I don’t really like Alec Baldwin. But then, I don’t really like the Oscars anymore. 2009 was the first time they were entertaining since Whoopie Goldberg hosted back before fantasy was considered a legitimate film genre (i.e. before movie-goers told Hollywood where to stick their artsy high horse). It’s a rare occasion that a worthy film wins an award. Rarer that a worthy film wins several. Talent often goes unnoticed. Awards are handed out through popularity or politics. Maybe I’m a bit jaded.
I’ve watched the Oscars since I was a teenager. Back then, I fancied that the awards meant something. I assumed that if I didn’t know a movie that was nominated, it was only because I lived in rural Idaho and didn’t get to the movies much. I thought nominations were given to movies that had already proven themselves successful. I thought that every Academy Award winning film would go on to be a classic. I wanted to win an Oscar. I practiced my “Best Adapted Screenplay” acceptance speech with the kind of fervor that only a fifteen year old can muster.
As I read over this year’s nominees, I realized that, as usual, I recognize fewer than half of them. I know now that this is because nominees are chosen almost exclusively from films that open between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. This means that most people haven’t seen them. This means that many of the people who vote on the finalists haven’t seen them. Which means it really is a popularity contest.
Imagine for a moment that your last name is Coen. It doesn’t matter if your movie is good or not. You’ve just received an Oscar nomination and you may well win the award. If I were a director going against a Coen movie, I think I’d just drop out.
So why will I watch the Oscars again this year? Why will I suffer through a whole night of Alec Baldwin, bad dresses, and yelling at the TV as if it were the Super Bowl (which I don’t watch)?
Because I want to see if Hollywood will listen to the viewers as they did when they grudgingly gave Oscars to Return of the King. I haven’t seen Avatar, but the box office numbers speak for themselves. I loved District 9 and was thrilled to see it on the list of nominees, though I hold no illusions that it will win any.
Failing that, I want to know what movies not to bother renting in the coming year. I’m laying odds that “A Serious Man” will be on that list.