|SHOW BIZ SEEMED BIGGER ONCE|
The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thing, or white men tragically failing to do the right thing, and doing bad things instead. This is of course the trajectory of drama from Aristotle up to at least Death of a Salesman - and these are the boundaries known as comedy and tragedy. The darkest ever Best Pic winner, Silence of the Lambs, is actually a comedy (or romance), and it is about the redemption of a bad man by a young ingénue, not a million miles from My Fair Lady.
Since the question of whether art (and drama) should be entertaining or morally instructive, or both, is ageless, and probably unresolvable, it is unfair to blame the Academy of Motion Arts and Pictures for falling prey to this aesthetic puzzle. However, La La Land is, on the spectrum, most comic, and least instructive - unless once considers it a bland expose of how selfish self-improvement is better than love and fidelity - which would suggest it has Moliere's depths. It does not. Compared to Gigi, it is worthless. Moonlight is the greatest aesthetic achievement, but perhaps too instructive for some traditional voters. Hidden Figures, if it won, would be the perfect medium way, the golden mean, of a moral, and entertaining, film.
I would say who cares? - but millions still do - perhaps because, along with the Olympics and a few other very rare global events, this one remains a benchmark of times gone by. You can check the Wiki page, or the Guinness Book list, and be transported back, with these nominees lists, to a window on values, social politics, and ideas of most of the past century, that few other cultural events offer. The magnitude, like our screens, may have shrunk to smartphone proportions, but the Oscars still just barely matter, and they hopefully will reward worthy winners tonight.