I care about the Oscars more than anyone I know.
I go online each December to learn what day the Academy Award nominations are going to be announced. To me, the unveiling of the nominees is like Christmas morning.
When a film that I love is nominated for Best Picture, it is like a wonderful present from my generous Hollywood grandparents. I got “The Irishman”? Neat. I got “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”? Yes! I got “Little Women”? Hurray! I got “Jo Jo Rabbit”!?!?!? I’m so happy! That’s just what I wanted.
But my old friend Oscar really let me down this year. “Parasite” was the very worst Best Picture nominee and it won somehow. “Parasite” is an unfocused, uneven, and uninsightful movie about class warfare.
“Parasite” tries to be a horror movie. But the only thing scary about it is that the class hatred theme resonated with so many rich Hollywood people.
“American Factory” won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. And, like “Parasite,” it is unfocused and unimpressive.
The action takes place in Dayton, OH. A few years after a GM plant closed, a Chinese glassmaker called Fuyao reopened the factory. Thousands of unemployed auto workers got jobs again.
Yay for globalization, right? Not exactly. Fuyao pays half of what GM paid. And the Chinese aren’t enthusiastic about complying with American safety and environmental standards.
So, what’s the solution? Better communication? Unionization?
The documentary sets up an important, thought-provoking premise but it lets us down by not saying anything interesting.
“American Factory” is the first film from Barak Obamas’ new production company. And… that’s just about right. Director Julia Reichert makes movies the same way President Obama governed: with hesitance, timidity, and a fear of offending people.
During her Oscar acceptance speech, Reichert famously yelled “workers of the world unite!” But the film itself doesn’t possess any of that unbridled Marxist spirit.
The most entertaining scenes in this dull movie are where we hear the Chinese businessmen describe Americans in order to help their underlings manage us better.
According to the Chinese, we are all slow, uncommitted, and lazy – and not just because of our oversized bellies and hands. We are slobs who stand out everywhere we go with our inappropriately casual attire and bad manners. We are too dumb and literal to understand allegories and metaphors. We must be coddled and overly praised because our terrible parents made us all shamefully overconfident.
The filmmakers have nothing to say about this anti-Americanism. But I do. I am not offended that the Chinese think that they are better than us and that they treat us like savage colonial subjects to be tamed. My problem is that we are eagerly helping them and going into debt to make them rich.
China is the epicenter of rapacious, wasteful globalization but nobody is talking about boycotting Chinese-made products. In fact, Jeff Bezos is a guest of honor at every awards ceremony.
Turning off the computer and buying locally is obviously the right thing to do but fewer and fewer of us are doing it.
Oh, well. I can’t judge. I guess we’re all just creatures of habit. Even after mediocre “Parasite” and boring “American Factory” won major awards this year, I’ll still be on pins and needles next January to see which of my favorite movies are nominated for the 2021 Oscars.