Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Can You Find 10 Contenders For Best Picture These Days?
When I read the news that the Academy Awards would increase the number of Oscar contenders from 5 to 10 starting next, my first thought was: does Hollywood make ten great movies a year? I suspect they don't, but I guess that's beside the point.
Everyone knows the only reason to raise the count from 5 to 10 is to pad out the list with more blockbusters. The Oscars are a once a year primetime television event, like the Super Bowl. Millions are made on it--magazines cover the films, fashions, and the horse race; billions tune in to watch the show so advertisers spend lots of loot to peddle their wares in between shitty production numbers; ect ect. Recently the audience for this whorefest has been shrinking. You nominate blockbusters for best picture in order to attract a wider audience. No one saw The Reader or Benjamin Button. No one tuned in to see if they'd win. Even Slumdog--which was a breakout hit--only made 141 mil. in North America. The academy wants to be able to nominate blockbusters to attract a bigger audience.
The Oscars already have to pad the list every year to get it to five films. I know that I'm a confirmed old school moviegoer, but c'mon...they really don't make 'em like they used to. The Reader? Benjamin Button? If you want to free up the list for blatant marketing schemes how about cutting out the fat from the list of five.
The criticism that the Oscar telecast is one giant beauty pageant is as old as the Oscars themselves. There is a reason for this. It's true. What does Best Picture even mean? Doubt was a good movie, so was Frozen River, so was the Dark Knight. But these movies are separate creations. They're not wrestlers on a WWF reunion tour. Why rig up a flashy, expensive televised event in which marketing teams compete to sell their product as the "Best Picture" of a certain 12 month span? It demeans the whole concept of artistic achievement. Think about it: after Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture did it become the best film released in 2008? Did The Departed become a better movie than Taxi Driver or Raging Bull because it won Scorsese his little gold man while those films did not?
Of course not. The Oscars mean nothing. Or they would mean nothing except that they purport to mean everything. They treat themselves with reverence, and the gaggle of fawning jackals that make up the Entertainment Media go right along with it. The Oscars are an empty exercise, a giant waste of time that exists only to make money by pretending to arbitrate art. At least this latest move makes their pointlessness all the more obvious.