“‘I’m not watching the Oscars next year’ says everyone who will watch the Oscars next year,” one of us joked on Twitter this morning, but it’s a pretty apt summation to the perplexing perpetual love/hate relationship many have with the Academy Awards. “We’re relieved to hear that everyone says ‘The Oscars Don’t Matter’ aren’t watching the Oscars tonight,” was another quip we made yesterday evening before the awards and again, it echoes the same sentiment. And we don’t really get the frustration that comes from the audience, those in the industry, those who cover movies and hell, even some of our own team members.
Yes, lord knows we all bitch and moan about something (including The Playlist) and those who care about and love film and cinema (presumably you and our site and its contributors) often have genuine concerns, issues, grievances they need to voice, sometimes rather vociferously. But the time and energy spent by those complaining about the Oscars seems silly and wasted considering what the Academy is, stands for and represents has hardly ever changed in its 85 years.
And mind you, we’re not defending and or even championing the Academy Awards, but once you understand what the awards are and aren’t, perhaps you’ll get less worked up about it. If you recognize the Oscars as industry-created celebration of the industry, its members and its peers, maybe you’ll realize why Oscars are never worth getting that upset about. Frankly, there’s a zillion reasons why there’s little point in complaining about the Oscars. Many should be obvious and self-evident, but here goes with five reasons you should shut up and just enjoy the Oscars for what they are and give up hoping for something they never were in the first place. "Painfully obvious" you say? Hell yes, but then why do the majority of people — including some Oscar bloggers who should know better — continue to gripe? I suppose we could consider this a 101 entry point for babies that have never experienced the Academy Awards before.
1) Arts & Sports Are Not The Same Things (Duh)
Yes, we love to treat art like sports in our culture by declaring a "winner," because we all love the drama and excitement that narrative brings, but obviously they are two completely different things. Awards where art has to has to compete against itself is inherently shallow which is reason #636532 you should take the Oscars with a grain of salt and just chill. You cannot qualify “best” in art. The concept of “winning” and “losing” in art is ludicrous. Art cannot compete against each other the way sports teams can, so the concept of “better” is abstract and subjective and then therefore rather meaningless. You should already know this on a fundamental level. Understanding this is key in why you should never be upset by the Oscars (or Grammys, etc.)
2) It’s Subjective, Dummy
It’s incredibly strange how Johnny Paycheck and Joe Beerswill know the definitive answer of what’s "best" about art. Yes, the Academy Awards are voted on a body of members, but each of those members are voting subjectively to come up with a consensus and collective winner, but does that discredit what you think is best? Of course not. But then why are your undies in such a twist? “Rust & Bone” and “Tabu” were two of my favorite movies of 2012 and neither was even represented at the Oscars. That doesn’t affect or diminish the impact it had on me. Some pundits and commenters are already crying that "Argo" is too safe, too middle of the road, but what if someone else loved it? Is their opinion “wrong”? Does it overrule yours? The point is our experience and relation to art is subjective and that’s what makes art so special and powerful. It’s not something actively defeating another piece of art. It’s experiences we all share and all have different reactions to. Just as the Academy members do. And still knowing all this, you’re still bitching. Just remember that those who generally claim Oscars are "bullshit" are the same ones saying from time to time "The academy finally got it right!" when their favorite films are nominated or win.3) The Oscars Celebrate The Business Of Art
The Academy, again, is by the industry and for the industry. Every industry needs its own Super Bowl and the movie industry was wise enough to create the system early on knowing that such an event would only fuel, fund and perpetuate itself over and over again. You see movies based on the fact that they are "Oscar nominated," you try and "catch up" so you can see all the movies (and then you pretend and say, "Oh, Oscars don’t matter. Oscars are a big sham."). The Academy Awards is a brilliant way for the industry to build buzz for itself, therefore increasing ticket sales and continuing to help sustain itself. Studios don’t spend millions of dollars campaigning for bragging rights. This is an investment in their own picture because if they win, they’re going to make their millions back and then some. The narrative arc and drama that the Academy Awards builds and creates each year only gets you more personally (and sometimes emotionally) invested and therefore is all the more genius. It feeds itself, it feeds the industry and it’s a nice self-perpetuating cycle. But it has nothing do with art.
