Conservatives tsked-tsked NPR late last year after it made a curious choice for the year’s best song.
The publicly funded news outlet dubbed Cardi B’s “WAP” the year’s mightiest tune, although its reasoning veered away from the usual criteria: “To no one’s surprise, a pair of women honoring their own ladyparts and the pleasures they dish out and expect returned in spades drew the ire of the insecure, of zealots and moral grandstanders. The backlash, however inseparable from the song’s cultural narrative, only bolsters the argument for its politics of pleasure … Such a filthy bit of joy may be born of entertainment, but it persists as necessity — fake prudishness be damned.”
So it’s not the best song of the year but rather the best way NPR could smite its ideological foes.
The NPR honor is more than an isolated incident. It’s a sign of things to come.
Awards ceremonies themselves have been hopelessly progressive in recent years, with the crashing ratings to prove it. Now, the winners will increasingly reflect the shows themselves.
Awards voters routinely inject their liberal politics into their choices, but up until now those moments were the exceptions, not the rule. Does anyone think Al Gore’s droning Climate Change lectures deserved a Best Documentary statuette?
Or that both Barack and Michelle Obama crushed their spoken word recordings enough to earn a Grammy each?
What about the clunky, hopelessly biased “Game Change” HBO telefilm earning a whopping 12 Emmy nominations (and five wins)?
Here’s betting we’ll look back on these moments as the “good old days” of awards voting, a time when politically motivated wins were both rare and exasperating.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” spent 90-plus minute attacking President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani and other GOP types. The sequel is a monumental step down from the 2006 original, one of the boldest comic creations in recent memory.
Yet the laugh-impaired “Moviefilm” has tons of Oscar buzz heading into awards season. Vulture.com helped explain why prior to the 2020 presidential election: “Ultimately, the thing that will determine [co-star Maria] Bakalova’s bona fides probably won’t happen at the movies; it’ll happen in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In conversations with Oscar strategists this week, one offered up an incredibly plausible and incredibly depressing theory: “If the election goes the wrong way, I think she gets nominated.” The reasoning? If Biden wins, voters won’t have much stomach for reliving the darkest depths of the Trump era. But if the president pulls off reelection by hook or by court-ordered crook, Bakalova’s awards campaign might suddenly become a standard-bearer for anti-Trump sentiment.”
So it’s not about the best movies of the year.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences helped turn the annual event into one that puts quality storytelling a distant second. Last year, the group declared diversity would be a primary force in the august awards ceremony. Filmmakers will soon have to check a series of identity politics boxes to be eligible for the biggest Oscar of them all – Best Picture.
Not only will the movies themselves be forced to oblige, there’s little doubt voters will have “diversity,” not excellence, top of mind while making their selections. Heaven forbid we endure another #OscarsSoWhite hashtag campaign in the Black Lives Matter era.
It’s worth noting the role reporters play in awards season. Each year the wannabe winners go through the press gauntlet to stir up interest, and potential votes, in their respective projects.
It’s Campaigning 101, as intense as any political effort.
When you marry a progressive project with awards season you get a near endless supply of news stories surrounding a title.
Voila, awards season buzz is born.
That’s why we’re seeing a near-daily barrage of articles tied to Cohen’s “Borat” sequel, all framed in the most positive ways possible.
A not so distant second? Articles teasing every possible angle from “The Comey Rule,” Showtimes’ outlandishly false miniseries based on former FBI Director James Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty.”
Goldderby.com, a respected awards season web site, laid out the awards case for the Showtime project: “Talk about perfect timing. With the 2021 Golden Globe nominations just weeks away (they’ll be announced February 3 for film and TV), the second impeachment of Donald Trump could end up reminding voters about “The Comey Rule,” the first dramatic depiction of America’s 45th president. Jeff Daniels plays former FBI Director James Comey, one of Trump’s many political nemeses who ended up testifying against him following his firing in 2017. Comey has since become a staunch never-Trumper, recently saying Senator Mitt Romey showed “real leadership” when he denounced Trump’s incitement of rioters at the United States Capitol.”
Reporters aren’t the only ones putting their thumbs on the scale. Film critics, who hold considerable sway over the winners and losers, are increasingly pushing their political agendas with their reviews.
Consider “Hillbilly Elegy,” the very definition of an Oscar-bait film based on right-leaning J.D. Vance’s memoir. The 2020 release from Oscar winner Ron Howard got hammered by critics in a way that hardly reflects on the film itself, a well told story that’s neither revelatory nor disastrous.
The wave of awful reviews crushed any chance of awards season glory. It proved so unjust even Howard, a man with six decades of show business experience and the thick skin that comes with it, called out the critics.
That’s what he gets for making an apolitical film fueled by a conservative’s best-seller.
A recent awards ceremony proved this trend isn’t relegated to the states. If a fawning portrait of climate change darling Greta Thunberg can pick up a Swedish award for Best Documentary, you know the awards season voters across western culture are in on the fix.
The creative community, from singers to actors and TV personalities, are all-in on the modern woke movement. That means the content we’ll be absorbing soon will have passed through a social justice filter first.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time for the voting to follow suit.
Christian Toto is the editor of the Colorado-based HollywoodInToto.com.
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