Oscars, Schmoscars

This Sunday, the Academy will summon Billy Crystal from beneath his bridge yet again to host the 84th Academy Awards ceremony. It’s an event that draws the most devout cinephiles and the most casual of moviegoers. Movie geeks everywhere have been ramping up preparations for the event for weeks, entering Oscar pools, making plans for Oscar parties, and writing their own missives about which films should win. But not this movie geek. When the show kicks off this weekend, I won’t be watching.

I just sprained my eyeballs by rolling them too hard.

It all begins before the actual ceremony, with obnoxious press and paparazzi drooling over the most vapid details. Which celebrity came with that other celebrity? Who are you wearing? Because “what are you wearing” isn’t a nauseating enough question. And people watch this, like nerds in the high school cafeteria pining to be part of the “in” crowd. Then the show begins and viewers are dosed with more chicanery.

Admittedly, Billy Crystal has done a good job in past years, but most years are a crapshoot on whether or not the host will be competent. Awards are given for categories that even the most devoted cinephiles couldn’t begin to gauge properly–makeup, short film, sound mixing, etc… And then the winners give their thank you speeches. I’m truly glad that these people are given a chance to shine. I really am, because so many of them are behind the scenes and deserve the praise usually reserved for actors, actresses, and directors. Still, most viewers don’t even know the people listed in the stars’ thank you speeches. There is virtually no chance that viewers will have any clue who the sound mixer is thanking. Again, don’t misunderstand me. I think it’s fantastic that these people get their moment in the sun. They deserve it, and then some. But it’s a stretch to ask the average viewer to care, especially when viewers are so woefully equipped to properly gauge the true quality of their work.

Don't even think about dropping this guy's name at an Oscar party.

Speaking of the viewers, that brings me to my next point. There is a really hilarious trend that’s happened in recent years. Because we live in an age where everything that everyone says must be heard at all times, it’s very easy for audiences to rely on hyperbole to make their point. So not only do they disagree with the Academy choices. It takes on a life of its own. “_________ (their favorite film or performer) was robbed!” and “I can’t believe they nominated _____ instead of ______!”. There’s also an accompanying cynicism about whatever film wins the Best Picture, or whichever performer wins their respective award. The average fan loves to poke holes in something if it’s considered the best. Just once, I’d like to hear someone say “The Academy sure got it right this year”. But there’s always some cynical narrative about why the best picture winner was given the award. Far too many people are unwilling to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the Academy made the correct choice. That isn’t to say that the negative attitudes aren’t warranted sometimes. Surely, they are. But the hyperbole with which the opinions are presented are irksome.
Note: I’m fully aware that I’ve done this through the years as well, but I promise I’m trying to break the habit.

And how about the Academy? Ruth Maramis at Flix Chatter recently posted an infographic from the L.A. Times featuring the demographics of 89% of the Oscar voters. 94% are white. 77% are male. The median age is 62. It’s a bunch of old white guys. I don’t have anything against old white guys. Hell, I’ll be an old white guy one day. But those demographics seem extremely incestuous, don’t you think? With a dearth of females, minorities, and the under-50 crowd, the Academy’s opinion is almost exclusively coming from one demographic. When you’re talking about something as wildly subjective as opinions about an art form, like film, you would at least want an Academy that’s representative of the overall US population. No wonder there’s so much shouting about the winners of the awards. They’re being given out by a group that doesn’t represent the attitudes and opinions of most viewers. I don’t want to go all-out and say that the lack of diversity on the Academy renders the awards meaningless because I’m sure the Academy members are full of wisdom, talent, and experience. But the lack of diversity certainly calls things into question that should never be in question.

But I’m not all bitterness about the Oscars. The truth is, if you’re one of the many people who will be tuning in, who gets excited about fashion and star-watching, who enjoys the thank you speeches and the hosts, I’m happy for you. I’m thrilled for you. I have no interest in telling people that they shouldn’t watch, or that they’re making a mistake in watching. Far from it. It’s the one night a year that viewers worldwide can focus on a medium, cinema, that we all love. Having so much attention lavished upon filmmakers and their craft is never a bad thing. And I really enjoy finding out which films were honored. Flawed though the process may be, films bestowed with such an honor clearly have merit, and the list of winners gives me a guide to which films I may have overlooked and need to see. Just don’t expect me to watch the ceremony.


Filed under Movies

18 responses to “Oscars, Schmoscars

  1. Fair enough. I watch because it’s become a personal necessity.

    Hopefully some upsets occur.

    • I’m hoping the Muppets win everything, including categories where they didn’t even receive a nomination. Best Actress? Miss Piggy. Best Supporting Actress? Amy Adams. Best Costume Design? The Muppets. Best Sound Mixing? The Muppets. Etc…

  2. Brilliant post, my friend. I agree completely. I get sick of all the whining about the Oscars and I’ve tried my best to avoid talking about them. I really couldn’t care less about one of the least interesting in a long line of uninteresting awards ceremonies. You hit the nail right on the head John. Well done.

