Don't Watch the Oscars

The films are worthy. The awards show, not so much.

The Oscars will be doled out again on Sunday (February 27). But why should we watch? This year’s nominations demonstrate more clearly than usual the irrelevance of all such industry contests.

Of the 10 nominees for Best Picture, not one is a bad movie, and not one bears any comparable resemblance to another. I think we can eliminate two of these contenders as nods to the indie-film community: Winter’s Bone is a small, not overly engrossing picture with a memorable star performance by Jennifer Lawrence. The Kids Are All Right is a warm, funny, well-directed and exceedingly well-written small movie with a career-high performance by Annette Bening. Lawrence and Bening are both nominated in the Best Actress category, which seems a more appropriate acknowledgement of both pictures; and the Kids script, by Stuart Blumberg and director Lisa Cholodenko, has a real chance in the Best Original Screenplay category, in which its strongest competition is David Seidler’s script for The King’s Speech.

Moving further into the list of Best Picture contenders, we can also probably eliminate 127 Hours, which is essentially a showcase for James Franco, who’s nominated in the Best Actor category; Inception, a spectacular visual-effects film with a muddled storyline; and Black Swan, an audaciously directed and gorgeously photographed movie with a story that doesn’t entirely add up. Inception is more fittingly nominated in the Best Visual Effects category, where its strongest competition is Tim Burton’s oppressively overdone Alice in Wonderland. In the case of Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky is more plausibly competitive in the Best Director category (although he’s up against The Social Network’s David Fincher, True Grit’s Joel and Ethan Coen, and King’s Speech director Tom Hooper); and Matthew Libatique has at least a shot for Best Cinematography against the great Roger Deakins (for True Grit), Wally Pfister (for Inception), and Jeff Cronenweth (for The Social Network).

This leaves us with five unquestionably deserving nominees for Best Picture, and this is where the obvious pointlessness of picking just one comes in. Is The Social Network – the early front-runner in this category – a better movie than The King’s Speech, which has been coming on strong in late innings, having already won top prizes at the British BAFTA awards, the Golden Globes, and in a number of local-critics polls across the country? And on what basis can it be determined that either of these films is better than the remaining three: The Fighter (distinguished by the performances of Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, both nominated for best-supporting awards), the wonderful True Grit, or the superb Toy Story 3 (only the third animated film to be nominated for Best Picture)? The point that’s driven home here, yet again, is that artistic merit isn’t quantifiable. Picking a best movie is like trying to establish whether Jimi Hendrix is a better guitarist than Jim Hall or John Williams, or if Picasso is superior to Vermeer or Chardin. Even if we could somehow determine that one of these artists were supreme, why would it matter?

Further clouding the issue is the way in which Oscar contestants are picked. The tens of millions of movie enthusiasts who’ll be talking back to their TVs worldwide on Sunday night will have played no part in the nominee-selection process. This movie-industry competition, as we all know, is controlled by the industry itself – which is to say, the 6,000-plus members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which oddly includes Steve Jobs – for executive-producing the first Toy Story, I guess). I think we can assume that not all of these busy professionals have been able to wade through all of the screeners with which they’ve been inundated to pick candidates for Oscar consideration. And their reasoning is in any case always opaque, influenced as it must often be by friendships, grudges and business connections. On what basis have they decided that Hailee Steinfeld, inarguably the star of True Grit, should be nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category? And why has Andrew Garfield, who gives the standout performance in The Social Network, not been nominated at all?

We don’t really care, of course. The Oscars have the artistic import of a beauty pageant. Their winners and losers are in many cases determined by rushed judgments, ambiguous interconnections, and simple whimsy. I’d be thrilled if Michelle Williams took the Best Actress award for her stunning performance in Blue Valentine, but I won’t pout if Natalie Portman deservedly wins for Black Swan, or if Annette Bening – a Hollywood hometown favorite – takes the top honor for The Kids Are All Right. Since Jeff Bridges won the Best Actor award last year for Crazy Heart, I won’t be bummed if Colin Firth wins it this year for The King’s English – he richly deserves it, too. I may be a little irked if Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross -- whose electronic compositions for The Social Network are so key to that picture’s velvety mood -- don’t win in the Best Original Music Score category, but I’ll get over it. The Oscars, like such less-exalted entertainments as dwarf-tossing and butter-eating contests, are inconsequential fun. They may reflect only the dubious judgments of a self-selected group of movie-biz insiders, but amid the raucous, taunting merriment in our living rooms, we happily ignore that.

