices were not without controversy.

Jon Miller, a host for the conservative media company BlazeTV, took to Twitter over Bong’s win. 

A man named Bong Joon Ho wins #Oscar for best original screenplay over Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917. Acceptance speech was: “GREAT HONOR. THANK YOU.” Then he proceeds to give the rest of his speech in Korean. These people are the destruction of America,” Miller wrote.

While this is clearly more about xenophobia than it is about frustration with the Oscars themselves, it demonstrates that an award show that exists in the public eye as much as the Oscars do will face controversy no matter what.

Some of this controversy seems earned, while much of the controversy around Parasite obviously stems from prejudices of the viewers. Overall, it’s far from shocking that an awards showa widely-broadcasted proclamation that a select group of people objectively know what are the “best” movies of the yearis met with a certain degree of outrage. Even though many people say the Oscars don’t reflect their opinions, and that they don’t take the Academy’s choices into stock, certain people still seem desperate to find something to be angry about.