Oscars 2008: How Much Have You Seen? And Does It Matter If You Haven't? And If You Have, Who Cares?

Late in January, Jen and I took in a late afternoon showing of Michael Clayton, which completed our yearly goal of seeing all five Best Picture Oscar nominees before the actual Oscar ceremony in February. At the time, we weren't even sure, due to some peasants' strike that seemed to have all of Hollywood in an uproar, that there would even be a ceremony this year, which would have been sad as it would take away a chance for people unused to the superb Jon Stewart to yet again grouse about wanting the much safer Billy Crystal back as host. (Nothing against Billy, but Jon is, currently, the man...)

You would think that seeing all five contenders for Best Picture would also mark us up for most of the other major categories, but you would be wrong in this assumption. Yes, this feat enabled us to see four of the five nominated directors' films, and six (combined with Ratatouille) of the ten nominated screenplays. In conjunction with seeing Sweeney Todd and Eastern Promises, we have seen four of the nominated Best Actor contenders. But we have only gotten to see two each of the Best Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress performances. Overall, I have seen 61 out of the 113 nominated choices -- well over 50% -- but there are the usual goose-egg categories (documentaries, short films), though, in the technical categories, I really clean up big. And yet, only in three categories (Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Picture) have I seen all five nominees. Does this mean I am really only fit to pick decent sound guys?

Ultimately, my question would be, if I have seen so little, what good is my opinion on this matter? Yes, I have seen the really big films, but if someone said, "Hey, who most deserves the Best Actress Oscar?", I couldn't truly answer the question, having only my experiences with Cate Blanchett (who is almost a supporting actor in her Elizabeth sequel, and only workmanlike in her role at that) and Ellen Page on which to fall back. Having seen Javier Bardem in No Country is no excuse to proclaim his victory if the only one of his competitors you have seen is the equally bizarre and excellent Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton. Who am I to not only demand that so-and-so win an Oscar for his work, but to believe that my opinion on this means anything at all?

What do the Oscars mean in the grand scheme of things? Is the Best Picture winner really the best film of the year? Judging from the show's history: no. Generally not. Oscar history is filled with pageantry for films far from truly deserving of it -- like the execrable Forrest Gump -- while Pulp Fiction, a truly culture-changing picture (for better or worse, you decide), humps off with only a screenplay award in tow. Of course, you might think this is wrong of me to say -- you might love Forrest Gump, but then again, you might think that Sally Field actually is a great actress -- but it is merely my opinion. Much like if I told you who I thought was going to win the Oscars, which I am not going to do. And this is because I feel that I don't have a right to, because I haven't seen all of the major contenders in this ceremony for awards that really don't' mean a damn thing.

Except I would be lying to say the Oscars don't mean something to me at all. I may not actually respect the choices, but I still attend the party every goddamned year. I wouldn't miss it for the world. It's really about the celebration of movies, and the history of the movies, and the love of movies in general, and the love of the people who make and made those movies. I will get tearful during the obituary section, and I will well up every time they show a montage of great films -- whether I agree with that status or not -- because I simply love the movies. My real purpose for sitting through the red carpet and the preshow and the ceremony itself and all of the wrap-up shows (let along the announcement of the nominees a month before early on a Tuesday morning) is because, for a real movie fan, this is Christmas. All of the biggest stars in a fabled area of a fabled town sitting around celebrating the supposed best of the industry year. Hollywood is all about lies, and for just one night a year, I am happy to play along with the jest.

Go ahead, I dare you, Oscar. Get all traditional, and tell me that the epically romantic Atonement is the Best Picture of the Year. It's very good, but it's not the best -- No Country for Old Men is, hands down -- but I will accept your decision. It might take me months of ranting and throwing furniture about, but I will abide by your choice -- eventually. After a couple of years, the pain will wear off and I will realize that, while your choice put a statue on the mantle of an undeserving producer, the better picture was still the one that I believed it was. And that's how my personal history will see it, and how it will go down in my history books.

So, throw your party. I will be there, and I will enjoy the host and I will ogle the starlets and I will grouse at many of the choices. Just don't ask to guess who will win, because I really can't say. Nor do I really care.

Comments

EggOfTheDead said…
No Country for Old Men. My favorite author adapted for the screen and they didn't screw it up. Wow, that makes me happy!!

I got rid of my cable box. Am now subsisting on downloaded seasons of The Wire and Mission Impossible, in addition to my Netflix account.

Am taking a creative writing class from my friend Kristin ("You don't have to register. You don't have to pay. Just show up!") and, with the writers strike having dragged on forever, it seemed like a good time to wean myself.

Miss you. Sending happy thoughts for everyone's speedy recovery.

---Egg

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