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York.

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  • ||

    I don't.

  • ||

    U can use oscars.com for 4,99 or Stream Direct TV also for 4,99 but with many channels for life :)

    For OSCARS GO TO Stream Direct TV

  • Achtung Baby||

    I propose that we adopt an Oscar playoff system!

  • ||

    I suggest that those nominated for the Oscars be required to mud-wrestle for it. (While wearing their "Oscar Night" dresses and tuxedos, naturally.)

    It would add dignity to the whole sordid process and be a lot more watchable.

  • Old Salt||

    ...and yet it still wouldn't have the dignity of a good old fashioned MONKEY KNIFE FIGHT!

  • BakedPenguin||

    He ain't pretty no more!

  • Suki||

    How ever you do it, don't forget Whoopi! As soon as the Democrats control congress again, it will be the law.

  • ||

    Richard Burton always got screwed in the computer rankings...

  • SIV||

    Dwarf-tossing
    re: Neu's subthread
    The Republicans don't want to prevent you from watching it but the Democrats want to force the dwarves into another line of work...like collecting SSI.

  • ||

    I'll say this for the Oscars... When you go back and look at the list of Best Picture winners, the vast majority are still recognized as great movies. The same can't be said for the Grammys (even if this year's Grammys was a step in the right direction).

  • SIV||

    When you go back and look at the list of Best Picture winners, the vast majority are still recognized as great movies.

    1979: Kramer vs. Kramer
    1980: Ordinary People
    1981: Chariots of Fire
    1982 Gandhi
    1983: Terms of Endearment
    Shit movies all...
    Some seriously good pictures were nominated those years and lost, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Atlantic City.

  • SIV||

    The Academy was generally better at picking Best Picture in the past. Or so I thought, looking at 1941:
    Winner: How Green Was My Valley

    "Losers": Citizen Kane, The Little Foxes, The Maltese Falcon,Sergeant York, and Suspicion.

  • ||

    "How Green Was My Valley" is pretty darn good, too. If it had been up against the contestants in 1940 or 1942, nobody would have bothered when it won.

  • Greer||

    42 was Mrs. Miniver. It doesn't show that well now, but in the time, was a very powerfull film. Partly, it was a hint of what may have well come to America, and at least a vicarious glimpse into the horrors other feels for war.

  • ||

    Mrs. Miniver's pretty good as a time capsule. I particularly like Teresa Wright's supporting performance. She was on a hot streak then, getting Oscar nominations for her first three movies.

  • Greer||

    KvK was OK, not movie of the year, OP was pretty good at the time, I thought it captured the teenage psyche better than any movie I had seen before, CoF I thought was great, maybe a litle dated now, but I liked it a lot. Gandhi was overblown, a hagiography. ToE fucking horrible. Raging Bull, Atlantic City should have been winners.

  • ||

    Maybe you don't like Chariots of Fire, but you're the first person I've met who didn't. You can't argue that it's generally recognized as a great movie. You may not care, but that's something else.

    The others are good, too. Actually I'm not even sure I trust the sincerity of your assessment. Troll 2 is a "shit movie". You really think Gandhi is no better?

  • ||

    i agree on all but chariots of fire, which imo is excellent.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    On what basis have they decided that Hailee Steinfeld, inarguably the star of True Grit, should be nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category?

    Personally, I think it's because they didn't want her siphoning off votes from Annette Benning; the Academy seems pretty determined to give her the prize this year and putting Steinfeld in that category would have made it an actual competition as opposed to a near-foregone conclusion.

