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The Idiot's Guide To Oscar Frustration: 5 Reasons To Shut Up & Stop Complaining About The Academy Awards

by Edward Davis
February 25, 2013 1:30 PM
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Oscar Reactions, Frustration ,2
3) The Oscars Celebrate The Business Of Art
The Academy, again, is by the industry and for the industry. Every industry needs its own Super Bowl and the movie industry was wise enough to create the system early on knowing that such an event would only fuel, fund and perpetuate itself over and over again. You see movies based on the fact that they are "Oscar nominated," you try and "catch up" so you can see all the movies (and then you pretend and say, "Oh, Oscars don't matter. Oscars are a big sham."). The Academy Awards is a brilliant way for the industry to build buzz for itself, therefore increasing ticket sales and continuing to help sustain itself. Studios don't spend millions of dollars campaigning for bragging rights. This is an investment in their own picture because if they win, they're going to make their millions back and then some. The narrative arc and drama that the Academy Awards builds and creates each year only gets you more personally (and sometimes emotionally) invested and therefore is all the more genius. It feeds itself, it feeds the industry and it's a nice self-perpetuating cycle. But it has nothing do with art.

4) Campaigning And Politics Play A Major Factor In Voting
Ok, so we've established that there are more than 6,000 people who vote in the Academy Awards, but it's already well known that this body of people are deeply influenced by both politics and campaigning around the nominated films. Is "The Departed" even Martin Scorsese's third best film? No, but the admired filmmaker had been nominated six times before and had never won. This is the politics (and concept) of who's "due" for an Oscar that is always very prevalent in Hollywood. You can name myriad examples of such collective hive thinking. An elder statesman or woman has had a long and illustrious career are nominated for a performance and everyone suddenly realizes they have either never won one before or haven't won in decades and so a corrective needs to be made, ergo they “deserve” recognition in the form of an Oscar even though that work might be mediocre compared to past performances. And yet, even with this thinking in place, the game can be changed by campaigning, lack thereof and or just how well liked or disliked someone is (Hollywood is full of talented people that are lovely and generous just as it is replete with genius artists that are kind of huge assholes). Yes, some of it is a popularity contest! Shocker, I know. Here’s another little tip you may not realize. Countless indie movies do not have the studio system money in place to compete with with big boys, and therefore have little shot of being nominated because they haven’t been seen. Fair? Of course not. What did fair ever have to do with life, let alone the Oscars?

5) Deserve Ain’t Got Nuthin To Do With It
Take this year for instance. The conventional wisdom was that at 85 years old, Emmanuelle Riva was going to win an Oscar for her performance in "Amour" because not only was she terrific in the brutal and painful movie, but because a win would also act like a de facto Lifetime Achievement award. But she "lost" to Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook." Was that due to Harvey Weinstein campaigning (TWC notoriously spends much more than most studios on Oscar campaigning)? Or perhaps "Amour" was simply too dark and painful for the voters and 'Silver Linings' more of a crowd pleaser? Maybe more screeners of “Silver Linings Playbook” were sent out than “Amour”? Was Lawrence more charming to voters? Did the language barrier hurt Riva? The point is there are so many factors at play you begin to understand that it's about much more than just the performance (when it should only be about that) and therefore you ought to realize this is reason #685623 to not get upset.

There's 313 million people in the United States and 7.068 billion in the entire world. Let's very conservatively guess that 1 billion of those people know and care about movies (this is generally the accepted number of people who are estimated to watch the show in recent years). And compare those numbers with the 6,000 people that make up the Academy membership and are allowed to vote (and in many categories only those within that craft are allowed to vote) and do the math. That's hardly a definitive consensus of what the general culture feels about the "best" movies of the year are and knowing these obvious numbers why are you still so angry?

Hopefully this doesn't sound all too cynical. To me it's simply practical and pragmatic. I personally enjoy the Academy Awards. It is what it is. It's fun to follow the season as it progresses with all its ups and downs, it's sometimes entertaining to watch the show, it's diverting to predict who you think will win and lose and its fun to root for who you can, but it's pointless to complain or get upset about what wasn't represented, or what was "robbed" etc. because there are myriad factors at play -- which as an adult of average IQ you should already know about -- that have nothing to do with movies or art and yet are a very significant part of why certain movies, actors or craftsmen and women win or not win Oscar baubles.

One of my best friends (who went to film school with me no less), texted me late last night to say, “C’mon, did you really think ‘Argo’ was the best movie and deserved to win?" My response was simple: What does it matter what I think? What’s deserve or best have anything to do with it? The point is (for the 99th time) confusing the Oscars as anything definitive about art is pointless and silly. It’s an award show created to be a celebration of movies. Why not just accept it for what it is -- a somewhat self-congratulatory institution bent on celebrating itself -- and sit back and enjoy the show. Well, that is if it doesn’t put you to sleep first.

