How I learned to stop worrying and love ignoring the Oscars
It happened this morning, guys… the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards were announced, and don’t we just love award season? It’s fun! It’s grand! It’s that annual time when Hollywood assembles and tells us how great they collectively are! Before going forth and spending the rest of the year giving interviews and speeches mainly to the same effect! And then starring in a movie like Rock of Ages! Woo-hoo!
It’s hard for me now, in retrospect, to believe I once looked forward to the Academy Awards, watched the presentations feverishly, tried desperately to see all of the Best Picture nominees before the awards show so I could summon up an informed sense of righteous indignation when the winners were announced and I invariably disagreed. But several years ago something happened. I don’t remember when or how, I don’t think there was any specific incident that changed my mind, but somewhere along the way I simply stopped caring who won, or why, or about any awards at all.
There are lots of little reasons, I suppose. The awards shows themselves are frequently long, boring stretches of self-congratulatory puffery occasionally punctuated by a good musical number. Far too often one of the winners will climb a political soapbox and simultaneously lower my opinion of them personally and my enjoyment of the show in general. (I don’t care what your political leanings are, I just don’t think your MTV Movie Awards acceptance speech for Best Kiss is the appropriate place to whine about the plight of the Indonesian Fruit Bat.) And finally — and most importantly — the winners themselves almost never resemble what I (or most people I know) consider to be the actual best of the year.
I know I run the risk of sounding like the woman who was shocked when Richard Nixon won the presidency because “nobody I know voted for him,” but the Academy Awards aren’t the same thing. Anybody of-age and registered can vote in a presidential election, whereas the voting body of the Academy Awards is a relatively small group of people, selected by invitation only, who do little more than inflate their own importance by declaring what they think makes a quality motion picture. Let’s look at the last ten Best Picture winners for a moment, shall we?
- 2011-The Artist
- 2010-The King’s Speech
- 2009-The Hurt Locker
- 2008-Slumdog Millionaire
- 2007-No Country For Old Men
- 2006-The Departed
- 2004-Million Dollar Baby
- 2003-The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Of these ten films, I’ve seen a grand total of — drumroll please — three. Of those three, the only one I wholeheartedly agree deserved its win was The Lord of the Rings, and I still believe that award was given to Peter Jackson and company primarily because they snubbed the trilogy so badly in the previous two years that if they didn’t give it the whole enchilada that time, the Geeks of the World would turn against them in a violent uprising. Now to be fair, of the seven winners I missed, almost all of them are movies on my perpetually-growing “I swear I’ll watch this movie some day” list, a.k.a. my NetFlix queue. I also thought The King’s Speech was an excellent movie, but if I’m being honest I thought True Grit, Inception, and Toy Story 3 were all a little bit better.
I know I’m running the risk of sounding like a sort of hipster here, but my point is not that I’m cooler than anybody because I didn’t see The Hurt Locker. My point is that if I haven’t even seen most of the winners (let alone the nominees) of the past ten years, why should the awards have any real significance for me anymore?
And this is the Oscars I’m talking about. That’s to say nothing of the dozens of other awards shows out there. The Golden Globes? Give me one reason it should matter to me what the Hollywood Foreign Press Association thinks is the best movie of the year. Screen Actor’s Guild? I actually kind of respect that as an in-industry honor, something given to a person by their peers, but that doesn’t mean it should be relevant for those of us who aren’t out there making the movies with them. The People’s Choice Awards? I’ll give them this — they’re probably a more accurate gauge of popularity than any of the other awards shows you can name, but popularity and quality are very often at odds with one another. I have a few friends — Harry Potter fans, specifically — who are despondent that Twilight beat them in the “Favorite Movie Fan Following” category this week. I’ve never heard of this category before. I’m not even I’m sure what it means — were people voting on which franchise has the “best fans?” That’s like if the NFL had a poll for which team had the “most dedicated supporters,” and the results would be almost as predictable. (The awards would go to the teams in the largest market, probably Dallas since there are two New York teams to split the vote and nothing in Los Angeles at the moment. Also, Roger Goodell would find a reason to penalize the New Orleans Saints 50,000 votes up front, just to be on the safe side.)
Hey, Harry Potter fans — cheer up. This award is utterly meaningless. And even if it wasn’t, Twilight won mainly because of the year in which the award was presented. Think about it, Harry Potter is a year and a half removed from its final movie and almost six years from the last book, whereas the last Twilight book is just four years old and the last movie (more importantly) is still playing in some theaters. Twilight is simply going through that final crest of popularity at the moment. Make yourself feel better by going to Universal Studios, confident that there will never be a Twilight theme park because nobody wants to get on a roller coaster where you climb the first hill for three hours and then somebody stops the car and talks you into walking back down without incident.
I love talking about movies as much as anybody. Obviously. And I like debating the relative quality of movies and I even like ranking my favorites, just like everybody else. But I don’t see any point in wasting my energy caring about awards shows anymore, because whether I agree or disagree with the winner, in the end the only thing to discuss is whether or not my opinion is the same as an unknown number of faceless strangers whose life experiences and biases are probably leagues removed from my own.
And honestly, once I have the answer to that question (potential answers, by the way, are simply “yes” or “no”), what else is there to possibly say?