What Do the Oscar Nominations Tell Us?
But hand in hand with that process of decay comes elitism, and elitism hastens the decline. When filmmakers can no longer gain the love of the public, they turn to intellectuals and critics for praise and prestige instead. That means they have to flatter these types by representing, affirming and romanticizing their ideas and concerns (see Allen, Woody). The elites declare movies "ground-breaking," "innovative," and "shocking," whenever they reflect their own narrow and provincial belief system, that system that makes urban intellectuals feel superior and virtuous. A film that transgresses against this belief system (an anti-abortion film, say, or a patriotic war film or an openly capitalist film) is not praised as shocking because the intellectuals are actually shocked by it!
So as art forms die, they metamorphose from a means of entertainment to a form of elite self-love. Once-popular awards like the Oscars become embarrassing gatherings of the privileged applauding their own superiority.
If Hollywood would stop despising the broader audience and make movies that are both intelligent and reflect their concerns (Hannity! The gripping ripped-from-the-headlines story of a… oh, never mind.), those ticket sales might start climbing back toward 1946 levels, the quality of popular movies might go up, and maybe the Oscars would be worth caring about again. But don't hold your breath.