I believe it was actor George C. Scott who made the comment about the Oscars being a meat parade. That was back in 1970 when he refused his Best Actor Oscar for Patton, and along with Marlon Brando to become the only actor to refuse the award. It’s been forty years since Scott made that comment, and if anything what he said remains true. The Oscars are a meat parade; they’re nothing more than the opportunity for an industry to pat itself on the back. As much as the Academy would like to protest the award is all about film as a commercial item, and not film as an art form.
For those of you who are fluent on movie trivia, you’d know that there were actually two original Best Picture winners. In the first Academy Awards ceremony there were two categories which could be considered “Best Picture,” the first was Most Outstanding Production which was won by William Wellman’s Wings and the second was Most Artistic Quality of Production which was won by F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Sunrise is the film that has remained just as revered today as it was upon release, and Wings, well not so much. Yet Wings was officially decided upon as being the first Best Picture winner.
This has pretty much been the trend throughout the history of the awards ceremony, the more artistically deserving films are tossed aside, and the “product” is given the award. I don’t doubt that Avatar will win this year over the far more deserving Up in the Air, but hey Avatar has bright colors and it made a lot of money! This is a recurrent pattern, and it brings to mind many famous Oscar races. Pulp Fiction vs. Forrest Gump, Taxi Driver vs. Rocky, A Place in the Sun vs. An American in Paris, etcetera, etcetera. When was the last time a film that really meant something won? On the They Shoot Pictures Top 1,000 list only ten films that have won Best Picture have made it onto the list, and they’re all classics, this proves one thing, and that’s when the Oscars get it right, they get it right. Movies like Annie Hall, On the Waterfront, Lawrence of Arabia, Hamlet, Casablanca, The Godfather are all five star films, they are the pinnacle of what cinema is capable of, so why don’t more films like those win? It’s not that there aren’t a lot of great movies made, but an independently funded human drama stands no chance against a film like Avatar.
My next question is simple, why does the Academy Award always go to the Producer and not the Director? Now I’m not a die-hard auteurist foaming at the mouth over this, but isn’t it ultimately the Director that translates a screenplay into images? The Producer is the person that puts up the money to get the film made, but the Producer doesn’t actually make the film, so why is it that the Producer gets the award?Next question, why are all the Best Picture nominees live action, English language films? The only animated films nominated have been Beauty and the Beast, and Up. The only foreign language films nominated have been Grand Illusion, Z, The Emigrants, Cries and Whispers, Il Postino, Life is Beautiful and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Aside from The Emigrants, Z, Life is Beautiful, and Il Postino I have seen all of these films. I’ve barley seen half of the English language nominees and winners, and it’s not that I spend all my time watching foreign art films, but about half of the nominees really aren’t worth watching. Once again though the half of the nominees that are worth watching, are worth watching, but why not nominate a few foreign films or a few animated films? Because people don’t like to read subtitles, and cartoons are for kids that’s why, so separate awards have been made to make it look like the Academy cares.
To wrap things up the Oscars need to take more risks, stop nominating movies like The Blind Side and nominate something like The White Ribbon or Up in the Air (which thankfully, has been nominated), and save us all, because I don’t have plane tickets to go to Cannes, France every year, but I certainly can watch the Oscars on the television.