Film & TV

Our Sovietized Oscars

Oscar statues outside the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2016. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
Hollywood reveals its progressive fascism.

Just like the Soviet Comintern, officials at the Academy Awards have issued guidelines for films nominated in the Best Picture category. Make no mistake; these are also industry guidelines — a way to make Hollywood’s ingrained, essentially unchangeable clubby practices look like progress.

But the ugly, sneaky side of progressivism comes out — its ultimate resolve is to control.

The new rules, announced September 9, confirm what film buffs already know: The Oscars have been trending toward progressive mania and general irrelevance. This fact is proven by recent unpopular but politically slanted Best Picture winners such as 12 Years a Slave, Spotlight, Moonlight, and Green Book. Each of those miserable films represents extreme, sanctimonious liberalism; they were designed to exemplify the critical-race-theory idea of American sin and guilt.

Classic liberal Oscar winners In the Heat of the Night (1967), Marty (1955), On the Waterfront (1954), All the King’s Men (1949), and Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947) displayed inspirational social consciousness. They were message movies par excellence, derived from post-WWII conscientiousness and All-American pride. But liberalism has changed and decayed this millennium. Hollywood’s current idea of social consciousness is scolding and authoritarian. Our culture’s aesthetics have been deranged into insipid standards based on what is considered politically absolute.

That’s why the new rules disregard artistry and instead prescribe quotas. The Oscars’ “Aperture 2025” movement insists that, starting in 2025, a movie qualifies for Best Picture consideration only if it 1) features various “underrepresented” racial or ethnic characters, 2) was made by verifiably diverse crews, 3) its production utilized internship programs marked for special social groups including LGBTQ and the disabled, and 4) must be marketed by members of special social groups.

Aperture 2025 bookends the New York Times’ 1619 Project so that film history becomes as distorted as our social history. The Oscars traditionally overlooked movies by auteurs — films that exhibit the sensibility and hard work of individual creativity, especially those films made outside the Hollywood partisan-cocktail-party trade. Now, indifference to singular artistry has warped into exclusionary hostility, under the guise of “diversity,” “equality,” and “justice” — totalitarian code words.

Some history: Hollywood’s fascist tendency was first displayed with the 1934 Production Code that prohibited specific themes, language, and visual presentation. Then, the 1950s Black List that censored Communist insinuators and fellow travelers, erroneously attributed to the House Un-American Activities Committee and Senator Joseph McCarthy, though it was in fact severely enforced by film-industry chiefs who directed hiring and firing. Despite the liberal canard that these events were restrictive, modern progressives are now determined to repeat them and restore their punitive impact.

In 1937, when Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime threatened the great filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (visionary of the still-astounding works Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, and Ivan the Terrible) that, on pain of death, he could no longer make his films, Eisenstein was forced to use requisite fascist vernacular and recant the deepest part of his artistic being: “I must root a new self in me. . . . I shall rid myself of the last anarchistic traits of individualism in my outlook and creative method.” This is the submission that Oscar progressives want. Hollywood has no more giants like Eisenstein and so gives orders to its pygmies.

The Oscars lost credibility long ago, yet it’s important to not pretend that the ongoing, self-congratulatory tradition is simply show business. This limit on creative and political freedom suffuses the industry; it is so culture-wide that a Los Angeles Times headline ridiculed actress Kirstie Alley for complaining, “Nobody told Pablo Picasso what to put in his paintings. . . . This is dictatorial.”

Under the Academy’s new dictatorial terms, only propaganda films will be rewarded. And under Hollywood’s current ideology, only propaganda films are possible.

Armond White, a culture critic, writes about movies for National Review and is the author of New Position: The Prince Chronicles.

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