  • affenkopf||

    Don't think it's a near-foregone conclusion. Natalie Portman should win Best Actress.

  • ||

    Bender: Nice turnout, Calculon. That Oscar's practically on your mantel.

    Calculon: I just pray they like me half as much as I do.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Episiarch! You watch good shows too!

    Uncle Zoid: Let the earth quake, I've got somebody's Oscar!

  • ||

    I watch many shows. Many of them are good. Some are great.

    "Nay. I respect and admire Harold Zoid too much to beat him to death with his own Oscar."

  • ||

    The key to winning Oscars is English accents, and it has been for some time.

  • SIV||

    "Messages" can't hurt...

  • Scruffy Nerf Herder||

    If you have an English accent and you can stammer, well hey, that is something!

  • Spiny Norman||

    Then why didn't Michael Palin win Best Supporting Actor for A Fish Called Wanda?

  • ||

    It was canceled out by another Oscar rule:

    Drama > Dramatic Comedy > Comedy

    Only _serious_ comedies have any chance.

  • $$$||

    ^

  • Bee Tagger||

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Natalie Portman, Kurt? Really? Jesus.

  • affenkopf||

    Have you even seen Black Swan?

  • ||

    It thought it was crap. But I hope Portman wins because hot actresses need to be rewarded for doing lesbian scenes.

  • NL||

    I really liked King's Speech and Social Network (despite Sorkin's technophobia) but I guess I'm outing myself as classless and unsophisticated when I say I'd probably pick Inception for Best Picture. My metric is that it's the one I'd be most interested in owning. I don't know that it highlights the human condition or enlivens the soul, but it was damned entertaining.

  • Achtung Baby||

    It was well-reviewed and made money. In 50 years people will be talking about it. Yep, it shouldn't be given that piece of shit Best Picture award. Let the movie have its dignity.

  • Achtung Baby||

    When they decided to give Titanic the Best Picture award over Batman & Robin, I just became cynical about the Oscars.

  • SIV||

    Titanic totally deserved Best Picture.
    Love strory, period piece, special effects spectacular...and the theme was a straight ripoff of Terminator.

    Oh and Kate Winslet

  • Spiny Norman||

    All I remember about Titanic was all the rushing water at the end. Rushing, rushing water...

    Never get a large Coke for a three-hour movie.

  • Hooha||

    It would have been a neat historical documentary if it hadn't been diluted by a trite 'forbidden love' story that ended up being totally pointless and irrelevant anyway. ("I'll never let go, Jack!" *as she shoves his frozen corpse off the raft he procured for her*)

    As it stands, it was just a three hour nap. But we tend to let the pretensions of the past taint our objectivity, don't we?

    I'm sure 'Pearl Harbor' was a masterpiece too, right? Har.

  • Spiny Norman||

    Pearl Harbor had value as the inspiration for the song in Team America.

  • ||

    If that's a joke, it's damn funny; if you're serious, that's damn scary.

  • SIV||

    Cameron's third best movie!

  • Oscar Meyer||

    Philistine! Joel Schumacher directed Batman and Robin.

  • ||

    Exactly my point. Oh, you meant...

  • Achtung Baby||

    It made a shit-load of money in Europe.

  • ||

    I don't care how much money it made anywhere. Joel Schumacher was already pretty bad with St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys, but at least the latter is fun. The rest of his work is utter tripe. And his Batman movies were particularly atrocious.

  • RyanXXX||

    In a good way

  • Butts Wagner||

    Never saw Titanic(praise jeebus). But that fucking song. We lost out on winning a prestigious marching band competition to a high school that played Titanic music complete with slow-motion, lame-o choreography to look like a drowning ship. Meanwhile, we were rocking out to difficult pieces with lots of complicated marching maneuvers. Even the hard-ass band director didn't blame us(a first for that dickwad) because he knew it was such a sham.

  • ||

    Big Daddy did that song proper. They did a rockabilly version with an Elvis clone. It actually sounds good that way.

