I always skip the Oscars

Okay, so I have very lit­tle to say about the Acad­e­my Awards tonight (or ever, real­ly), but what lit­tle I do have I will say now.

I have noth­ing against awards cer­e­monies per se, and while I know rather lit­tle about the film indus­try aside from what is com­mon pop-cul­ture knowl­edge (which feels like know­ing a great deal, giv­en the cen­tral­i­ty of that indus­try, but I am sure those of my friends who actu­al­ly work in the field can reas­sure me of how lit­tle I tru­ly know about the inter­nal work­ings of their craft), I would absolute­ly agree that the efforts of the many many tal­ent­ed peo­ple involved at all stages of the filmic art form deserve to be rec­og­nized and laud­ed by their peers.

How­ev­er, I do not think that said event of (self-)congratulations needs and/or deserves to be a break­ing-news, live-tweet­ed, world-stop­ping cul­tur­al event. This has noth­ing to do with the lav­ish excess of such events (which some might deem scan­dalous, but I am done being scan­dal­ized as a gen­er­al rule). Nor do I intend to cast asper­sions on any­one who finds such spec­ta­cles enjoy­able and enter­tain­ing on their own mer­its, pre­cise­ly as enter­tain­ing spec­ta­cles: if you dig that, then keep on dig­ging it. Instead, I take issue with the degree to which such riv­et­ing atten­tion to the Oscars (and the sev­er­al oth­er awards shows that the same indus­try cycles through every year) tempts film-view­ers — indi­vid­u­al­ly and col­lec­tive­ly — to abdi­cate respon­si­bil­i­ty for their own appre­cia­tive fac­ul­ties for the films they see.

I love film as an art form. The con­cate­na­tion of the actor’s craft, the expres­sive impact of the visu­al arts, and the infi­nite emo­tion­al palette of music into a uni­fied art of visu­al sto­ry­telling that is far more than a sum of its com­po­nents, is some­thing I have hap­pi­ly spent prob­a­bly thou­sands of hours enjoy­ing already at this point in my life. (As a more-or-less direct result of my tran­si­tion to my rôle of hus­band and father, I have not seen any­where near all the films I wish I had in the past decade or so — I’ve kept a list, obvi­ous­ly — and I should prob­a­bly get start­ed on my list for this decade pret­ty soon, too, before I lose track.) I know which films I enjoy (for var­i­ous rea­sons), which I feel are par­tic­u­lar­ly amaz­ing, which might even deserve to be called impor­tant. But I do not know one rea­son why the bestow­al of an award of any kind upon any film I see should have any rel­e­vance to my rela­tion­ship to that film as an indi­vid­ual work of art. Just as when I read a book or a poem, or look at a paint­ing or a pho­to­graph, or even eat a burg­er and drink a glass of ale, I am the only crit­ic in that moment. My taste is the only arbiter whose judg­ment is of any inter­est to me as I con­sume, in what­ev­er sense is rel­e­vant, the expe­ri­ence I am fac­ing.

So it sad­dens me, I guess, more than any­thing else, when peo­ple make such a point of see­ing the five (or now ten) films nom­i­nat­ed for best pic­ture, or lat­er, when I hear some­one say “Oh, I didn’t real­ly like that one, but it won Best Pic­ture, so…” So what? Yes, your taste may well be crap, as indeed mine may be, but it is mine, and I gen­er­al­ly stand by it, gild­ed tro­phies be damned. For a long peri­od in my life I watched David Fincher’s Se7en about once a week, and even now would nev­er think of part­ing with my DVD copy, but I couldn’t tell you to save my life whether it won any awards or not. I am pret­ty sure Titan­ic did, yet I strug­gle to imag­ine a sce­nario where I would will­ing­ly sit through that par­tic­u­lar film again.

So, yes, if you love to watch the dress­es come down the red car­pet with celebri­ties inside them, then pop anoth­er bot­tle of what­ev­er and sit back: tonight is your night. But if you love to watch movies, if you delight in the immer­sive expe­ri­ence of film, please do your­self the sim­ple cour­tesy of hon­or­ing what you think is good, great, and leg­endary, and not wor­ry whether it match­es up with the awards list from this or any oth­er sea­son.

1 Comment

  1. I have but one phrase to say about taste: “De gustibus non est dis­putan­dum”

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