We made it another year without having to suffer through watching the annual abomination that is the Academy Awards ceremony this past Sunday, where Moonlight was declared to be 2016's Best Picture after La La Land was.
The blame for the Best Picture snafu apparently lay with Hollywood's accountants, who had broken away from their regular work and also their regular Sunday-night game of Three Card Monte to hand out cards in sealed envelopes identifying this year's “winners” to people who are professionally trained to read whatever words are put in front of them while on stage. So it couldn't possibly have been the Academy Awards' producers fault, because who could possibly have foreseen that such a thing could happen during a live televised broadcast? Especially after those four other times….
That wasn't even the day's only disaster. Earlier, a “giant prop” used as part of a background set for a performance number at this year's Academy Awards crashed down onto the stage, ripping a large curtain and crushing a camera during a break in the event's rehearsals. So far, nobody has fingered the Hollywood accountants as also being behind that incident, but fortunately, at least no one was injured.
And then, there was the untimely premature death announcment for Australian movie producer Jan Chapman, which came in the form of her photograph appearing during the Oscar's “In Memoriam” segment, where she had been misidentified as Australian costume designer Janet Patterson, who sadly did pass away back in October 2015. The auditors from PriceWaterhouseCooper couldn't be reached for comment regarding their potential involvement in that mix up.
These three incidents demonstrating exceptionally poor quality control on the part of the producers of the 89th Annual Academy Awards were in *addition* to all the mundane things that make the annual Academy Awards televised broadcast such an awful viewing experience year after year, most of which are actually planned to happen. We knew better than to watch it before the broadcast began, but considering what happened, we're even more against the idea of investing any amount of time to watch future Academy Award presentations.
If this were baseball, what happened at the 89th Academy Awards would be strikes one, two and three against Hollywood's producers. If we were looking to invest money to make either money or art by making motion pictures, we would rank the idea of doing that behind the opportunity to buy Turkish bonds at ground floor prices.
Speaking of which, what kind of people actually invest money to make movies these days?
Increasingly, the generic answer to that question in recent years has been “Chinese investors“, where a lot of money has been cashed out of China's economy to fund both movie productions and the acquisitions of Hollywood movie studios. In return for that largesse, Hollywood's producers have become especially accommodating to Chinese interests.
These deals have sparked concern over whether China’s expanding influence in Hollywood could lead to more pro-Chinese propaganda in U.S. films. The Chinese government tightly controls media content, and Hollywood studios have been known to alter films to feature China or the Chinese government in a more flattering light to gain access to the country’s lucrative film market.
If you were to go out into today's movie theatres to see the result of that influence, you would need to look no further than The Great Wall starring Matt Damon, which may be considered to be a prime example of the intersection of Hollywood movies that were purposefully made to satisfy the Chinese government's sensibilities. The good news, if you can call it that, is that despite its bad reviews, it is reportedly much more watchable than the annual Academy Awards ceremony.
While the movie did alright financially in China, it got bad reviews in that country, even though it was crafted specifically for it. Meanwhile, two weeks into its run, it's clear that it won't be making much money from American audiences.
Hollywood is in desperate need of a turnaround artist to fix its multitude of problems. But can its current predicament, where poor quality defines its intended blockbuster products and absolutely permeates the televised award show where it purports to recognize the best work done within the motion picture industry, even be fixed at this point?
Believe it or not, the answer may lie with the Chinese government, who in its desire to halt the flight of capital from that country, is cracking down on Chinese businessmen to keep them from making “irrational” overseas investments in Hollywood film productions, among other unseemly investments, where they suspect that the investments are merely a means for moving large sums of money outside of the government's control.
Responding to the still-hypothetical question asked by Hollywood Reporter in response to that developing crack down, “What if China's money stream stops flowing to Hollywood?“, Ed Driscoll speculated that the end of that flow of cash into Hollywood's odd accounting system might actually lead to better quality movies:
Movies might suck less, for one thing, since their plots and dialogue are often dumbed for foreign consumption — not to mention censored as well to placate the Chinese government. Or as even urban haute bourgeois* left Vanity Fair asked in August, “Did You Catch All the Ways Hollywood Pandered to China This Year?”
But would Hollywood movies not made to specifically pass muster with China's government do more poorly at the box office in that country?
There is an interesting example from the biggest money-making movie of 2016: Captain America: Civil War, which not only dominated the U.S. box office, it dominated box offices around the world, including in China.
Better still, it drew strongly positive reviews that praised the movie's intelligence:
Critics Consensus: Captain America: Civil War begins the next wave of Marvel movies with an action-packed superhero blockbuster boasting a decidedly non-cartoonish plot and the courage to explore thought-provoking themes.
If you go down the list of 2016's top money making films, you'll find similar global box office results and critical summaries for movies like Finding Dory, Zootopia and The Jungle Book, which all earned considerably more money overseas than they did in the United States while they were also critically praised for their thoughtful qualities.
The only exception in the Top 5 grossing moving of 2016 is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which wasn't cited for many thoughtful qualities by critics. And in fact, Rogue One was the only movie in the year's Top 30 that made more money in the U.S. than it did overseas.
Dumbing down a movie script to make it more appealing to another country's cinematic censors is the wrong way to go if Hollywood producers are really in the business of making entertaining or thought-provoking movies that make money. All things considered after this year's multiple Academy Awards fiascos however, we wonder if Hollywood's producers should even be considered to be part of the entertainment industry. If we had to guess, we would think that they're really in some form of organized crime, because that makes more sense than the accounting system they use.