The View From Here – And the award for the best awards show goes to The Oscars, 2017

Tom Henihan
If the Academy Awards mix up for best picture illustrates anything, it is that there is no discernable mark of achievement that distinguishes the winning picture from the others.

While the outcome is considerable in terms of prestige, what decides that outcome is arbitrary luck, with no recognizable, critical criteria involved in deciding the result.

I don’t believe I have ever watched an awards show from beginning to end before but I did so with the Academy Awards because I intended writing about it.

I found watching the Oscars an exercise in unmitigated boredom. My only gratification for enduring two hours of grandstanding, effusive praise and mutual insincerity was having all my preconceived, negative biases confirmed.

I am not a film aficionado but I do enjoy movies. However, I have an aversion to Hollywood, a town where just about everyone has more money than brains and that privilege is usually evident in the rich, dripping fare they serve up.

I distrust art work that takes millions to produce as I cannot see where the artistry lies if it takes a fortune to create.

European, Asian and filmmakers from around the world, make great films without so much money and fanfare.

Renowned moviemakers such as Ingmar Bergman, Andrey Tarkovsky and Ken Loach to mention just a few, these filmmakers manage to make films of artistic and social value without spending obscene millions in the process.

Of course, the Academy Awards have little to do with artistic achievement or social value. The awards are important to people in the industry as their stock goes up considerably if chance comes down in their favour.

In an industry whose engine runs on superficiality, superficial praise can be parlayed into wealth and ongoing success.

For the TV audience the Oscars are only about celebrity, which is abundantly evident from the get go.

On the fabled red carpet, like a pathway through the Elysian Fields, the stars paraded shedding light on nothing but themselves.

It was particularly painful to watch the oracles of entertainment media asking the stars vacuous questions while predicting everyone’s success.

Among the soothsayers was Canada’s connoisseur of all things superficial, the eternally obsequious Ben Mulroney.

The Academy Awards celebrations would be lacking without the media offering a fulsome appraisal of the gowns, of the bedecked and awkwardly upholstered female actors, sporting trains and appendages that defy reason.

The acceptance speeches were for the most part of the generic kind with the usual litany of thank yous, the exception being Viola Davis, who reminded the audience that movies are not just a backdrop against which the stars get to shine, but that movies should offer stories about the human condition.

I thought Jimmy Kimmel did a good job as host. Employing subtle, understated humour, Kimmel was the event’s only real source of entertainment, that is until the award presentation for the best picture.

The best picture presentation became a remarkable piece of situation comedy when the Oscar mistakenly went to La La Land. The acceptance speeches were well underway before the award found its way into the more deserving clutches of the Moonlight team.

Warren Beatty looked positively stoic, quickly denying any responsibility for the mix up.

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