    • You’ve kind of hit on the other part, too. In a different year, with more films I felt invested in, I might feel interested enough to watch a little. Last year, I caught a few minutes because of Black Swan and Winter’s Bone, for instance. This year, other than maybe the 5 minutes the Muppets will be on the screen, there’s nothing that interests me enough to watch.

  3. heheh brilliantly put RANT. I am starting to feel the same as you. I was outraged by the nominations then the infographic on Ruth’s site made it all clear. I was still going to stay up ALL night (as it is on like 3am here) and watch it, but now I am not.

    I have actually cut down my SKY TV package and the channel it is being shown live on is in the ones I cut, so maybe that is a good thing.


    • Cutting that channel may be the best move you’ve made, Scott. Isn’t that the channel that airs An Idiot Abroad? (sorry, my knowledge of UK TV is quite small)

  4. “Who are you wearing? Because “what are you wearing” isn’t a nauseating enough question.” yes, you hit it right on target, tdylf.

    very fair analysis of the event. i usually watch the Oscars, though. with all its hoopla.^^ regards to you and thanks for this post. 🙂

  5. Craig

    The Oscars are rife with bribary and all that lobbying nonsense so the whole thing is a crock. That said, it is nice when your favourite film wins.

    Are you going to be making any predictions/arguements for the main awards catagories?

    I’ve watch 7 of the 9 Best Picture nominations so far and none of them have struck me as being particularly worthy. It is a very weak year and though some of them do have some good parts (ToF has amazing cinematography, The Help has good acting) no single film combines all these elements well (in fact, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has literally no redeeming features whatsoever, no, not even Max von Sydow). Now, unless Hugo or Warhorse absolutely pull it out of the bag then I think The Artist should win (A LOT!), though I’d love to see Allen get a few more Oscars.

    • I haven’t seen nearly enough 2011 films to make much of a prediction about what films would win. The Artist is definitely my favorite of the year, and I’d be completely comfortable with Hugo or Midnight in Paris winning. Beyond that… I really have nothing.

  6. rtm

    Bravo, John! Your rant is always entertaining and you made a lot of excellent points here. I can’t stand the red carpet stuff. I mean I love fashion but it just seems so mind-numbingly excessive what’s going on there, and yes, that question of ‘who/what are you wearing’ is so damn irritating, I really don’t know how those stars stand it doing it year after year like a bunch of cattle.

    That said, I think the ceremony itself is still worth watching… like you said, “It’s the one night a year that viewers worldwide can focus on a medium, cinema, that we all love.” And sometimes they do make a good choice or at least choices I agree with, so I’m not to the point where I’m going to check the Oscars from my list for good, not yet anyway.

    • “Cattle” is the perfect term to describe celebs getting shoveled down the red carpet.

      I’ll definitely want to know who won, and what they won.

  7. Vladdy

    I’ve always been obsessed with the Oscars, even while finding them completely ridiculous. In the last few years, though, there have been virtually no surprises at all, which makes the 9-hour length completely unacceptable. Obviously the voters are not voting with their hearts or minds, they are voting for whomever has already won everything. There is a whole “pundit” discussion that seems to rule. Remember when “Inglourious Basterds” was nominated for Best Picture? Never once was it mentioned as a possible winner, therefore it had no chance, even though it was much, much better than any other film nominated that year in everyone’s opinion I ever heard. The main secret of the Oscar votes is: most voters DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIES. So the winner of the fifteen thousand precursor awards always wins. Last year: The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper, Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo. Zzzzzzzzz. And really, other than Portman and maybe Firth, did ANY of these deserve the award? No one ever mentioned Jackie Weaver in the pre-chatter, but of the twenty acting nominees, she was the most impressive of all. But people who only care about their own films are not going to watch some Australian movie they’ve never heard of to judge an actress they’ve never heard of. So the overacting, over-begging Leo wins, after winning literally everything else–and not for a particularly good performance (or movie). Oh, well. At least last year I was interested in some of the films. I couldn’t care less this year. Still, my boss is letting me off work early so I can watch! Stupid me.

  8. NBA all-star game baby! 😉

  9. things I should be doing instead of watching the awards, but will probably use the awards to procrastinate:
    1. Start my spring cleaning
    2. Read Hunger Games
    3. shred/recycle my junk mail
    4. Write and/or craft

  10. I can easily understand this point of view. I even think that since some years the nominations aren’t the best movies of the year and more than anything the winners aren’t best of the nominees. It doesn’t appeal to the average movie-goer neither does it speaks to the cinephile out there. It is the show of a little “clique” that feeds on itself.
    However, it is a tradition for me to watch the Oscars just like the Superbowl or Christmas Vacation before the Holidays… My year wouldn’t be complete without it. I’m gonna wear my pyjama for those who were gonna ask…

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