Question of the Week #6

Question:

Are you planning on watching the Oscars? If so, what do you like about them? If not, why not?

Answer:

I see how it is, a question within a question! I did not watch the Oscars. The why is because I don’t find them interesting. I don’t find them fair or honest in their purpose. I don’t feel that they have defined their categories well enough to begin to make educated decisions.

If I were in the industry, making films and working with the people who receive the awards I might find it interesting or worthwhile to pay attention to the Oscars but since I am not the importance of who-wins-what escapes me. So Birdman won best picture (and other categories, I know). Does this increase my interest in seeing the film? Not really. I was pretty keen to watch it prior to the all of the accolades it has amassed yet I did not buy the film tonight, I am still waiting to rent it. Conversely, I have no interest in watching The Theory of Everything despite Eddie Redmayne winning best actor.

The main problem I have with awards like the Oscars is that there is little to no objectivity. Humphrey Bogart felt that it was impossible to compare actors unless they were performing the same role and I suppose I do as well. Did Michael Keaton not carry Birdman, winner of every major award? Was his performance in some way subpar? What did he not do that Eddie Redmayne did? Was it that The Theory of Everything was subpar on other levels which allowed Mr. Redmayne’s performance to shine that much brighter? It is impossible to say and is, quite frankly, arbitrary. Which is why I feel that the choosing of who-gets-what is dishonest. It is not about best because as it is there is no clear or obvious way to determine what “best” is. Which is part of the reason that some years you have all sorts of small films that are more “independent” that sweep the Oscars and other years where it seems exclusive to big budget blockbusters.

The Oscars suffer from being the pinnacle of awards for filmmaking. They cannot take the risks that other, lesser, awards can take. The Golden Globes can not only take greater risks but they also have created more categories and separated drama and comedy so that two entirely different kinds of filmmaking can be judged according to their means and abilities. Which of course is one of the major problems with having all different kinds of films compete with one another. If film A wants to make you laugh, film B make you cry, film C make you terrified and film D wants to entertain you with action and witty comments how do you sift through and decide which is “the best”.

So this is my long-winded and still incomplete answer to the question. Some of the awards are just terribly vague. Best Director. What does that mean? Do any two directors direct the same way? If you have seen any behind the scenes footage of directors at work, or listened to commentaries for films where actors and directors discuss what they did, you have noticed that there are infinite ways that directors direct. Are they involved in everything, right down to the smallest minutiae of every department? Do they delegate to their second in commands and then sit back and wait? Do they care only for the actors and let everything else sort itself out? Do they have their fingers in everything but take credit only for directing? Do they do several, key jobs on each production and always take credit?

I ask these questions thinking of specific directors and then I ask my own question – how closely tied is best director to best picture? What else could you be basing the award on? Gossip? It must be the film, which is why so often the picture that wins also has the director that wins. So in the cases when that isn’t true, what happened? What insight was gleaned that allowed you to know that Ben Affleck really wasn’t as good of a director even though you thought his film was the best?

I am stopping now because for so many categories this is where my brain invariable goes, down this terrible logic spiral that is without end or counter-arguments. People like watching the show, commenting on the clothing and cheering for the winners. I guess that is good. It all feels a bit arbitrary to me and I am not interested in clothes.

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