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Ethan Hawke Says Many "Forgettable, Stupid Movies" & "Mediocre Performers" Have Won Oscars

by Kevin Jagernauth
February 22, 2013 10:20 AM
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Well, we can't really argue, can we? While Oscar history is littered with actors and movies who more than deserved the statues and the glory, it's also filled with head scratching decisions and winners that haven't stood the test of time. But knowing that and saying that are two different things, particularly when you're in the industry, and Ethan Hawke may be having his own Joaquin Phoenix moment. He even used the same carrot metaphor...

In an interview with Gotham, conducted by Zoe Kazan, the actor couched his comments about the Oscars within the context of a culture that demands that some rise, while others fall. “People want to turn everything in this country into a competition...[so] it’s clear who the winner is and who the loser is,” he said. 

“It’s why they like to announce the grosses of movies, because it’s a way of saying, ‘This one is No. 1.’ It’s so asinine," he continued. "...if you look at how many forgettable, stupid movies have won Oscars and how many mediocre performers have Oscars above their fireplace. Making a priority of chasing these fake carrots and money and dubious accolades, I think it’s really destructive.”

Updated. Later today, Hawke clarified his comments by saying: “I think the Oscars do a very good job in representing much of the great work in a given year. Inevitably though, many great films and performances are not recognized and can be overlooked due to the mass marketing and PR machines that march through the awards season," he explained. "I don’t mean to take anything away from the genuine and deserved excitement that every nominee should feel.”

Coming from a two-time nominee (Best Actor for "Training Day," Best Adapted Screenplay alongside Richard Linklater and Julie Delpy for "Before Sunset") the comments carry a bit of extra weight, but it should be emphasized he's not dissing the Oscars, so much as the process and behaviour it breeds. Indeed, with the commentary from an Oscar voter arriving earlier this week, it's easy to see why some might easily see the cynicism that underscores much of the season. That being said, the Oscars are a tradition as flawed as they are, and there's nothing wrong with seeing good work honored (when it's deserved).

Thoughts, opinions? Is Hawke wrong or do you see where he's coming from? Weigh in below. [NYPost via THR]

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  • Seneca | March 10, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    All the films out of Hollywood stink from the past twenty years or so, not one really good one. Disney and Pixar topping the dumb list.

  • Mimi | February 25, 2013 5:25 PMReply

    A. Ethan is not stating anything that people don't already know.
    B. Ethan is one of those mediocre actors who thinks he is more talented that his performances have indicated.
    C. The truth is that much relating to the Oscars is relative and there are worse actors than Ethan and better actors than Ethan and some from both camps have been lucky while others have not. How many actors have lost out on an Oscar not because they lost to someone mediocre but because the other performance/film was that much better?

    Hollywood is and has always been a dream factory, not a bastion of avant-garde art. Why is Ethan pretending that people don't know this?

  • CinemaPsycho | February 24, 2013 7:02 PMReply

    Yeah, like Training Day.

  • josh | February 24, 2013 12:12 PMReply

    I agree,this should apply to the indie film marlet just as well hollywood films should always be dumped on.

  • Corey | February 23, 2013 1:23 PMReply

    I had no idea they were shooting a Sugar Ray biopic

  • fintman | March 1, 2013 11:55 AM

    love it

  • Dan | February 23, 2013 12:40 PMReply

    Thats the weirdest picture of ethan hawke ever. Hes right though and he is awesome in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

  • Chris | February 23, 2013 5:16 AMReply

    Ethan Hawke looks creepy these days, what happened?

  • Frank | February 23, 2013 1:52 PM

    He died his hair for a play. It's purposefully, weird.

  • Glass | February 23, 2013 1:06 PM

    He's looked creepy for a long time now.

  • Lauren | February 23, 2013 2:04 AMReply

    He's 100% correct! Kudos to him for giving an f less what others think and speaking his mind.

  • Deneice | February 22, 2013 10:49 PMReply

    Ethan Hawke is not stating anything that people don't already know. Crash won Best Picture which is one of the biggest Epic Fails of the Oscars ever, next to letting Taraji P. Henson sing live. To me, he is not the first of a number of Indie Children who have bitched about the Oscars or the film industry in general even if they were nominated all because they simply aren't getting their backsides kissed enough by the industry elite. Joaquin Phoenix even though no one will state it aloud, probably suffers from some mental illness or drug and alcohol addiction judging from his behavior in recent years. His return in The Master simply reminds us of his genius. He finally acknowledged that by shutting his pretentious piehole up and started to actually promote his own film instead of marring the campaign. I understand the whole carrot thing, but if you at least try but don't believe the hype, then that is the best anyone can do.

