Who Cares: Oscar nomination for ‘Dont Look Up’ lauds nothingness

Shriya Jayanthi | Daily Trojan

Last week, the Oscar nominations came out, and the Academy is once again embarrassing itself. 

Of course, there are some highlights from the nominations, such as Jane Campion being the first woman to be nominated for best director twice — this time for her work on “The Power of the Dog” (2021). Yet, even with that progress, there are fewer women nominated this year than in the past three. 

There were some wonderful surprises, such as “Drive My Car” (2021) which was nominated for Best Picture instead of just Best International Feature.

However, the award for “Least Surprising and Most Upsetting” nomination is awarded to “Don’t Look Up” (2021) for Best Picture.

For those that don’t know, “Don’t Look Up” is Adam McKay’s newest movie, chronicling society’s reaction, or lack thereof, to a meteor about to strike and destroy the Earth. The movie tries to convey an important message about the avoidance of addressing climate change, but its jokes are so oversaturated, it ends up feeling like a two-hour-long SNL cold open. 

Indeed, it seems like the only reason it’s getting any recognition from the Academy is for its star-studded cast. But a celebrity is not what makes a movie good, and a celebrity certainly isn’t what makes a movie worthy of Best Picture. Take away Streep, DiCaprio and the other A-list cameos, and would anyone even care about this movie?

Despite being the most-viewed American award show, the Academy Awards are losing their importance due to their lack of inclusion and self-awareness in favor of ‘Oscar-bait’ flicks like “Don’t Look Up.”

Since the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag came into popular use in 2015, some positive changes have occurred, but it’s hardly encouraging. The Academy is still over 84% white and 68% male. It also took until the 2020 awards for a non-English speaking film to win Best Picture, with “Parasite” (2019) director Bong Joon-ho notably calling out the Oscars for being a “local” show.

Yet the Oscars, and those in attendance each year, still regard the night as the most important in cinema. It’s supposedly a time to celebrate artistry and achievement, but more honestly, it’s often a night for the establishment to celebrate itself.

Here’s the thing, “Don’t Look Up” says nothing. McKay basically spends two hours telling audiences that ‘climate change is bad, but we aren’t really doing enough about it.’ Even the most surface-level conversations about climate change get past that very basic point.

Yet, the Academy ate it up. It’s easy to like a socially-conscious movie when there’s no room for debate. Unless you’re a climate change denier, there’s nothing this movie says that isn’t already known. 

This isn’t to say all movies need to be controversial to be good, but if you want to make a movie about a social issue, at least imbue it with some significance or call to action. The worst crime committed by “Don’t Look Up,” and the reason that it got its Oscar nom, is that it avoids putting accountability on anyone. Many Academy members, at least the most well-known, are wealthy and/or in high social standing. Therefore, they are in more of a position of power to change their lavish lifestyle or talk directly to officials, such as Academy member and “Don’t Look Up” star Leonardo DiCaprio attending the COP26 Conference. Since the movie does not address the Academy voters’ contribution to the climate crisis, the voters do not need to feel unsettled or threatened. 

McKay’s allegory for climate change is a comet descending towards the planet, but a comet and climate change are no way near the same thing for one main reason: a comet coming towards Earth is completely out of the control of the people. The comet is not their fault. In contrast, climate change is our fault. To their credit, the political corruption and greed that stopped the mission is a creative way to represent the wealth and bribery that stops the creation of restrictions on large corporations’ carbon emissions. 

However, by avoiding addressing the fault of the wealthy in the creation of climate change, “Don’t Look Up” avoids ruffling any feathers, especially those of the Academy voters. “Don’t Look Up” is the Academy voters’ dream: getting to feel socially conscious and morally superior without having to do any personal reflection. 

All I know is that I can’t wait for someone in an Alexander McQueen fur outfit, freshly flown in on a private jet to tell me that climate change does, in fact, exist. 

Kimberly Aguirre is a freshman dissecting the most off-base entertainment news. Her column, “Who Cares?” runs every other Wednesday.