The Academy Awards and the Republican presidential campaign exist in two different universes.
Both might be dominated by racist, aging white men. But, as the tedious Chris Rock pointed out in his monologue as the Academy Awards host, Hollywood's racism is different from Alabama's. The motion picture academy responded to the outrage over no blacks receiving Academy Awards nominations with over eager assurances that "diversity" will be honored. The Academy Awards show made repeated gestures toward assuaging its white guilt. In contrast, the GOP flaunts its racism and pushes it to extremes many had come to see as unthinkable before the surging Donald Trump campaign.
Leonardo DiCaprio and the person who won an Oscar for "Mad Max" costume design made impassioned talks about climate change's impending threat. The GOP doesn't believe that climate change exists. While Hollywood is tagged for racial discrimination, it goes all out to honor the "LGBT" community. The Republicans support all efforts to undermine gay marriage.
Like so much else in American life, the Oscars once reflected broad cultural unity. While Hollywood always was more glamorous, wealthy and socially liberal than the rest of America, the movies celebrated the prevailing culture of patriotism, religion, hard work and thrift. Bob Hope for years served as the show's host, his bland jokes not shocking the viewers. Men like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and William Holden were major Hollywood figures.
The most significant Oscars moment this year was Rock's interviews at the theater in Compton, Calif., which showed that most of the black movie lovers there were disconnected from the Oscar best picture nominees. While similar interviews at a white theater might have yielded more recognition of movies like "Spotlight" and "Bridge of Thrones," white audiences also increasingly shun "quality" movies favored by Oscars. The gap between the Oscars and popular tastes has grown huge.
I feel it myself. I like Leo Decaprio, and suppose I'm glad that he finally won the Oscar he's been stalking for years. But "The Revenant" strikes me as excruciating. I don't care how much of a cinematic achievement the movie is. I just don't want to see a movie about a 19th century mountain man mauled by a bear and surviving in primitive conditions. I would be more willing to give "The Revenant" a look, if it weren't for the fact that I found director Alejandro Inarritu's Oscar winning "Birdman" from last year so horrible. "Birdman" ranks as one of the most pretentious, boring, overrated movies I've ever seen. I might see "The Revenant" if it washes up on HBO or TCM, but I don't want to spend a dime to see it.
Nor am I drawn to "The Room," for which someone named Brie Larson won the best actress Oscar. The little kid in the movie was cute enough in his Academy Awards appearances, but the movie sounds as unappealing as "The Revenant."
I saw some other movies that drew some Oscar attention. Many were entertaining. None, though, struck me as having the depth and range of great movies of the past. "Spotlight" is a fine picture, but I don't consider it one of the all-time greats. "Steve Jobs" put me to sleep. I wasn't dazzled by the special effects of "The Martian" and "Mad Max." "The Bridge of Spies" was entertaining, but too conventionally in the traditional Hollywood mode, as was the case with "Trumbo," although Brian Cranston's star turn was appealing.
The early reports show the Academy Awards' ratings plunged again from last year's lows. ABC and the Academy don't seem to understand that no matter who the host is, the show is way too long. Each year, after a few appetizer awards such as best supporting actress, the show hits a desert of technical awards I know I should care about, but just don't. Then the top awards are squeezed into the last minutes. Stupid bits like Rock's girl scout cookie routine pus the show past midnight.
By that time, many have already bailed out. The movies, and the Oscars, are more and more irrelevant.