  • Charlie | February 25, 2013 4:23 AM


    You might not realize it now, but it is nothing but a testament to Joaquin's talent that you think he legitimately suffers from mental illness.

  • Alan B | February 22, 2013 6:48 PMReply

    For example, Hawke's performance in 'Training Day'? How the crap did he get nominated for that? It must be nice to be riding the Denzel express to Oscar ...

  • ki | February 22, 2013 5:24 PMReply

    I agree with him 100%. I was checking out some netflix movies on a lazy sunday afternoon and clicked on Oscar Nominated movies and I couldn't believe half the crap that won best picture.

  • jean vigo | February 22, 2013 4:52 PMReply

    Regardless of what anyone thinks of his work, Hawke does hit squarely on a point that's endemic in our culture - this framing of humans as "winners vs. losers." It's kind of horrific in a way, reminding us of our Darwinian roots as social mammals. Winners and losers may exist in some construct of a sporting event or some "heads or tails" game, purely on the teleological level - with no other ramifications other than "result." But, reality shows pitting aspiring singer, chefs, designers, etc. against a so-called panel of experts (who did NOT get where they are because of "winning" a contest) is sending not the "wrong" message, but perpetrating that ugly realization about how we are wired socially.

    It's just awful when some young kid assumes they have to win a "show" to succeed in showbiz. TO wit: that horribly misleading Project Greenlight, by "golden boys" Matt and Ben, exploitng and humiliating aspiring filmmakers - and not 1 "contestant" had the audacity to ask them: what contest did you 2 win to be sitting here evaluating me?

    But, the Oscars and their ilk are simply self-congralutory pageantry that bear very little connection to the repository of enduring artistic and aesthetic relevance of cinematic work. That is determined by time and other factors. So many "winners" forgotten about, so many "losers" or "non-invitees" holding places in movie history decades later - look up the examples yourselves.

    Here's a start - perennial "loser" Alfred Hitchock vs. Academy Award-"winner" Ron Howard. You make the call.

  • KHerr | February 22, 2013 3:18 PMReply

    Why is he dressed up as Billie Joe Armstrong?

  • DRDR | February 25, 2013 12:12 PM

    Actually the "contest(s)" that Ben & Matt won were an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best original screenplay. S0...yeah!

  • cirkusfolk | February 22, 2013 3:21 PM

    It's for a play he is currently in. He's suppose to resemble Billy Idol.

  • cirkusfolk | February 22, 2013 12:41 PMReply

    Hawke was nomed for Sup. Actor. Denzel won for Lead Actor.

  • RICHARD | February 22, 2013 12:00 PMReply

    He's completely right and anyone who disagrees is as stupid and pretentiously ill as the people who actually vote for half of the winners at the Oscars. I mean who actually watched Beasts Of The Southern Weird or Silver Lining's Gaybook or Amour aka Old Pathetic Fools Dying. I mean really if no one saw it then in my opinion the film is rather useless, I'm just being honest here. Of course people like The Playlist will fully back and support these little seen films because they feel as if they have to support them because deep down it's just a matter of their desire to be different from everyone else and of course a major case of sympathy towards them. The whole ''the movie made money, so it doesn't need awards'' is complete bull****, that's like saying that because somebody has a huge mansion that they don't need a fancy car and sexy wife. Why not? Of course they do. As for the best picture Oscar, to me it should be simple and straightforward, the highest earning film of the year should automatically win, because that's what defines a best picture, a movie that everyone has seen and considering it's a producers award and producers only care about $$$.

    And yes valentines day is also pure rubbish, it really has just become an excuse for shares in Cadburry to rise. And yes Justin Beiber really is a talentless little sissy, it's hard to believe that that boy is actually a boy, he looks like a lesbo to me and men don't have small voices like that.

