After 5 years or so in which Hollywood revolved around black nationalist narratives, to the absurd degree that Jordan Peele’s Get Out was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, the 2023 slate is a surreal return to something resembling normalcy.
It’s not good or representative of national tastes, but it’s been a long time since that was the case.
Instead, the nominees represent the usual fare of buzzy movies, The Whale, Tar, Everything Everywhere All at Once, the obligatory nominations for Spielberg’s latest Oscar bait, The Fablemans, a prestigious British entry, The Banshees of Inisherin, and technical sympathy nods for bad Oscar bait, Empire of Light and Babylon. Best Picture nominations for Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar, while unjustified, are a tip of the hat to the movies people actually went to see.
This isn’t a non-woke list, not with Tar still in the game, but it’s the least woke it’s been in years and, notably, there’s a lack of interest in any of the racial Oscar bait. Till’s people are howling. There’s whining about The Woman King not making the cut. (As if a celebration of slave traders is supposed to represent black people.) And insane demands that Jordan Peele’s latest effort, Nope, be recognized.
Apart from a few sympathy nominations for Black Panther II in mostly technical categories, the #OscarSoWhite hashtag is bad. Not that a Marvel movie should have even shown up in any of the acting categories and wouldn’t have if it weren’t wearing race as its marketing skin.
If this sounds like no big deal, that’s exactly right.
It’s business as usual, but compare it to 2022 when Will Smith and Denzel Washington were competing for Best Actor, and Best Picture was a hellscape that included King Richard, West Side Story and Don’t Look Up. Or 2021’s list of nominations for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, as well as Judas and the Black Messiah.
2023’s nominations look like something that could have happened in the oughts. They’re normal. And in the woke dumpster fire that our culture has become, the oughts look pretty good.
Despite the various changes made to increase “representation” among Academy voters, the innate ‘conservatism’ of the members seems to have prevailed this time around.
That may not be much of a barometer for the larger culture, but then again it might.
Wokeness has come before and it can be a cultural fever. After the initial excitement, it may be burning out.