Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar...

There's only one thing more tiresome than the Oscars and that's "the Oscar backlash." Every year, the same criticisms appear over and over.  "The wrong picture won." "There's no acceptance of art in the films." "The wrong actor won." "Oscar's irrelevent." "The wrong actress won." Or, as George C. Scott bluntly put it: "It's just a goddamn meat parade."

And, of course, "the wrong picture won."*

Here's another one for the pile: Tell me something I don't know.

Let's face it, kids, the Oscars were never "relevent" or a definitive statement of what was "The Best" for that particular movie year.  Time and History determines that. 

How Green Was My Valley better than Citizen Kane?  No, although both are great films.   Oliver! the Best Film of 1968?  Compared to The Lion in Winter, Funny Girl, Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet, even Rachel, Rachel?  Not by a mile (and 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn't even nominated for it—and Mel Brooks' script for The Producers won Best Original Screenplay over Clarke and Kubrick's).

Nope, the Oscars were never about art, or timelessness, or advancing the art of film.  Anybody who takes the Industry for their word that that's what they're doing is drinking the Kool-Aid and having the bad taste (while also proudly displaying their lack of smarts) to say "this poison's not very good..."  Lives can be got outside the red carpet area, people.

"The Oscars" were and always have been about advancing the film industry.  It was about a bunch of self-congratulatory self-made moguls who decided to pat themselves on the back for putting out product.  It was a community circle-jerk to display pride and status when it was considered scandalous and disreputable.  It was a show of industry solidarity at a time when they were busting Unions.  It was about showing off the glamour and high life-style a bunch of pioneers made when they made a desert-town into a mecca of entertainment that attracted tourism and the star-crossed.  It was about saying "Look what we did.  We were immigrants and the sons of immigrants and we made a paradise from a wasteland."

And all by showing the insubstantial flicker of light on a screen...they made millions from a trick of the eye and the mind.  They made the world a theater.

It was all about the party.  And when you throw a party, the result is talk, especially from the folks who didn't get invited (but would love to go).  Plus, there's always a little bit of resentment when you make a show of (as Billy Crystal so sagely put it Sunday) "a bunch of millionaires giving each other gold statues."  There's a Roman excess to it, especially considering the Oscars started the year before the Great Depression.  And it's held, in all its relentless guiltless gildedness, through good economic times and bad.

As for this year's, I can't kick.  Crystal was respectfully disrespectful, as all the good hosts have been (we're talking Hope and Carson and nobody else), and it was fun to watch, especially when catty comments came to mind.  I didn't have a dog in the race, so I can't feel bad about who won or who lost, and The Artist?  Well, I thought the star and director had done some nice, funny work in the "OSS 117" spoofs that was smart, knowing and inspired, but I'd really like to see what they do when they're not genre-bending.   Other than that, it really doesn't matter what The Academy thinks, or what any of the commenters (even me) think.  The industry liked the movie best, statistically, and that—and what makes a good story for the broadcast, like one of those Roone Arledge "up-close-and-personal" asides that is now de rigeur for any televised event in order to gin up the audience caring about the outcome—is all that really matters.

It's like they say: opinions are like that place on people where the sun don't shine.  Everybody's got one, except apparently for the Oscar statue.

* One of my favorite filmed segments from years' past was Chris Rock going to one of the "Magic" Johnson Theaters and asking people what they thought the best movie they saw that year was.  The ones folks chose were not nominated: "Saw;" "Blade;" Horror movies and rom-com's.  So, it could be worse—it could be "The People's Choice..." or "MTV Movie" Awards.

1 comment:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I also liked Whoopi Goldberg in particular as a host, but as I've said I never really care who hosts or who produces. I'll always tune in to the Oscars' and always appreciate them, and before blogging and whatnot their shortlists were responsible for a number of older films I saw.

Also, "The Grapes of Wrath better than Citizen Kane?" That should be How Green was My Valley. And OF COURSE Ford's film was better. (I'm joking, but I'm serious about it.)