Thoughts on "The Oscars"

Actually, this blog deals with my reaction to the expressed thoughts of others about the Oscar ceremony. Before beginning, however, I will cheerfully admit that I watch almost all movies either on DVD or satellite, often years after they’re released.

Now…for those thoughts. By Monday morning, in all too many media outlets, so-called columnists and pundits were complaining about the ceremony being too long and that too much time was wasted on “minor” awards that no one cared about, such as make-up, costumes, sound mixing, and the like. I didn’t happen to see a complaint about special effects, but maybe I overlooked it.

There are two BIG things that bother me about all this Monday morning quarterbacking. First, the Oscars were designed to recognize all aspects of film-making, not just the six “biggies.” As a matter of fact, I could make the argument that those who have been nominated for those — best picture, best director, best leading actor and actress, best supporting actor and actress — need the recognition far less than all the others who enabled the “biggies” to shine. Without a good script, the best actor looks stupid, as some of the greatest names in film have proved a few times. With the wrong music, the right mood doesn’t get created, and Richard Nixon certainly proved that make-up makes a difference. How can you have a Jane Austen period piece, or a Young Victoria, without the right costuming? The entire success of Avatar depends not so much on the actors as on all the things that aren’t the actors. The actors and directors are always recognized. Why begrudge all the others a few hours once a year when a few of them actually get noticed?

In addition, the ceremony and the awards were originally developed to provide such recognition — not to provide prime-time, viewer-oriented “entertainment.” But, of course, because many people have become interested, the “Oscar ceremony” is now packaged as entertainment, and the vast majority of the more technical awards are presented at another ceremony — noted at the “real” Oscar ceremony with a quick picture and thirty seconds of explanation [out of three hours] and not even a listing of names, because, after all, why should one be obliged to read a long list at the “official” Oscar ceremony?

My second BIG objection is that movies, especially today, are a highly technical enterprise that requires great expertise, and yet these commentators seem to want to ignore the very expertise that makes such great films possible in favor of glitz and celebrity. In a way, it reminds me of the Roman Empire, where the great majority of the engineers who designed all those buildings, bridges, and aqueducts were slaves — more privileged slaves, to be sure — but slaves nonetheless. And what happened as even the minimal respect for those slaves vanished in the decadence of glitz and ancient celebrity?

What these commentaries about the dullness of recognizing expertise reveal, unfortunately, is a deploring culture shift away from appreciating the technology that underpins everything we do, including even one of the least substantive aspects of our society — cinema — toward even more superficiality. And even that superficiality that has to be so current. Last year is so passe. As for more than a year ago… forget it.

The polite and bored minimal applause that followed the heartfelt tribute to John Hughes was incredibly painful to hear. A man who gave his life to his art, and combined humor and insight, and the general reaction was, “We’re bored.” And then the “In Memoriam” section was so abbreviated and flashed over so quickly, with names even eliminated when the camera flashed to James Taylor singing, that it was almost a travesty.

Are we so into glitz that we can’t spare an hour or two once a year to allow a little recognition for those who went before and for a comparative handful of experts, who represent tens of thousands of technical specialists that we never otherwise acknowledge, yet whose contributions are absolutely vital to the film industry? Is that really too much to ask?

And, remember, I’m not even a film buff.

1 thought on “Thoughts on "The Oscars"”

  1. Caitlin says:

    What always interests me is when the magazines come out afterwards talking about what so and so was wearing there is often no mention of what they actually came for. What I don’t understand is, they work in a profession and they are going to a ceremony which is supposed to reward the “best” in that profession and yet the only things that get mentioned afterwards is what they were wearing!

    The same thing occurs in music competitions/performances which makes me wonder if these things are focused on for a sense of simplicity. I wonder if the people reporting don’t have the necessary experience to cast judgement on the performance or they are unable to access someone who has the necessary experience in the allotted time frame so they go for the easy route. Easy route being the area in which everyone thinks they are the expert: the demeanour of the person (i.e. xyz was drunk) or their clothing (i.e. xyz was overdressed/underdressed) and so on.

    The sources that do discuss the details are often obscure or overrun by the simple, quick opinions. A magazine or a newspaper can have an entire week to write up their section on the Oscars and yet the coverage remains “xyz looked large in her dress”. Then the argument that comes in is “this is what sells”.

    Why is it that what sells fifty years ago has changed so much from what sells now? History demonstrates that opinions change and different performances may be valued over others (plays to film etc). I think what has changed is that the performance that has now “replaced” all others is the “performance of reality”.
    People are blurring the lines between where performances begin and end. Reality television helps add fuel to the fire as everyday life is considered a performance. This means that actors aren’t people who play their role for a certain time frame and then get on with their life. People are expecting their life in itself to be a performance for their enjoyment.

    Sorry for the long post this topic really interests me.

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