  • Butts Wagner||

    Obviously, the best version is this one. I am unfamiliar with the Big Daddy version.

  • David E. Gallaher/Ruthless||

    Dwarf-tossing and peanut butter eating are two things, but cleavage is a third.
    I keep watching the Oscars hoping the pendulum will swing back to more nip slips.
    Must confess I finally cancelled my National Geographic subscription. It will never swing back to nip slips amongst the indigenous... sigh. "The moving finger, having writ, moves on."

  • robc||

    Forrest Gump over Shawshank is all anyone needs to know about the Oscars.

    (Some will argue that Pulp Fiction should have won that year. They are wrong.)

  • ||

    Definitely Shawshank.

  • ||

    You're a towel!

    Frank Darabont has very little style, and the story was from Stephen King. Pulp Fiction was a better movie, vastly more stylish and innovative, and more cleverly written.

  • robc||

    Nothing clever about Pulp Fiction. It was a piece of shit. Plus, it had John Travolta, which escalates the POS factor 1000 fold.

  • ola||

    it was just reservoir dogs redux

  • ||

    much like snatch was lock, stock redux. the difference is that reservoir dogs was better than pulp fiction whereas snatch was better than lock, stock although purist "guy ritchie sold out " types will disagree

  • ||

    I'm not a fan of the movie, though it did have its moments.

  • Hooha||

    Lol, Shawshank was a bittersweet ending to a real fucking downer of a movie. I suppose it's impressive that it could ellicit such emotion, but I'm not sure it's a winner when that emotion is 'I feel like shit'. Pulp fiction sucked, though. Good call there.

    Sorry Rob, I see where you're coming from, but the call just isn't that clearcut. Forrest had it that year, and has it today. The culture commentary ALONE gave it the edge.

  • dee||

    Anyone who could wring a happy ending out of decades of wrongful imprisonment, multiple prison gang rapes, countless beat downs, and corrupt officials deserved an Oscar.

  • Hooha||

    I suppose you were a fan of 'Battle Royale' too, huh?

  • dee||

    Anyone who could direct a class full of cute Japanese schoolkids go on a murderous orgy of spite filled violence, and still make me cheer at the ending also deserves an Oscar...

  • robc||

    If Forrest, Pulp and Shawshank are on, there is only 1 Im still watching. In fact, when AMC was running their "lets show Shawshank 47000 times in a row" last week, I watched it twice (not in a row). Niether Gump nor Pulp are worth rewatching.

    Now, to be fair, by that standard Im claiming that The Fifth Element should have won the best picture oscar. And thats just sill...no, you know what, Im okay with that.

    Now researching...huh, Titanic. Yep, Im going with The Fifth Element.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    dude...MILA I LOVE YOU...two words: orange hair and boobies...i guess that is four but whatever.

    Super Green

  • Hooha||

    You make a good point; that (somehow) must be the wrong litmus test. No sane person would ever sit through titanic again, and the 5th element has scary replay value.

    That said, I'd rather watch Forrest again then Shawshank. But I hated Shawshank, so I'd rather watch paint dry, too.

  • fuck you oscar||

    Oscars are lame. Movie fans now this and watch what they want to. I fart on the academy!

  • Spiny Norman||

    I watch the Oscars to find out the best flicks to torrent.

  • Suki||

    The MTV movie awards are the only ones that count.

  • Spiny Norman||

    Oh, Triathlon. No one will ever love you half as much as you love yourself.

  • ||

    HERPULE DERPULE DERPINIEN

  • The Other Newt||

    Oh, Herc, I've missed you so much!

  • RyanXXX||

    "this wasn't any lark, no sir, we were on a mission [OPERATION CHEESEPACKER]"

    Does it get any better than this?

  • Almanian||

    Honestly? No, it does not.

  • DADIODADDY||

    can't help but get better than this...

  • ||

    Cheesepacker?

  • ||

    Blessed are the cheesepackers?

  • Spiny Norman||

    Of course, he doesn't mean it literally. He's referring to all packers of dairy products.

