Most dedicated moviegoers can agree that the Oscars are the film industry’s most high-profile and solipsistic exercise in self-promotion. Their whole existence is transparently crass and has been from the start. They were initially conceived of as a marketing ploy by industry bigwigs. The annual awards, are a reward for “merit” after a race dominated by tens of millions of dollars in “campaign spending.” Perhaps worst of all, they have given rise to a whole industry devoted to awards-centered navel gazing that takes up nearly half the year. Even if one did ignore all of those sins and just viewed them as a reflection of the taste of Hollywood’s elites then…ye gods. Every year they find new ways to ignore great movies and reward bland or mendacious crap. To view them with disdain is probably the only rational reaction.
And yet, I think the Oscars really do mean something and hold an important place in our cinematic culture. Almost in spite of themselves, the Oscars matter. The more easily defensible reason to love the Oscars is because they encourage the general public to engage with the quality of movies. The Oscars taste may tend towards middlebrow melodramas and biopics, but they still ask anyone watching to ask what movie they preferred and why. Actual critical analysis, of course, should not be based around a horse race mentality. And it’s even more reductive to presume that there can even be a “best” movie. Personal opinions and judgments cannot be reconciled with a term that absolute. [Read more…]