When I watch the Oscars with my friends, the noise tends to frighten them off. Not the showâ€™s noise, mind you; my noise. From the first red-carpet starlet to the final shiny trophy, my co-viewers are subjected to a godless fusillade of shrieks, screams, cries and yelps courtesy of yours truly.
Sometimes theyâ€™re joyous noises, as they were when Lupita Nyongâ€™o won last year.Often, theyâ€™re angry noises, as they certainly were when Tom Hooper won the Best Director Oscar for â€œThe Kingâ€™s Speech.â€ Apparently, sticking a camera in front of Colin Firthâ€™s face and hitting â€œrecordâ€ now counts as an act of auteurist excellence.
I do realize that this emotional intensity puts me in the minority. For a solid majority of people I know, the Oscars are either about J-Lawâ€™s dress or how stupid/ignorant/anti-Leo DiCaprio the Academy is. But for me, the Oscars really do mean something. As sad as this sentence may seem to you, Dear Reader, itâ€™s true: The Oscars are my Super Bowl.This probably seems, to use a technical term, insane. Still, Iâ€™d like to believe that I have rational reasons for watching the show as well. In short, Iâ€™d like to think that the Oscars are in fact, to some degree, important.
Before I continue, let me concede a few points to my imagined critics. Yes, the Oscars are highly prejudiced against comedies, sci-fi cinema and action pictures. Yes, voters tend to be too easily impressed by an excess or absence of make-up. Yes, they often seem to cast their vote based on considerations other than quality (can you say â€œCrashâ€?).
But the Oscars are also a highly valuable showcase for important films and film makers. Because the phrases â€œOscar nomineeâ€ and â€œOscar winnerâ€ carry such cultural import, the show helps to shine a spotlight on great but overlooked films. Since millions of people watch the Oscars each year, contenders that didnâ€™t sell out at mall theaters or make bank at Redbox Â get another chance at exposure.
Take â€œWhiplash,â€ for example. Made on a shoestring and released in select theaters, the film is doing bang-up business now that itâ€™s been nominated for multiple Oscarsâ€”so much so that itâ€™s expanded to theaters all across the country and made back its entire budget. This sort of exposure helps fatten the wallets of ambitious artists, and it also gives the â€œWhiplashâ€ cast and crew the bargaining chips they need to continue making good cinema in the future.
Whatâ€™s more, the Oscars is also one of the few awards shows thatâ€™s truly comprehensive. If youâ€™re a Grammy winner for Sound Design, your speech is cut to make more time for whatever blasphemy Nicki Minaj is committing that year. But if youâ€™re an Oscar winner for Best Production Design or Best Animated Short, you can get up onstage and remind everyone why your craft is importantâ€”why craft itself in important.
The Oscars may not always give the award to the Right Guy, but they do important work on behalf of the Little Guy. This, to me, is their primary value.
Also, theyâ€™re just damn good television. Getting a bunch of professionally dramatic people into a room and putting them in the middle of a suspenseful situation is bound to have entertaining and moving results.
Like Robert Benigni climbing over everyoneâ€™s seats, for example. Like a history-making Halle Berry sobbing uncontrollably, for example. Like J. Roy Helland winning a Makeup Oscar after 50 years in the industry, for example.
Emotional power. Memorable moments. Greater exposure for indie cinema. Each year, these are the things that keep this humble writer watchingâ€”and yelling.