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Oscar New Yorker

“It’s hard to imagine which potential viewers who were disengaged from the Oscars will tune in now that Best Production Design is gone—but, in the process, the Academy sure has succeeded in irritating a lot of people. Don’t the producers realize that the makeup-and-hairstyling winners give fabulous speeches? The category-cutting fracas, though, is best understood as a symptom of a deeper identity crisis. The Oscars strive to be two things at once: an industry recognition of the various aspects of moviemaking represented by its branches and a splashy television event that must appeal to a mass audience. In the past few years, those two goals have appeared increasingly incompatible. For one thing, mass audiences don’t watch network television like they used to. But moviegoing has changed, too. The films that make big money are almost exclusively superhero movies, which don’t typically get nominated for Oscars. In 2009, after The Dark Knight failed to get a Best Picture nomination, the Academy expanded the category to up to ten nominees, presumably to make room for Batman and friends. Instead, the category filled up with small, worthy movies such as Nomadland.. Meanwhile, the kind of movies that are supposed to get big audiences and win Oscars, such as Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, have stumbled at the pandemic-depressed box office. Without a sustainable middle, Hollywood is bifurcated: on one side, Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has grossed more than $1.8 billion worldwide; on the other, The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion’s enigmatic Western, which got twelve Oscar nominations and some undisclosed amount of Netflix streams. The only thing they have in common is Benedict Cumberbatch.”

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