It’s been a couple days and I still have a slight twitch in my eye. The 84th Annual Academy Awards occurred this past week, in case you didn’t know and/or were watching the NBA All-Star game. I took to Twitter and Facebook during the show, riffing Mystery Science Theater-style, like the tens of thousands of others online — the ones who have grown tired about the pretentious hoopla and overall ridiculousness of the pageantry. But this year was different. There was something in this show that after the last award was given, it left me in disbelief. It was so blatant and in-your-face.
In a post-SOPA environment, as the entertainment industry struggles to find common ground between themselves as producers and the consumers they depend on to thrive, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took to the stage to give the most subtle, wonderfully choreographed, emotionally-driven middle finger.
Before I continue, I want to stress that it is the dream of practically anyone in the industry to win an Academy Award. In any career path, there’s something to be said about positive recognition for the work you put into it. It’s a paradox that I dream of winning an Oscar. I can make fun of the show like everyone else on the internet, but there is nothing more serious in my heart when I say I want an Oscar. Like, for real guys. Gimme.
But there comes a time when you have to stand up and call foul. It really started when I didn’t comprehend the overall theme of the awards that night. I didn’t get the montage. Patton Oswalt said something about it on his Twitter.
Seriously, was the theme of that last montage, “Hey, movies…right?”
The theme of the Oscars? Going to the movies. Celebrities talked about their first theatre experience (mine was Batman Forever) and there was an elaborate Cirque Du Soleil number.
As much as you can joke about the meta nature of the theme, you can’t laugh when the industry tried, and failed, to combat the new habits of their audiences. But do these audiences really care? Is there an audience?
The Customer Is Always Right
A few days ago I saw this on Facebook.
I love the New York Giants, but I also love movies. Despite how unreliable the Nielsen Ratings are, they are still cold numbers. If this is to be believed, then the audience who are more inclined to care about Oscar-pictures is dwindling. Movie attendance is dwindling. Ticket sales are dwindling.
The industry is pissed and they’ve begun to show their teeth.
With rising ticket prices, better consumer technology, changing audience habits, and a much more hectic culture, the industry has gone on the super defensive. On the biggest show of the year, they took to the stage and gave a graceful song and dance to remind people why movies are so great. Despite that they cost so much. Despite that they’re inconvenient. Despite that they’re probably just not worth the drive when gas prices are so high. Despite all of this… movies, man! Right?
I’m torn. I love the romanticism of the theater experience as much as the next cinephile, yet I’m in the camp that understands evolution. Times change and you need to adapt with them. Not once did the show acknowledge the convenience of on demand tech or paid streaming services. It was purely about the magic of a dark room.
What about our magic? 21st century magic? If early motion pictures were such an immersive novelty that theater goers ducked when a train was coming at the camera, what of streaming technology? I was floored when I connected my Xbox Live account to Netflix to see a whole library of movies right in front of me. I felt like a film connoisseur living in Minority Report, masterfully flipping through pages upon pages of films at my fingertips. I have fond memories of watching Casablanca during Christmas that year, with the lights off and the tree lit up as Ingrid Bergman left Humphrey Bogart at the station. I remember watching The Silence of the Lambs at midnight, and then scaring the bejeezus out of my sister minutes later as I flawlessly imitated Hannibal Lecter’s “Hello, Clarice.” And it was the countless documentaries I’ve seen available on Netflix that has educated me on anything and everything.
You Need Only Look In The Mirror
Take a look at the Best Picture winner this year: Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist.
The film tells the story about the charming, master silent movie star George Valentin who is at the crossroads of an industry transformation. As the demand for sound pictures (“talkies”) begins to grow, he struggles with his work while falling in love with Peppy Miller, an aspiring actress.
Valentin’s silent film career comes to an end as the customers demanded more talkies, which skyrocketed Peppy Miller’s career. In the end, Peppy assists George’s resurrection, utilizing his unique tap dancing skills as another, different way to entertain audiences. It was a compromise: You don’t talk, but you can do something else. I’ll leave why he can’t talk still a mystery so you can go see The Artist. It’s pretty good.
I think Hollywood needs to take a closer look at their champion film of the year. It’s a film that they could relate to: A protagonist stuck in the ways of old who refuses to change is forced into a compromise that makes everyone, in the end, happy. They could learn a thing or two about change, adaption, and the generational gap. You need not fear what is new. Embrace, or at the very least, compromise. This is how your audience behaves. If you are resistant to change, your numbers will dwindle to obscurity.