  • ||

    Oh, okay. Thanks Big Nose.

  • Col. Jessep||

    You can't handle the Oscars!

  • Butts Wagner||

    I couldn't finish watching The Social Network. I found it as boring(and made exactly the same way) as the aging backwards movie(whose name escapes me and had the terrible "I'm the dying of cancer former lover who lives in Katrina-era NO" narrator). I don't understand the Fincher love at this point.

  • ||

    The Fincher love is from Alien 3, Se7en, The Game, and Fight Club. He has talent.

  • Butts Wagner||

    Fight Club was 11.5 years ago is my point. Did you like The Social Network?

  • ||

    It was OK. I agree that his work of late has been meh (Panic Room, for instance). But he wanted to do Rendezvous With Rama, which I would love to see. I think he's got some good work in him left.

    He has an amazing sense of style, and that never goes away.

  • Butts Wagner||

    I am not a sci-fi geek, unfortunately, but Rendezvous With Rama sounds like it would make a good movie based on a quick search of what it's about. I just don't want anymore movies with an ancillary character providing constant narration as each scene unfolds. Maybe it tells the story more clearly, but it doesn't provide the suspense that a movie requires to be more exciting than a book.

  • ||

    Fincher has proved his ability to pace. Let's not forget that The Social Network was written by Alan Sorkin. He isn't without talent, but he is something of a hack. I gaurantee that Fincher did the movie because it was about Facebook, and allowed for Sorkin's hackery because he knew it would be popular.

    Look, Peter Jackson did King Kong. He's still an amazing director.

  • Butts Wagner||

    I gaurantee that Fincher did the movie because it was about Facebook, and allowed for Sorkin's hackery because he knew it would be popular.

    Look, Peter Jackson did King Kong. He's still an amazing director.

    This whole statement, I do not deny. What I worry about it these directors making movies based on ideas/narratives that hold no sway in the theater. To me, deposition notes from the facebook trials are no less entertaining than the movie, but if I pay for the movie, it demands 3 continuous hours of my time, whereas the deposition notes can be spread over days or more to read.

  • Hooha||

    I found it enthralling enough, in a 'Pirates of Silicon Valley' sort of way.

  • ||

    I thought Social Network was the best film of the year. Not the most enjoyable though; that was Toy Story 3.

  • Butts Wagner||

    But why? This is what I want to know.

  • ||

    i think the word "film" is the key. i prefer movies over films. toy story 3 is a movie. social network is a "film". i hate when reviewers call movies "films". a pet peeve of mine. sounds pretentious.

  • SIV||

    The best movie of the year was my downloading that fuzzy lo-res 1980s UK TV broadcast of Ken Russell's uncut The Devils and I probably did that in late 2009. CGI and estrogen have totally destroyed contemporary filmmmaking.

  • ||

    I prefer Ken Russell's Gardening Club.

  • robc||

    Se7en

    Blech.

  • Tony||

    Eh, it is what it is. And that is an excuse to drink in front of the TV.

  • CE||

    I'd watch a poetry recital if Anne Hathaway were doing it.

  • Butts Wagner||

    This would be the most enjoyable movie of the year if she read Catullus with her top off.

  • DADIODADDY||

    only if she was NAKED.

  • CE||

    Inception, a spectacular visual-effects film with a muddled storyline...

    The muddled storyline was the whole point.

  • Butts Wagner||

    Has anyone taken the Atlas Shrugged trailer and set it to Inception music yet?

  • Ventifact||

    Prob'ly would be the first time that mashup wasn't enjoyable. God the Atlas trailer looked hideous...

  • )||

    All trailers are hideous. Every single one.

  • ||

    IMy daughter rented this movie. I watched it, expecting not to like it.

    I was truly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. For some reason, the usual "suspension of disbelief" that causes me to dislike most current movies & TV did not kick in.

  • PantsFan||

    If you watch the Oscars you are worse than Hitler

  • ||

    Leni Reifenstahl shoulda won the best foreign film Oscar in '34...

