Monday, March 2, 2015

Fixing Oscar?

There was an opinion expressed recently that since the Oscar telecast suffered a sixteen percent drop in viewership, something must be done. Like nominate Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or the latest Transformer product for best picture of the year.

These, it is said, are more representative of the movies America actually watches. There are a couple of dozen things wrong with this kind of thinking. I'll try and restrain myself to addressing just a few.

First off, if widespread consumption is the measure of excellence, why is no one nominating McDonald's hamburgers as America's finest? Or Bud Light as the best beer ever? Probably because they're not.

The Oscars seek to recognize the movies which best combine the elements of film: a compelling story, acting, cinematography and music. Or to celebrate those in which a particular aspect like editing or an actor's performance is transcendent.

Let me be clear: I'm not a snob. I mean, I like explosions and dirty, sweaty guys screaming “Arrrrrrrggghhhhh!!!” just before they point miniature, chrome-plated cannons at each other as much as the next dude. 

But just for a laugh, I think we should see what happens when we follow the advice of that famous dead Greek guy about reaching for the stars. About our reach exceeding our grasp.

Secondly, in the instant mass opinion gifted to us by social media, singular incidents—aberrations—assume the weight of decades-long trends. With the exception of the folks who hawk advertising space on ABC, who cares if people didn't find this year's Oscars telecast must-see TV? And why does anything need to be 'done' about it?

People may have avoided it in protest due to the all-white best actor and best actress nominees. Or because there weren't enough romantic comedies nominated in the best picture category. Who knows—maybe they were clearing snow from their cars in preparation for the Monday morning commute.

It doesn't mean we need to upend the Oscar blueprint.

This is akin to spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a Scarlet-throated Tanager defense network simply because a few misguided individuals created a lilliputian, even insignificant, problem with missile defense systems—once.


Finally, since when were the Oscars supposed to be a red-carpet-and-designer-gown, Super Bowl-styled ratings windfall? Let them be. Let the Oscars do what they do best, which is celebrate Hollywood and allow us the rest of us an opportunity to practice a little indoor astronomy.

Celebrate movies—not marketing campaigns.


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