What follows are Several Opinions about the Oscars, All of Which Are My Opinion.
THE OSCARS ARE USELESS, BECAUSE THE ACADEMY IS USELESS
Is there any group of people less representative of the American public than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? All the Oscars tell us is what movies the Academy liked, and that is entirely divorced from what real people think on the ground. No one should care what these people think.
THE OSCARS ARE ESSENTIAL, BECAUSE THE ACADEMY IS USELESS
All the Oscars tell us is what movies the Academy liked, and that’s essential, because the Academy consists of most of the people who make our movies, and therefore, the Academy consists of most of the people who shape a good portion of our culture. The media we consume shapes the way we view the world, changes how we think, tells us how to behave, tells us what matters, and tells us what’s beautiful. What information could be more important than a raw look into the psyche of the people who shape the movies we watch? The Academy is not representative of the American public, but they make all of our movies, and that’s why we need to know what they like. The Oscars are not important because they tell us about art — the Oscars are important as reconnaissance into the thinking of the Enemy.
THE OSCARS ARE ELITIST AND OUT-OF-TOUCH
The Oscars generally ignore comedies, horror movies, and action movies, which you may recognize as the only movies Americans actually go to watch.
Sure, Jimmy Kimmel liked to quote the amount of money Wonder Woman made at the box office, but did the Academy nominate it even once? The Marvel Cinematic Universe, pre-Black Panther, consisted of 17 movies, and something like $12 billion in ticket sales. How many of these movies received even a Best Picture nomination? Precisely zero. And look: probably the MCU movies aren’t usually the best movie in their year. But sometimes they’re better than the stuff that does get nominated for Best Picture. Because listen: I liked Whiplash. J.K. Simmons is a national treasure. But can you honestly look me in the eye and say that Whiplash is a better movie than Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Because I can’t say that with a straight face.
The Oscars are so invested in being about High Art that they quit paying to attention to whether or not movies are good or important. No one on Earth saw The Post, yet it got nominated for Best Picture. Ten years from now, no one, including Meryl Streep, will remember that The Post even existed. But people saw Thor: Ragnarok, and people will keep talking about Thor: Ragnarok for quite a while. It’s a weird-ass movie about Space Vikings fighting Jeff Goldblum and Goth Cate Blanchett in SPACE, all directed by this goofball Kiwi dude and wrapped around an anti-colonialist political message. It was messy in places, but people will remember it and talk about it, by golly! Darkest Hour was a two-hour closeup of Gary Oldman’s prosthetic jowls, but Thor: Ragnarok was a movie.
THE OSCARS MAKE GOOD MOVIES HAPPEN
Look, I don’t care about the Oscars themselves, but do you think anybody makes movies like Lady Bird or Moonlight or Birdman or There Will Be Blood without them? People finance these fascinating, complicated works of art that aren’t dumbed down to the lowest common denominator because there are awards to be won. Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele will have a much easier time getting financing for their next movies because they can say “I was nominated for a bunch of Oscars last time.” Sure, the Oscars aren’t really a measure of objective quality, but they give financiers something to hang on to, which lets artists like Peele and Gerwig (and Spielberg, and Nolan) convince people to give them money. Do you think DiCaprio would have kept taking increasingly challenging parts if there wasn’t a Prize to chase? This isn’t to suggest the Oscars are perfect, but the cultural cachet that comes with an Oscar nomination is how good movies get made.
At the very least, looking at the list of Best Picture nominees is a good way to find a list of Good Movies You Might Otherwise Not Have Heard Of. No, they don’t catch everything, and yes, they have some biases, but if you watch all the Best Picture movies in any given year, you’ll usually get to watch some good movies. If you’re like me, and don’t have time to really follow the film festival circuit, that’s a lot better than you’d do if left to your own devices!
THE OSCARS ARE FAR FROM PERFECT, BUT THEY’RE ESSENTIALLY HARMLESS, AND GEEZ, MAN, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US
Seriously, none of this matters at all. They’re probably not great, but they’re not terribly important, either, so calm down! Yes, the Oscars make some confounding choices sometimes, but really, they’re just an opportunity for a bunch of people who like movies to get dressed up together and talk about the movies they liked, and that’s fine! Stop turning everything into a Cause, Bill.
