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Oscars Nonsense

Twenty-three years ago, Hayao Miyazaki won an Academy Award for Spirited Away (2001) but didn’t attend the ceremony in protest against the war in Iraq. Over two decades later, the Japanese maestro took home yet another Oscar, this time for his sublime, transcendent masterpiece, The Boy and the Heron (2023). Miyazaki was yet again a no-show, and one needn’t work hard to guess why. Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people was a specter haunting the entire Oscars ceremony, its absence somehow making it even more present.


Protestors gathered in such large numbers that some Oscars attendees had to get out of their cars and walk to the ceremony.

 

Despite the night’s main winner being a film about the man who invented the atomic bomb and was thereby haunted for the rest of his life, not a single acceptance speech from anyone on team Oppenheimer (2023) was brave enough to mention Gaza, where well over ten thousand children have been slaughtered by US-made explosives. I’m honestly unsurprised; Nolan’s latest offering failed to mention so much about the native Latino populations that continue to be haunted by nuclear testing in New Mexico, so this silence about Gaza seems very much on brand. Watching a room full of millionaires pat themselves on the back while countless protestors outside the Dolby Theater called for the US to end all aid to Israel left a bad taste in my mouth; but it seems the Academy was determined to bury their head in the sand.

       Maybe that’s why Scorsese’s towering epic, Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) didn’t get a single win out of its ten nominations. Scorsese brought us face to face with genocide and the wealthy who profit from it, reminding audiences that Native extermination isn’t some far-off past horror, but something that shapes our present day. I can see this making Oscar voters uncomfortable, driving them to choose Hollywood darling Emma Stone for Best Actress even though the conspicuous effort of her performance in Lanthimos’ grotesque Poor Things (2023) pales in comparison to Lily Gladstone’s subtle yet earth shattering work.

Poor Things also won Best Production Design despite Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City (2023) being the obvious choice. Anderson’s latest feature might just be his best yet, capturing nuclear paranoia, alienation and the struggle to connect with those around you in a world constantly on the brink of destroying itself—yet it didn’t get a single nomination. Instead, he took home gold for one of the four short films he released on Netflix last year. If we think of the Oscars as a gauge for what the industry wants to prioritize, Lanthimos’ eyeroll-inducing attempt at a feminist parable does not bode well for the future of the medium, at least in terms of what studios want.

Ultimately, the Oscars revealed that no real progress can be made while relying on those who wield the mechanisms of power. The recent and mounting strikes in Tinseltown show that collective action is the only way to get what we want. Jonathan Glazer, whose masterful work, The Zone of Interest (2023) won Best International Film, was the only speech to mention (let alone condemn) Israel’s atrocities in Gaza. He asked “how can we resist?” It’s an important question, one whose answer lies not in the tuxedos and sparkling gowns that decorated the Dolby Theater, but just outside its ornate doors, among the countless protestors Hollywood tried (and failed) to ignore.

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