  • ||

    Riefenstahl and Rammstein...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....ature=fvsr

  • ||

  • Servo||

    Der Untergang YouTube Hitler parody #5,624: Hitler's Oscar predictions intercut with dwarf-tossing. Do it.

  • PantsFan||

    If you watch the Oscars you are worse than Hitler

  • PantsFan||

    i hate the server squirrels

  • Da Squirrels||

    We hate you. Pass the nuts.

  • ¢||

    The squirrels are named Oscar, Oscar, and Hitler.

  • ||

    I thought they were named Ed, Edd & Eddie...

  • RyanXXX||

    You know who else watched the Oscars?

  • Chaos Punk||

    I got a question here, and I know you guys are pretty smart people. I'm trying to figure out what is the name of the animation that zooms out of one object and becomes another scene, then an object from that scene turns into another scene, etc.

  • Da Squirrels||

    Old Mexican.

  • Jocuri||

    You obtained a really useful weblog I have been here reading for about an hour.
    I am a newbie and your achievement is really a lot an inspiration for me.

  • ||

    Neverfear, we shall change that tone shortly.

  • Brett||

    It's a shame that Toy Story 3 was nominated. Wall-e should have one best picture in 2008 but was acidentally entered in the best animation category. Instead that overhyped Slumdog Millionare won.

  • Moral of the Story||

    Life is unfair. The end. Go home.

  • Ice Nine||

    Gladiator beating Space Cowboys in '01 tells you all you need to know about the Oscars.

  • ||

    I think every occupation should have a hollywwood style awards show..."and the award for the best, "do you want fries with that" goes to Jimmie from the 10th St Mcdonalds in Peoria" I might waste some of my life watching that. I couldn't be bothered to watch a bunch self absorbed, vaccuous, plasticized, wankers congratulate themselves...yet again, for playing make believe.

  • ||

    "The Oscars," writes Kurt Loder, "like such less-exalted entertainments as dwarf-tossing and butter-eating contests, are inconsequential fun."

    I'd say more like a Knicks game. The Box score next day is more than adequate for me.

  • ||

    I think these awards, as public spectacles, are totally useless nonsense. The "Best" anything is more often than not clearly not better than the competition, and the whole subjective business is made even dumber by the idiotic lobbying and politics.

    Haven't watched a second of the awards in decades.

    During my brief stint as a video store manager (after college, before law school), I used to do special manager sections every month. One that I'd go back to from time to time was movies that should've won Oscars.

  • ||

    didn't shakespeare in love win an oscar? that movie SUCKED.

  • ||

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetsuo:_The_Iron_Man

    The REAL iron man

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0997147/
    Big Man Japan
    The tension when he confronts the Excrement Monster that has the smell of 10,000 feces is a poignant, suspensful articulation of the loneliness of the solitary hero....

  • ||

    Tetsuo is still my favorite foreign film.

    Irreversible is second.

  • ||

    I have just the entity to judge best picture: Hitler's Brain. I've been saving him for just such an occasion.

  • Emperor Prosek||

  • Paralegal School||

    I think a better way to look at awards shows like the Oscars are as entertainment rather than a serious evaluation of the year's best films. As the original author stated, the decisions are usually last-minute and often haphazardly made.

    Hitchcock, for example, never won an Oscar but history (the real judge) still remembers him as one of the greatest directors of all time.

    Susan - Paralegal School Pro

  • Joe C||

    The Oscars validated their obsolescence by failing to award best picture to Grindhouse and Piranha 3-D. The most fun I have ever had going to the movies was seeing those two films. I don't care if this qualifies me as the "worst" film student at my university

  • ||

    I'll never forgive the Academy for overlooking Robert Bowfinger's masterpiece, Chubby Rain.

  • Converse magasin||

    good post

  • Jocuri||

    I didn't watched the Oscars but I saw in the news that The king's speech has taken the cream of the oscars. I didn't watch the movie and I am still wondering, after seeing the trailer, what's this all about?

  • nike running shoes||

    is good

  • دليل||

    gascascas

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