  • Sunder | February 23, 2013 8:48 PM

    I agree with you.
    Silver Linings Playbook, Amour,Beast were all either average or just movies that no one would see. How did that 8 year old girl get an Oscar nomiantion anyways?
    Silver Linings is doing PR rounds non-stop to promote themselves and their stars.
    The only movie that I liked nominated was Life of Pi. Such a shame that many people think it won't win and that Sliver Linings Crapbook has many supporters for it. I hope Pi wins over most of these movies.

  • Guy | February 22, 2013 8:41 PM

    Who saw Silver Linings "Gaybook"? (Clever, by the way -- I see what you did there.) Well, enough people to get it to $101 million at the box office so far.

  • Zack | February 22, 2013 3:44 PM

    Not sure if parody troll. Either way, this guy calling other people pretentious is pretty hilarious.

  • michaelangelo | February 22, 2013 2:59 PM

    now that isn't how one makes friends, is it, richard? taking your anger out on people you will never meet in real life? for shame.

  • RICHARD | February 22, 2013 1:17 PM


    Shame you are a real piece of work, you're one of those lonely motherless fools who use your left hand to pleasure yourself at the side of Goddard's face. Just die already. Stupid little child.

  • Stoney Lodge | February 22, 2013 12:50 PM

    Gosh, man, you are stupid.

  • YOU MAD? | February 22, 2013 12:19 PM

    Man, what a bold comment.

  • yemka | February 22, 2013 11:35 AMReply

    Not that he's entirely wrong- but it's a little ironic that Hawke is dissing an awards show that tends to get at least one or two picks right. Can't same the same for Hawke- who has been in some mediocre to shitty films. At least Phoenix has more or less churned our consistently great performances in pretty great films, even if they are grossly misunderstood. Hawke, just kind of sucks. I haven't seen Before Midnight and I'm sure it's brilliant but dude doesn't deserve a Gold Statute above his fireplace anytime soon.

  • Sunder | February 23, 2013 8:50 PM

    I don't think he wants an Oscar that badly but he right in some ways how the Oscars is all about ass-kissing everyone.
    Slumdog Millionare,Crash, The Hurt Locker were all terrible movies and people like Anne Hatheway and Natalie Portman campaigned hard for their award. Its pathetic.

  • Andrew | February 22, 2013 11:20 AMReply

    It'll be interesting to see how Hawke dials this back in the coming year when his film Before Midnight rolls out and inevitably becomes an awards player. The timing of this statement is poor, seeing as if he had made this statement say five years ago when he wasn't on the scene as much, directing bad plays (I saw one of them), it wouldn't have mattered much. But, the Oscars do matter to the commerce of prestige-type-films, and they seem to matter more with every passing year. Hawke wants an Oscar as much as the next person. Just like how Joaquin Phoenix dialed back his statements, so will Hawke.

  • Zack | February 22, 2013 10:40 AMReply

    Can we stop acting like thinking awards are bullshit is somehow ballsy? It's a sentiment akin to "Valentine's Day is just an excuse to sell chocolate and cards" or "Justin Bieber sucks". It stops being an edgy sentiment to express around the age of 12.

  • droopy | February 22, 2013 1:48 PM

    probably the most pretentious thing i hear in general is people bragging about how far ahead they were of everyone else in having some opinion no one gives a shit about

  • james | February 22, 2013 10:38 AMReply

    As stupid as bleaching your hair and wearing mascara??

  • droopy | February 22, 2013 1:43 PM

    you're an idiot. the mascara yes, but the hair is obviously for a movie. are you saying you don't think the oscars are stupid?

  • cory everett | February 22, 2013 10:37 AMReply

    I think he actually is dissing the Oscars. "If you look at how many forgettable, stupid movies have won Oscars..." This is the Oscars shame, they rarely ever get it right. When they do, it's a fantastic accident. When they don't, it's a temporary bump to the performer or film which will recede in memory within a few months of the ceremony.

  • MAL | February 22, 2013 11:02 AM

    Awards, critical taste and public acceptance are by their nature highly subjective. I have heard the phrase "getting it right" so often applied to Oscars but I really don't understand how anyone viewing film critically can apply such an equally subjective perspective as a criticism in itself. The Oscars are a show just like the films they honour. The real question is "Did they achieve what they set out to achieve, and how well?" Generally, they do and reasonably well.

  • T | February 22, 2013 10:37 AMReply

    Anybody who says he's wrong are completely deluding themselves.

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