February 16, 2008
TIME magazine's film critic, Richard Corliss, recycles the age-old question yet again in this week's issue: Do the right films win Oscars? The short answer, to no one's surprise, is "no." But did I really need to read the article to hear that for the thousandth time? Granted, it's the 80th anniversary of the Academy Awards ("pop culture's equivalent of the Nobel Prize" - ?), and the average TIME reader might not see many movies, but for those who do this is like hearing that ticket prices are going to increase in the future. Not the most shocking revelation.
Corliss runs through an itemized list of films and actors that should and should not have won Oscar, but what's the point? The fundamental backbone of the entire process is subjectivity, so why try to prove that your picks are better than the actual winners? Instead, enlighten us further about "the problems with the Academy Awards: political pressure, suspicion of outsiders, resistance to innovation." There's really no point in discussing anything else, let alone providing "evidence" (a graphic in the print edition of the issue) of poor voting - Tootsie should have won Best Picture over Gandhi?
What Corliss and most everyone else still fails to understand is that we don't get excited about the "right" movies winning Academy Awards. It's great if they do (and his last mention of No Country for Old Men is right on), but it's never expected that they actually will. Instead, we're all just anxious to see which of the "right" films will sneak through for any recognition at all. Sure, it's unfortunate that Hitchcock and Citizen Kane and 2001: A Space Odyssey didn't win Oscars, but I think (rather, hope) that people understand an excellent film or actor is not defined by that. Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and The Shawshank Redemption were all up against each other for Best Picture in 1994. Could you have persuasively justified your vote as the unequivocal "right" one?
The reason to love the Oscars (and the reason for myriad pools and contests) is that it's a thrilling game of chance, with way too many variables to reconcile. That's what the "big" deal is.