I can still remember the first time I ever watched the Academy Awards. I was waiting with bated breath for Police Academy to win Best Picture. I mean, not only did it have everything you could want out of a film, but it was the Academy Awards and this fine film had ‘Academy’ right there in the title! Surely, that meant it was written in the stars.
To my dismay, it was not Police Academy but a movie inspired by the song Rock Me Amadeus, featuring people with funny wigs.
But then I actually watched Amadeus and you know what? It was a pretty damn good. Made me think that perhaps these Academy people know what they’re doing.
So for many years I watched Academy Awards thinking they were actually what they appeared to be – The gods of film descending upon us mortals to decide which of current crop of movies and artists are worthy enough to join them. A film called Shakespeare in Love would change all that.
The movie that sent Steven Spielberg home early beat out Saving Private Ryan not because it was ‘better’, but because the studio that made the film, Miramax, spent over $30 million on a 3-month campaign. $30 million. Just about as much, if not more, then it cost to make the damn thing.
This made me realize that the Oscars aren’t a ceremony, but a competition. And not one between the performers nominated, but the publicists and studio heads behind them. How else can you explain Paramount holding a press junket for Dreamgirls…on the first day of principal photography?
Year after year, the Hollywood community puts on a show that pretends to be important, but is really just meant for our entertainment and their financial gain. You’d think they’d be above such a thing.
What’s more is that Zeus, Hades and Poseidon aren’t even voting members! No, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of the very folks that are taking part in the ceremony. Granted, this is nothing compared to the Golden Globes which is beholden to the votes of about 90 foreigners with forged press credentials. But the concept is still the same. Whoever has the best publicists, the coolest swag and the most money to spend gets the gold.
It shows how impersonal the voting process is, which in turn, makes us often wonder why the hell the Best Picture never really feels like it was the best picture.
Other reasons influence the voting as well. Like it may be someone’s ‘time’. For Martin Scorsese to win an Oscar for The Departed is akin to Clint Eastwood winning for Space Cowboys. Marty deserves gold no doubt, but not for a remake which is arguably inferior to the original. Oh well. Its name is etched along the columns of the Kodak Theatre staircase some tourist in 2074 can rent it and wonder what the hell we were thinking back then.
The recent addition to change from 5 Best Picture nominees to 10 only further nullifies the process. Even with 5 contenders rarely are any more then 3 seriously considered. We must remember that this is not a unanimous decision so the more excess there is to split the difference, the more likely movies like Crash will end up in the lexicon. And for our children’s sake, I don’t ever want that to happen again.
But all this matters little in the broad scheme of things. Oscars aren’t really about recognizing the finest in film. Those are just a few fleeting moments in between the gowns, the interviews, the tributes and the months and months of warm-up with endless mini-award shows to pass the time. Not to mention the media banter and the recap of previous years in Oscar history. This was a show that was considered bloated back in the 60’s. You have to wonder exactly what it is everyone is really tuning in for.
So how then can we truly appreciate the films that go beyond simple entertainment to become moving and unforgettable works of art?
Simple. We take our time.
In 1994 the nominees for best picture included The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction. They didn’t win the battle, but they won the war. They won the test of time. The notion of an ‘instant classic’ is nothing but an ox moron. Time is not only the test of a great work of art, it is also the reward. Truth be told, the Academy doesn’t always pick the wrong horse. In hindsight Amadeus did stand the test of time over Police Academy, which doesn’t hold a candle to the masterpiece that is Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach.
So in the end it doesn’t matter. The Social Network. The King’s Speech. Black Swan. Who cares. The real winners will live on beyond Oscar night. While the rest will forever make us shrug as why it was even nominated in the first place. Truth be told, each and every one of us has our own opinion on what the best is, and we shouldn’t let a bunch of retired geezers hold any influence over it.
So with that, I give you Darkubus Rybar’s Top Ten of Twenty-Ten: