Why bother with the Oscars?


The logical conclusion to the “For Your Consideration” posts is a rundown of my picks for who should and who will win Oscars on February 27th. That post, and the rest of the FYC series, is forthcoming. But since The King’s Speech swept the industry’s awards trifecta (Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild, and Producers Guild), there’s been a pre-backlash against its predicted Best Picture win over early favorite The Social Network.

This raised a few questions. Specifically, “is The King’s Speech winning big picture over The Social Network that big of an upset?” and generally, “why do the Oscar’s matter?”

While I’ll save deeper thoughts on The Social Network for another post,* suffice to say it’s a very good film. The combination of David Fincher’s vision, Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, Trent Reznor’s music, and breakout performances by Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and yes, Justin Timberlake, is captivating. And if that wasn’t enough, old white film critics say it defines our generation!

Meanwhile, The King’s Speech is essentially tastefully done Oscar Bait. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Oscar Bait is only a problem when the film only exists for that purpose, ie recent winners Million Dollar Baby and the Dark Mark on the Academy, Crash.

Both The Social Network and The King’s Speech are well-crafted, enjoyable films. This (probably) isn’t “How Green is My Valley” winning over “Citizen Kane.” Nearly 70 years later, the Academy is still risk averse, picking safety over risk 90% of the time. At this point, I would think Oscar watchers would stop feigning surprise when the same is true, year after year.

After all, making Oscar picks is more like horseracing than March Madness, especially these days. “Nominated” or “Winner” on a DVD case means millions in rentals and purchases. So instead of horse owners besting each other, we have producers like Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin lobbying for votes in a Hollywood pissing match. So enjoy the Oscars for what they are: a spectacular, star-studded ad campaign. Use the nominations and winners as a guide for the year’s achievement in film, not as the definitive record.

* I saw it some time back, but have yet to review it on this site. Coming soon!

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