4) Campaigning And Politics Play A Major Factor In Voting
Ok, so we’ve established that there are more than 6,000 people who vote in the Academy Awards, but it’s already well known that this body of people are deeply influenced by both politics and campaigning around the nominated films. Is "The Departed" even Martin Scorsese‘s third best film? No, but the admired filmmaker had been nominated six times before and had never won. This is the politics (and concept) of who’s "due" for an Oscar that is always very prevalent in Hollywood. You can name myriad examples of such collective hive thinking. An elder statesman or woman has had a long and illustrious career are nominated for a performance and everyone suddenly realizes they have either never won one before or haven’t won in decades and so a corrective needs to be made, ergo they “deserve” recognition in the form of an Oscar even though that work might be mediocre compared to past performances. And yet, even with this thinking in place, the game can be changed by campaigning, lack thereof and or just how well liked or disliked someone is (Hollywood is full of talented people that are lovely and generous just as it is replete with genius artists that are kind of huge assholes). Yes, some of it is a popularity contest! Shocker, I know. Here’s another little tip you may not realize. Countless indie movies do not have the studio system money in place to compete with with big boys, and therefore have little shot of being nominated because they haven’t been seen. Fair? Of course not. What did fair ever have to do with life, let alone the Oscars?
5) Deserve Ain’t Got Nuthin To Do With It
Take this year for instance. The conventional wisdom was that at 85 years old, Emmanuelle Riva was going to win an Oscar for her performance in "Amour" because not only was she terrific in the brutal and painful movie, but because a win would also act like a de facto Lifetime Achievement award. But she "lost" to Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook." Was that due to Harvey Weinstein campaigning (TWC notoriously spends much more than most studios on Oscar campaigning)? Or perhaps "Amour" was simply too dark and painful for the voters and ‘Silver Linings’ more of a crowd pleaser? Maybe more screeners of “Silver Linings Playbook” were sent out than “Amour”? Was Lawrence more charming to voters? Did the language barrier hurt Riva? The point is there are so many factors at play you begin to understand that it’s about much more than just the performance (when it should only be about that) and therefore you ought to realize this is reason #685623 to not get upset.
There’s 313 million people in the United States and 7.068 billion in the entire world. Let’s very conservatively guess that 1 billion of those people know and care about movies (this is generally the accepted number of people who are estimated to watch the show in recent years). And compare those numbers with the 6,000 people that make up the Academy membership and are allowed to vote (and in many categories only those within that craft are allowed to vote) and do the math. That’s hardly a definitive consensus of what the general culture feels about the "best" movies of the year are and knowing these obvious numbers why are you still so angry?
Hopefully this doesn’t sound all too cynical. To me it’s simply practical and pragmatic. I personally enjoy the Academy Awards. It is what it is. It’s fun to follow the season as it progresses with all its ups and downs, it’s sometimes entertaining to watch the show, it’s diverting to predict who you think will win and lose and its fun to root for who you can, but it’s pointless to complain or get upset about what wasn’t represented, or what was "robbed" etc. because there are myriad factors at play — which as an adult of average IQ you should already know about — that have nothing to do with movies or art and yet are a very significant part of why certain movies, actors or craftsmen and women win or not win Oscar baubles.
One of my best friends (who went to film school with me no less), texted me late last night to say, “C’mon, did you really think ‘Argo’ was the best movie and deserved to win?" My response was simple: What does it matter what I think? What’s deserve or best have anything to do with it? The point is (for the 99th time) confusing the Oscars as anything definitive about art is pointless and silly. It’s an award show created to be a celebration of movies. Why not just accept it for what it is — a somewhat self-congratulatory institution bent on celebrating itself — and sit back and enjoy the show. Well, that is if it doesn’t put you to sleep first.