In a recent “What I’m Hearing” column about the Motion Picture Academy’s plan to somehow arrest and even turn around the ratings plunge that has been increasing over the last five or six years, Matthew Belloni wrote that the “increasingly niche tastes of Academy members” are a principal reason why most people haven’t seen the films up for awards.
What Belloni means by “increasingly niche tastes” is that since ’16 or thereabouts, the film industry has increasingly fallen under the grip of aggressive progressives, otherwise known as wokesters (POCs, #MeToo-ers, LGBTQs, obliging guilty liberals, kowtowing corporations). And they’ve been calling the shots more and more, and it was this increasingly dominant influence that made last spring’s Steven Soderbergh Oscar telecast seem like such a suffocating experience.
We all understand that the Soderbergh Oscars absolutely killed whatever was left of the old mystique. They made it clear that the Oscars had been transformed into a West Coast Tony awards thing — awards that reflected the mentality of an elite membership that had its own progressive game going on, and to hell with skillfully finessed movies for the politically neutral meatheads — i.e., films that reach out to people and reflect their lives as actually lived.
(Sidenote: it’s heartening to note that one such film is Reinaldo Marcus Green‘s King Richard, due from Warner Bros./HBO Max on 11.19.)
Five or six years ago the “increasingly niche tastes” crowd, understandably goaded by the election of Donald Trump, decided that the older-white-male dominance had to be strongly diminished and that the world needed to change. And so the industry, Marvel and D.C bullshit franchises aside, needed to increasingly forego the usual escapist or emotional engagement elements and/or baseline reflections of real life that movies have historically provided over the decades, which meant mostly ignoring the experience of average Americans who live outside the NY/LA bubble.
Streaming changed everything and the pandemic really up-ended the salad bar, but what’s been implemented more and more over the last five or six years is a variation of the social realism movement that took hold in the modern art world of the 1930s.
“Since wokeness began to manifest in ’17 and certainly since the pandemic struck, the movie pipeline has been losing steam and under-providing, to put it mildly. Nothing even approaching the level of Spotlight, Manchester by the Sea, Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, Lady Bird, La-La Land, the long cut of Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor, Zero Dark Thirty or Portrait of a Woman on Fire has come our way from domestic filmmakers.
Above and beyond an array of pandemic suffocations, a significant reason for the strange absence of robust cinema, for this general faint-pulse feeling, is (wait for it) wokeness and political terror.
Wokeness might be good or (sadly) necessary for social change, but it’s not much of a propellant for the creation of knockout award-season flicks that really reach out and touch Joe & Jane Popcorn.
The bottom line is that the erratic pursuit of sweeping, penetrating, soul-touching art (a rare achievement but one that has occasionally manifested over the decades) has been more or less called off, it seems, because such films or aspirations, in the view of progressives, don’t serve the current woke-political narrative.
And that’s it — that’s the whole magillah. Hollywood became captive to the “increasingly niche taste” crowd, which is a community that lives in its own progressive realm and is engaged in a campaign of social change, and this is why most of those who used to regard the Oscars as an annual event that mattered to some extent…this is why the vast majority of average, woke-averse Americans, who have lots of stuff to watch and who don’t necessarily share the values of the aggressive progessives, have basically said “fuck those people…they live on their own planet, and for the most part are focused on their own values and goals, which we don’t feel a burning need to align with, no offense.”