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  • Derek | February 26, 2013 4:56 PMReply

    Give US First Lady, Michelle Obama, a special Oscar for the best delivered presentation speech of the evening - then get all the Hollywood actors into a class and explain that comedy often falls flat on its face if there is no editor to trim and adjust the timing - and there ain't no editor around during a live Oscar broadcast. Rather than having lame attempts at comedy, spend more time showing the behind the scenes artistry of the nominees' work - which was often glossed over at lightning speed.

  • pluiedenovembre | February 26, 2013 3:20 PMReply

    Well said :) I think the only time I got upset was when Titanic won. Other than that, I'm happy when an actor/actress/movie/director/script I like wins and I try to enjoy the show. Sometimes the nominees/winners help me "discover" new movies and actors I've never even heard of and that's always a wonderful thing. I like movies, I enjoy the Oscars, but I have no stake in the outcome so there's really no point in getting upset about anything.

  • droop | February 25, 2013 4:30 PMReply

    wow what a horrible piece of journalism

  • Alex | February 27, 2013 3:15 AM

    Before using big words like "journalism," look it up in the dictionary first and see if it applies. What an imbecile.

  • PERK | February 26, 2013 4:09 PM

    Where? I don't see any journalism around here.

  • Dryer | February 25, 2013 4:22 PMReply

    Great points but your just playing the devils advocate for the sake of material. True in the end it's childish to waste energy on something which in in reality is completely immaterial. But there's no reason for Argo to have won Best Picture, except for the old voters in Hollywood to self congratulate themselves as a whole. There was no reason for Christophe Waltz to have won Best Supporting Actor, it was the same one note bit rehashed from Inglorious Basterds. Cinematography for Life of Pi was practically post production, how is that better than Deacons real time artistry in Skyfall. Tarantino hardly wrote the best original screenplay, it was a greatest hits compilation at best. Brave is in the same boat; Pirates, Paranorman, even Frankenweenie were more admirable picks. What differentiates this year from previous shows, is you could look at the list of winners and take something from their achievement. This year was nothing more than just setting a fire just to watch it burn, and that's why people are complaining. It's nothing to do with simply the choice, but the lack of validity behind them.

  • Edward Copeland | February 28, 2013 3:00 PM

    Again, who wins is just the plurality subjective opinion of the Academy members. Moses has not brought these results down from the mountaintop on stone tablets. There are no right or wrong opinions when it comes to assessing artistic endeavors. Your opinion that Christoph Waltz shouldn't have won and that Roger Deakins deserved to win cinematography are right but so are those people who preferred Waltz's performance or Life of Pi's cinematography. There is no objective measurement for a movie or a performance's worth. It isn't a fact such as saying the sun rises in the east or 2+2=4.

  • hank | February 25, 2013 4:06 PMReply

    thanks for clearing that up for me. what an enlightening article.

  • Traci R. | February 25, 2013 3:08 PMReply

    And these are all the reasons I don't even waste my time watching or caring. Give me the results in the morning. I'll glance over them casually allowing myself to be mildly impressed or surprised by a few and then go back to doing what we all have the capacity to do ourselves--watch and judge the quality of movies. Rocket science it is not.

  • Alex | February 27, 2013 3:16 AM

    Oh stop it. You do care enough to give it attention, read an article about the event, and take some time out of your oh-so-productive day to actually post a comment.

  • Edward Copeland | February 25, 2013 3:02 PMReply

    Bravo! You nailed almost every point I've been screaming at people losing their minds throughout this Oscar season such as people who liked Argo when it came out but transformed it to one of the worst choices Oscar ever made by last night and a virtual twin to Crash, separated by seven years, because Ang Lee won director both years while his films didn't get picture. Never mind that most of these people hadn't been remotely pulling for Life of Pi before Lee won director. The Oscars are a glorified opinion poll and, for most of my life, have been a thoroughly enjoyable parlor game. Unfortunately, Oscars + Internet = Madness. I'm just glad that I got past being emotionally affected by what happened at the Oscars when I was a teen -- long before the Web ensnared the silly awards.

  • brace | February 25, 2013 2:29 PMReply

    Oscar and the entire awards season is fun - people talk about movies, predict who's gonna win, who's gonna be nominated, what are the long shots.... it's fun. but many people take it all too seriously. I don't believe in such a thing as best movie or performance... I don't even have one or ten (or any specific number of) favorite movies. I was never able to make a list of my favorite movies ever and that's why I don't like them. and honestly I prefer annual awards like Oscar (despite what I think of their choices) than Sight&Sound's list of the best movies ever - I find that way more un-arty. best ever!?

  • Ben Pearson | February 25, 2013 2:23 PMReply


  • Christian | February 25, 2013 1:48 PMReply

    Excellent article! Really, really appreciated reading it and agreed 100 %.

  • Andrew | February 25, 2013 1:38 PMReply

    The Academy Awards, like any major institution, will always get undeserved criticism. There's just no avoiding it. I love the show for what it is. I've never watched one and thought, "This'll be the last one for me." Have I been disappointed on occasion? Obviously. I guess what I'm saying is the oscars have been around for 85 years, millions of people tune in every year. At the end of the day, the academy doesn't give a shit about what you think.

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