What exactly constitutes a “bad movie?” To critics a mere couple years ago, it probably meant cheesy acting or a chaotic plotline, yet consumers still gobbled those films up (see: John Tucker Must Die). Today, though, moviegoers themselves tend to be much more critical than the actual Academy. The most recent examples of this divergence can be seen in the 2016 film La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle; and the 2017 film Call Me by Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino. While neither of these were objectively bad films—both of their IMBd ratings are 8/10—many viewers found them unpalatable.
One of the main points upon which La La Land has been criticized for is its lack of diversity. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of The Hollywood Reporter writes, “Wait just a minute! The white guy wants to preserve the black roots of jazz while the black guy is the sellout? This could be a deliberate ironic twist, but if it is, it’s a distasteful one for African-Americans.” Abdul-Jabbar’s quote brings to mind the buzzword of ‘diversity’ and how its concept has been incorporated into the film industry of late. Speaking on racial terms, the more diverse films have received almost universal acclaim, as evidenced by Black Panther (2018), Roma (2018), and Moonlight (2016). So have audience members changed their preferences, or are different ones who were previously silent now speaking out? Is this seeming increase of diversity in Hollywood just a trend, or is it sustainable, given that anomalies such as Ghost in the Shell (2017) are still occurring?
Furthermore, audiences are raising the dilemma of ethical consumption. Most recently, 2018 Oscar nominee Bohemian Rhapsody has been under fire for its ex-director Bryan Singer, who was accused of sexual misconduct. Lead actor Rami Malek has cited his displeasure at working with Singer, and even despite his early firing, the director is still slated to make $40 million off the project. This feeds into the larger issue of the #MeToo movement’s presence in Hollywood, but also the problem of how to be discerning consumers on the individual level. Can we separate art from its creator? Should we? In this modern era of openness regarding sexual assault and rising racial tensions, how might we curate our interests to not only tailor our needs and judgments, but also those of our peers and wider community? Should we even be asked to do so? These are not easily answerable questions, but important ones to consider as awards season approaches.