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With Leonardo DiCaprio finally receiving a well-deserved Oscar for his performance in The Revenant last year, the Internet is grasping for new storylines as we enter a relatively mellow Oscar weekend. With significantly less hype surrounding this year’s awards, many people (myself included), have begun to wonder why the general public is so disinterested in this year’s awards.
In contrast, the 2016 Oscars was one of the most talked about shows in recent memory, primarily because of the #OscarsSoWhite phenomena which highlighted a shockingly low number of non-white nominees (and winners). That, coupled with host Chris Rock’s continual jabs made it a difficult topic to ignore.
However, this year’s Oscars have left much to be desired, as the nominations are far more balanced and feature a much wider variety of cultures and ethnicities, leading to a far less dramatic slew of journalism.
According to a survey from The Hollywood Report, 6 in 10 Americans can’t name one best picture nominee, and more than half of all Americans haven’t even seen any of the best picture nominees. Both figures, while very unflattering for the film industry, don’t come as much of a surprise, with pop-culture site ‘TooTab’ suggested that the primary reason behind these results has to do with the quality of the movies.
While this year’s list of best picture nominee’s has something for everyone to enjoy – from romantic musical (La La Land) to a historical story of African-American scientific achievement (Hidden Figures) – there’s no reason to suggest inclusion is the issue for the 2017 Oscar’s.
The problem, however, may lie in the combined quality of all nominees rather than the sum of its parts. Noticeably, none of the nominated films had a huge “wow” moment. Don’t get me wrong, most of these movies told great stories and were relatively enjoyable to watch, but it was difficult to connect with the films on a deeper emotional level.
Objectively, all of the nominated films are ‘safe’ from a publicity standpoint. The Oscar committee certainly won’t receive the same level of backlash they received last year, as many of the films seem evenly matched and touch on a combination of true stories of historic events to self-discovery in modern society. Looking for a film that is certain to upset some people? You won’t find it at this year’s Oscars. And that might be the problem.
Part of the enjoyment of the Oscars is seeing the drama unfold off the screen – something that is very much absent this year as the nominees seem are letting their on-screen performances do the talking.
Last year’s best picture winner was Spotlight, which shared a deeper dive into the Boston Globe’s discovery of the child molestation scandal and cover-up within the Catholic church.
Following its win, Spotlight’s numbers skyrocketed at the box-office, turning it into a near blockbuster – something that the Oscars have lacked significantly in recent years.
Spotlight wasn’t necessarily a safe bet to win and undoubtedly turned some heads, but that’s what made it so great. Unlike many best picture nominations, it focused on a story with a hugely negative societal impact. Success stories, for the most part, seems to the subject of best picture nominees this year – great for societal impact, but not-so-great for the show.
For a show that posted an 8-year-low 34M viewers last year, it certainly doesn’t scream ‘lack of popularity’. It remains to be seen whether the general lack of awareness of will have a larger affect on viewership this year, but one thing is for certain: moviegoers could be less influenced by award-winning films than they have ever been in the past.
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Chris Stasiuk

Author Chris Stasiuk

Chris is commercial director and founder of SVG, a Toronto based video content agency.

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