The 91st Academy Awards concluded with a surprise: "Green Book" won the best picture Oscar, leaving behind two clear favorites. That was a good choice, says DW's Jochen Kürten — but not because of the film itself.
The Favourite by Yorgos Lanthimos and Roma by Alfonso Cuaron started off the Oscars race as clear favorites, with 10 nominations each. A Greek or a Mexican filmmaker could have landed the best picture Academy Award. For a moment, it felt like the Oscars could have turned into an international award.
Yet the members of the Academy preferred to stick to traditional values instead. They picked a film reflecting the typical Oscar pattern: a feel-good drama with a touching story addressing a socially relevant, current political issue — racism. Peter Farrelly's comedy-drama Green Book even features the "based on true events" stamp that's also an established winning factor at the Oscars.
Academy Awards are a Hollywood prize
To top it off, it's a US production. As it is well known, the Oscars are an award for English-language films, which is why there's a separate category for best foreign language film.
Including foreign language productions in the best picture category, therefore, is not really consistent.
It does give, however, the impression that the Oscars are an international film award. That reinforces their significance and, one has to admit it, it even works! The whole world covers every new development in the runup to the event — the nominations, the hosts' resignations, the stars on the red carpet, and so on.
This has taken on absurd dimensions. The Oscars are now inflated with such meaning that one might believe they set the agenda for all socially relevant topics.
Sure, it's a good thing that a film speaking out against racism and for equal rights should be honored. But the Academy Awards primarily remain a big, colorful Hollywood show. The red carpet offers an incredible promotional platform for fashion designers. Millions are invested in advertising breaks during the ceremony's live broadcast.
Not an award for film aesthetics
The Oscars are mercilessly overrated. Not the event, but the awards ceremony's broadcast itself, which is an ambitious, incredibly professionally managed TV show.
And the economic significance of the awards cannot be not overestimated either. Hollywood makes a lot of money with its award-winning films. There's a good reason why producers invest millions of dollars in advertising and marketing to promote their works ahead of the Oscar nominations.
To overestimate the Academy Awards in this respect would be naive.
But the significance of the Oscars is overestimated, both in terms of film aesthetics and as an international award.
In this respect, one can almost be grateful that the Academy members did not pick Roma or The Favourite as best picture, but rather Green Book, a pleasing, feel-good Hollywood production.
Otherwise, people could have actually started believing that the Oscars had something to say about the world's finest cinema.