Why I Don’t Care What The Oscars SayPosted: March 1, 2014
Well, here we are, on the cusp of Hollywood’s Biggest Night: the Oscars. Now don’t get me wrong: I have a great deal of respect for the accomplishments of the filmmakers nominated for awards tonight, as well as the filmmakers NOT nominated tonight, and really for anyone who commits to telling stories on this level. But the real issue I have with the Oscars isn’t the nominees for the awards, or who will eventually win the awards, or even that these awards exist, but rather that the Oscars have developed far too much (unearned) credibility and import in the film world, and I’m just flat-out TIRED of it being a talking point in how we respond to film.
Let’s skip right past the usual complaints that the Oscars are political, vapid, predictable, or exclusionary of genre films and truly challenging arthouse material. While all of those are certainly reasons to not take the Oscars too seriously, they’ve also been shouted from the rooftops for many years now, and we all know them by now. At this point, whether the Oscars know what they’re talking about is kind of irrelevant; rather, I think the bigger issue is that regardless whether the Oscars are right or wrong, there is way too much emphasis placed on the opinions of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and it’s detracting from the one thing that matters most: the films themselves.
At the end of the day, what impact do the Oscars really have? After all of this presidential-level campaigning, and all of the white noise has died down, do the Oscars have any real say in any film’s legacy? Generally speaking, they do not. Consider the race in 1982, where the Academy declared Gandhi as the Best Film of the Year. Now, over 30 years later, even the director of Gandhi, Richard Attenborough, thinks that E.T. should have won Best Picture that year. Furthermore, 1982 was also home to many other movies that have had much larger and more impactful legacies than Gandhi, including Blade Runner, The Thing, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Tootsie (among others). Clearly, the Academy choosing Gandhi over those movies did not in any way lessen their legacies or strengthen Gandhi’s, so why make a fuss about it?
If anything, such a fuss is the one thing that CAN damage a film’s legacy. The level of vitriol directed at movies like Dances with Wolves, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Shakespeare in Love, Crash, and The King’s Speech (again, among others) for beating out more popular/respected movies has severely damaged those movies’ reputations among cinephiles, for better or worse. Rather than talking about those movies on their own merits, we dismiss and mock them for being the Safe Oscar Choice or whatever you’d call it. When, again, their winning (or the other films’ losing) shouldn’t have any real impact on their legacies. It’s all much ado about nothing, to be frank, and I’m tired of bullshit like this coloring the discussion of film year in and year out.
The Oscars can be a fun show, that’s for sure. And it’s fun to see filmmakers we like win an award and be honored for their work. But to expend so much energy bitching and moaning about which films did or did not get nominated, or which films will or will not win, seems completely pointless to me. Every year we’re gifted with a tremendous amount of movies of every genre, style and subject, movies that could impact any or all of us at a given moment. Let’s just focus on that, and enjoy those gifts, rather than subjecting them to the hyperbole and politics of “Oscar season.” And if you don’t like what the Oscars have to say this year or any other year, just remember that until I finish this sentence, you probably didn’t know that the film that beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture in 1941 was How Green Was My Valley. Pretty sure Orson Welles had the last laugh on that one.