DARGIS First, I loved Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh’s obvious adoration for each other — truly.
As to this specter, well, I think that the academy by not giving Netflix what it wants so badly — a best picture win — once again delivered a conspicuous message to the streaming giant. Yes, Apple won best picture last year with “CODA,” but Apple doesn’t feel like a threat (to anything, really), unlike Netflix, which has consistently tried to bend the industry to its will. That company’s enormous resources, its outsized power, aggressiveness and, I think, its contempt for theatrical releases — and by extension, a foundational part of the movie industry itself — have dinged its best picture chances, or at least that’s what I hope. No one company should have such great power, whether it’s Netflix or Disney.
The ascendence of A24 — which was, as a reminder, founded by three guys from the indie-film world — is certainly worth noting. But it’s not surprising, given the direction that the remaining big studios have gone in recent decades. Companies like Disney make huge movies that, at least in the prepandemic years, scooped up huge piles of cash at the box office on their path to streaming. A24, Neon (“Parasite”) and others often produce and release movies that remind audiences — and the academy itself — that motion pictures are not only about market shares and profits. These companies also get that audiences don’t just want the same old, same old white faces and stories. Diversity is good for business and for art.
SCOTT Accepting the best picture Oscar, Jonathan Wang, one of the producers of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” said that “no person is more important than profits.” He meant the opposite, of course, but his mix-up could stand as a Hollywood motto. The industry employs and exploits so many people, and every year celebrates a handful of those and the craft and creativity that make this business special.
You can’t really separate the business from the other stuff, and it’s best when the Oscars don’t try too hard to sell the public on the magic of the movies or their cultural importance. In recent years, as ratings have slipped and cinema seemed to be losing ground to television, a note of desperation crept into the broadcast, an anxiety about the state of the audience made more intense by political dysfunction. This iteration was calmer and safer, and also maybe more confident. Movies are still around. People still care about them.
I certainly do, but this was my last Oscars as a film critic for the Times. Our morning-after post-mortems have been a highlight of the job, even if Oscar night itself has sometimes been a chore.
DARGIS Well, my friend, if I could, I would give you the biggest, grandest, shiniest “best comrade” statuette possible. It’s been an honor and a genuine pleasure working alongside you through all the hits, the flops and the many Academy Award shows. My movie life and my thinking about what it all means onscreen and off, as well as my cranky Oscar post-mortems, just won’t be the same without you.