THE OSCARS SHOULD BE DESTROYED
Because how dare they, how dare those preening, simpering cowards stand up there on that Swarovski-encrusted monument to excess and congratulate themselves for kicking Harvey Weinstein out of the Academy as though that took moral courage. How dare they make jokes about it, after allowing him and so many others like him to prey upon people, exploiting their dreams for their own craven purposes while everyone just looks the other way. Harvey Weinstein shouldn’t have been kicked out of the Academy, the Academy should have dissolved entirely, leaving Weinstein the only member. Every Oscar statuette on Earth should have been seized by the State and melted down to form a gigantic statue of Harvey Weinstein, and every single member of the Academy should have been chained to it like Prometheus, as a warning to others who would sit idly by and tolerate the monsters in their midst out of professional courtesy. The 91st Academy Awards should consist of only a bare wooden stage and a well-exercised guillotine.
THE OSCARS ARE FUN TO WATCH
And that’s sufficient! It’s fun to speculate about who will win what, and it’s fun to critique the fashion choices of B-list celebrities, and it’s fun to watch all the pretty people wear their pretty clothes and hang out and be charming around other pretty people. What did Jennifer Garner realize, anyway? Wasn’t it sweet that they gave Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty another chance to present the Best Picture nomination? Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence told some good jokes about Meryl Streep! Because of the Oscars, you get to throw Oscar parties, where you and all your friends get drunk and make fun of whatever the hell Nicole Kidman was wearing. That’s a good thing!
THE OSCARS ARE EVIL, BECAUSE ART SHOULDN’T BE RANKED LIKE THAT
People mostly boiled the Best Picture category this year down to four movies: Dunkirk, Lady Bird, Get Out, and The Shape of Water. As I’ve suggested before, that is a nonsense question. There is no remotely meaningful way to rank those movies. Get Out didn’t have half the structural complexity of Dunkirk, but Dunkirk wasn’t nearly as meaningful as an exploration of the mother-daughter relationship as Lady Bird, and Lady Bird didn’t require anything like the production design of The Shape of Water, but the political message of The Shape of Water amounted to “be nice to weirdos,” which is fine, but pales in comparison with the complex ruminations on race, progressive politics, and society you saw in Get Out. In short, comparing these movies is like ranking grapefruit, hammers, The Lord of the Rings, and Babe Ruth. None of these things is anything like the others, and they have nothing whatsoever in common.
This isn’t to say that art is purely subjective, or that there’s no value in discussing the relative merits of things, but once you’ve got a crop of good movies, it’s counterproductive and ridiculous to try to pick a “best” one, and eventually descends into partisan bickering. Liking Get Out better than Dunkirk becomes a political question if it’s a zero-sum game between them (what is more important: stories about race or stories about war?), which is silly, because it’s totally possible to like both Get Out and Dunkirk. The question shouldn’t be “is Get Out better than Dunkirk?” Instead, the questions should be “How cool were these movies?” and “what can we learn from them in order to be better artists and better people?”
THE OSCARS ARE USELESS, BECAUSE MOVIES ARE USELESS, ART IS USELESS, LIFE IS MEANINGLESS, THE WORLD IS HOLLOW, AND EVERYONE DIES ALONE
you can’t rank art because all art criticism is just post hoc rationalization of the opinions we decided we were going to have going into the movies, so why bother, and anyway, movies are bad because people are dying out there and instead of helping them we make movies about ant-man and women who fall in love with fishpeople, because art is useless and serves only as a way to distract ourselves from the inherent emptiness of life as a whole, so the oscars are meaningless, but only because all of life is meaningless
THE OSCARS ARE GOOD BECAUSE THEY MAKE CONVERSATIONS HAPPEN
The point of the Oscars isn’t the Oscars themselves, it’s the conversations you get to have about the Oscars. Without centralized awards shows like this, I don’t have conversations with friends about whether or not Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is a good movie. (It’s not.) In trying to justify why Movie X should beat Movie Y, you get to really dig into what you liked and didn’t like about both films, and in hearing your friends talk about why Movie Y should beat Movie X, you get to hear what they noticed about both movies. Sure, this can devolve into a shouting match or some sort of Who Can Be Most Pretentious contest, but it can just as easily lead to a better understanding of both movies and your friends. The Oscars are good because they facilitate human communication, which is, after all, The Point.
THE OSCARS ARE GOOD BECAUSE THEY GAVE GUILLERMO DEL TORO AN OSCAR THIS YEAR
The Shape of Water probably wasn’t the best movie last year, but it is a Good Thing that Guillermo del Toro has a Best Director Oscar now. This is because Guillermo del Toro is possibly the best person on this godforsaken orb of rock, and so any organization or institution that results in Guillermo del Toro getting accolades and the cultural cachet (see above) to make more movies is a Net Good.
This has been Several Opinions about the Oscars, All of Which Are My Opinion. Thank you for your time.