The View From Here – The Oscars gala is not about great films, it’s about celebrity

Tom Henihan

I find it difficult to imagine anyone, even the most diehard film aficionado, getting excited about the upcoming Oscars.

However, it is that time of the year, when the upcoming Academy Awards take the spotlight and reading from the perennial script, the entertainment media once again attempts to resuscitate an event that has grown tired looking, its flimsy magic appearing lackluster and somewhat old-fashioned.

Even the most incorrigible and shameless commentators have a challenge trying to animate this predictable, overly choreographed occasion.

The speculative, gasping anticipation usually achieves full stride following the Golden Globes: the conjecture around who will win best actor, best film or best director, as if the outcome was something of real importance.

That the Golden Globes are the precursor to the Oscars has seriously diminished that event’s prestige, as in many ways the Golden Globes function as a mere dress rehearsal for the primary event.

The prestige attached to the Golden Globes is that the winners have a shot at receiving an Oscar, the proverbial brass ring of the film industry.

On the positive side, last year’s Academy Awards garnered the lowest ratings in the show’s history, down approximately 5 million viewers and at 26.5 million had the lowest standing since Nielsen began tracking the event’s ratings in 1974.

While 2.5 million viewers is still a disturbingly high number, one can only hope that last year’s low ratings are a good omen, signifying that the obsession with celebrity is waning, and people are reclaiming their autonomy and not living vicariously through some vacuous notion of celebrity.

On the night of the Academy Awards galla, the hype begins before the show at the red carpet cattle run as the “stars” file by, some relishing the attention while others feel accosted by the garrulous entertainment journalists.

Many actors and people involved in the film industry also have misgivings about awards. For instance, Viggo Mortensen, who is up for best actor award this year for his role in “Green Book” said this, “Awards for Arts, where you make comparisons, don’t make much sense.”

Green Book, an excellent movie by most accounts, is in the running for best picture and also features Mahershala Ali who won an Academy Award for the 2016 movie “Moonlight.”

Bill Murray also sees the disconnect between awards and the actual business of acting and making movies.

Although Murray has had a slew of award nominations, he had this to say about such accolades: “Awards are meaningless to me and I have nothing but disdain for anyone who actively campaigns to get one.”

In most instances the effect of presenting awards, especially in such a public forum, creates a distortion in the subjective realm of the arts. The Oscars are an industry marketing strategy that allows a small coterie of industry insiders to decree what is best, which is a remarkably passive way for the public to decide what movie is worthy of its attention.

Much of the Oscars gala is extraneous to moving making or excellence in one’s craft. It is essentially not about movies, directing, acting, visual art or storytelling: the Awards are about celebrity which is a blight on our attention and a black spot on our judgment and for all its outsized self-importance, the show serves to trivialize and obscure the very work it is supposed to celebrate.


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