Oscar 2012: Final Thoughts
Artists Celebrating Artists For Making Movies About Artists
By Tom Houseman
February 27, 2012
Shouldn't I be celebrating right now? Shouldn't I be jumping for joy? The Artist, the film that I consider to be the best of the year, won Best Picture at the Oscars. The last time that happened was 2002, when the Academy shared my love of Chicago. Isn't that the point of watching the Oscars? You root for your favorite film, cheering when it wins and hurling obscenities and pillows at the television if it loses.
I used to feel that way about the Oscars. When Michael Caine beat Haley Joel Osment for Best Supporting Actor I was furious. When Gladiator won Best Picture over Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I was outraged. When Helen Mirren lost Best Supporting Actress to Jennifer Connolly I took it as a personal insult. I accepted Return of the King's domination as an inevitability, but still grumbled to anyone who would listen (not very many people would) about how wildly overrated it was. And when Hillary Swank stole Kate Winslet's Oscar? Walls were punched and kicked in anger.
And then Crash happened, and it broke me. It wasn't just that I didn't see it coming. It wasn't just that I was so sure that Brokeback Mountain would win Best Picture. It was that I couldn't fathom the idea that a movie I hated so much could be awarded by the Academy. Four of the nominees that year were on my top fifteen list of the year, Brokeback Mountain was number one, and Crash was easily the worst movie of 2005. How could the Academy declare such an offensively terrible film to be the best movie of the year?
It took a couple of years to recover, but I finally did, and with it came an important realization. The Oscars don't matter. The Oscars are as relevant in a discussion of a movie's quality as its box-office or its IMDB score. What's more, the Academy is not trying to declare the best film of the year. Looking at the history of the Oscars, you will see films from Citizen Kane to Taxi Driver to Do the Right Thing to, yes, Brokeback Mountain, receiving some accolades by the Academy but being overlooked by vastly inferior fare. That's the way the Oscars work.
The Academy only takes one thing into account when they give a film Best Picture: how much they love it. Take The Artist. It won Best Picture without winning for its screenplay, its art direction, its cinematography, or its film editing. Hugo won five technical awards, but came up short in all the important categories. Voters were enamored of Hugo's technical achievements, its sets, its cinematography, and its sounds, but they didn't love it. They didn't love The Social Network either, or Avatar, or Brokeback Mountain. They respected those movies, they were impressed by them, but they didn't love them.
So it doesn't really matter to me whether or not the Academy, a bunch of old white guys, loved The Artist. And I couldn't get invested in whether or not it won Best Picture. Because if I got emotionally invested every time a film I loved was nominated for Best Picture, it would mean I would get hurt every time it lost. If I got excited by The Artist winning Best Picture, I would have to be crushed when The Social Network lost, or when Milk lost, or when Little Miss Sunshine lost. And frankly, it's exhausting to care that much about something as inconsequential as the Oscars, and it doesn't matter in the long run. Will anybody ever be able to convince me that The King's Speech was better than The Social Network, or Black Swan, or Inception, or True Grit, or 127 Hours, just because it beat all of them at the Oscars? Of course not.