David EideOpinion Columnist

In the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to get out and see more movies in theaters and I think it’s really inspired a deeper appreciation and curiosity toward the art of filmmaking.  In turn, this interest has spun off to include things that directly tie into films, in particular, the Oscars.  If you’re unaware, the Oscars, or the Academy Awards as they are officially known, are the most prestigious film awards in the world, meeting in late February or early March every year to honor the films released in the last year.  I quickly grew intrigued by the long and storied history of the Oscars and the enduring points of controversy that arise every year once Oscar season rolls around.  I decided to throw my hat in the ring and reflect upon where the Oscars are now and where they might go in the future.

A major point of general discussion regarding the Oscars in recent years has been the marked decline in viewership in recent years.  This decline has been blamed on many different factors including a general decline in live television viewership and a feeling that the ceremonies have gotten too long and bloated.  One argument that I see frequently is that the biggest films of the year rarely get nominated for the Oscars, with more focus being placed on smaller films that most filmgoers haven’t even heard of.  There is some validity to this argument, as in the past, major films like Jaws received nominations for best picture which has become a less common occurrence nowadays.  However, I think this is a very flawed argument for a number of reasons.  Personally, I do think that the quality of major blockbusters has declined quite a bit recently.  Previously, major motion picture events often had original stories or adapted major historical events, whereas now they’re often either standard franchise fare or a remake of something from the 80s.  Furthermore, the premise itself is flawed as just recently the Oscars have nominated major films for best picture like Black Panther in 2019 and Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water this year.  Basically, if big films would get their act together and actually feature good cinematography and storytelling they might get nominated for best picture more often.

That brings us to this year’s ceremony which is looking to be a very interesting one.  Unlike in some prior years, there doesn’t appear to be a clear favorite as to which movie will win best picture, leaving the field wide open.  I haven’t yet had the chance to watch all the nominated movies, but I have seen a solid amount of them and looked at the general reception of the ones that I haven’t, so I feel decently confident in my commentary.  Everything Everywhere All at Once stands out among the nominees as having received many awards in other prominent award shows.  While I personally have not seen the movie, despite it seeming to be right up my alley, I have heard nothing but good things about it and I think it has a very good shot and it would be a well-deserved win.  Another best picture nominee with a lot of buzz surrounding is The Banshees of Inisherin.  Out of all the nominees I’ve seen, this one is probably my favorite as it has fascinating themes and excellent cinematography and it’s the one that I’m rooting for at the moment.  It seems unlikely to me that Top Gun or Avatar will win as the Academy has never quite felt comfortable giving the award to big studio films.  I’ve also seen some speculation about The Fabelmans by Steven Spielberg, but I also see that as somewhat unlikely since Spielberg has already won several Oscars and the Academy might want to give the award to a lesser-known filmmaker.  This is what I mean when I say that the field is very unsettled. You can make solid points for many of the nominees, and it would probably be fair to say that it’s anyone’s game at the moment.

Of course, there’s always more to say about the Oscars but I purely wanted to keep the focus on the films rather than the celebrity drama and physical altercations that may arise from the ceremony.  While I could easily have devoted half the article to talking about the slap and what it says about hosting the Oscars, I wanted to keep a narrow focus on the actual films being honored, which of course is the entire point of the Oscars.  The Oscars have many flaws but ultimately they exist to honor an art form that has brought me and millions of people a lot of joy, so I think they deserve at least a little bit of support and consideration.