Imagination Connoisseur, Jeffrey Mao, takes on the Academy Awards with a breakdown of what’s broken in Hollywood.

Greetings Rob and all my fellow Robservationists,

I have returned to the letters finally. I wanted to not talk about one subject but a couple things that I have on my mind.

I don’t like to wade into the wokeness debate much as it’s usually a pit of doom that can never be escaped from. But, with regard to our girl Padme, Natalie Portman’s recent passive/aggressive statement at the Oscars, well what can I say? First it was disrespectful and in bad taste. You don’t get invited to someone’s party and then within earshot of the host badmouth the host for not inviting more of your friends.

If she has a beef about actual or perceived “snubs” of female directors for Best Director nominations, then she should make her case. Is there a real nominee who could have been replaced with someone on her list? She has a list. There’s no way all of them get nominations over the actual nominees. More importantly, she should put her money where her mouth is. If she feels so strongly about the issue, back a film with a female director. Produce a film and go out and hire a female director. Create the opportunities that she says are lacking in Hollywood.

Next, with the recent string of “woke” flops like TERMINATOR: DARK FATE, CHARLIE’S ANGELS and now BIRDS OF PREY (aka Harley Quinn aka Margot Robbie’s vanity project), I’ve heard this common refrain: “All of you (fill in the blank for your favorite group) need to support (name of film) or otherwise Hollywood isn’t going to make any more of this kind of films.”

I only hear this with movies that aren’t doing so well or aren’t projected to do so well and people get nervous about everyone “not supporting” the film. There are always reasons why a film succeeds or doesn’t financially. Mostly it is down to marketing. If the marketing department for the studio hasn’t done a good job of marketing a film, then the next best option is word of mouth. And word of mouth certainly has in the past accounted for certain films succeeding far more than they probably were initially projected to.

On the other hand, I would not consider this recent tactic as being “word of mouth.” It’s more like a political campaign, where everyone has one vote and if you don’t vote, your vote is wasted so use it or lose it.

If I don’t like a film, then I won’t watch it, even if it’s of the genre that I like. I don’t watch every sci-fi or horror or fantasy or genre film, but why is it that I never hear people saying if I don’t spend my money to watch that genre of film then they will stop making that kind of film?

I’m not obligated to spend any of my money on anything. Give me a good product, and I’ll put my money behind it. If movie watching was like voting and everyone only got one watch a week, and whatever film gets shown the next week is based on who watched what the week before, then I can understand that idea working, but that’s not how it works.

With regard to the Oscars “show” and why it’s good or bad and how to improve it, I have a few thoughts.

I’m like you, Rob, I used to love watching the Oscars. I’d record every year’s show. I loved it when it was held during Spring Break week. I’d look forward every year to it after coming home from college.

I think the Oscars suffer from the same problem as sports events, like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. The broadcaster tries to create drama, tries to build up the show as entertainingly as possible, but since they can’t pick the participants, sometimes they just get a bad draw. There’s always going to be people who watch but some years you just have a bad field of Best Picture nominees. Some years it feels like all the nominees made less money combined than Endgame made in one weekend.

You can always bring back the stars but a lot of times they aren’t nominated. A couple good musical numbers spice up the show just like a good Super Bowl halftime show but that doesn’t draw the audience. It’s the quality of the game itself. If you have a couple small market teams with no stars and it’s a slog, you get bad ratings.

For me personally, I feel like after RETURN OF THE KING won big, the Oscars started to go down for me, and that’s probably when I stopped watching regularly. Then we got a couple relative snoozers as BP winners. MILLION DOLLAR BABY? OK, but Best Picture? CRASH, ‘nuff said.

We had a couple decent winners after that like THE DEPARTED and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, OK I guess, never saw it. THE HURT LOCKER? Nice film but Best Picture? THE KING’S SPEECH?

I could go on. Just a trend of increasingly mediocrity in “Best Picture” winners. I had to look them up. I used to remember who won each year. It seems that nowadays whoever wins the “Best Picture” Oscar seems to win merely because someone had to get the most votes as opposed to there being a massive consensus for it.

I mean, what was it 2017 when everyone thought LA LA LAND was going to win it, and they all started to go up on stage but MOONLIGHT actually won?

My point is that the Oscars as a show can’t tell Hollywood to make another RETURN OF THE KING, so that they can have an awesome show. The Oscars is just a symptom of Hollywood and the larger film industry producing fewer and fewer bigger budget films with broad appeal that are also Best Picture quality.

– Jeffrey M.