The Oscars: Why do we watch?

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Throughout the first half of February, the Sound On Sight staff will take a look at the Academy Awards.

Human beings are social animals. We need to feel another human’s touch, hear another’s voice, and despite what many “rebels” might admit, we need their acceptance. But one place we should not look for social validation is the Academy Awards.

For the past two months I’ve been reading tweets, Facebook updates, comments, and messages about the Oscars, and more often than not it is a complaint that a film or actor was overlooked by the Academy. A majority of what I read is not from casual film fans, but from dedicated critics, and rabid cinephiles. When I read these I have trouble wrapping my brain around the mental anguish some feel over  what has essentially become a Hollywood studio gala to sell DVD’s. All year long they scoff at the commercialization of Hollywood, but come Oscar time they cry because no one asked them to the prom.

Fans and critics alike seem to pride themselves all year long on holding their own individual opinions on film, myself included. We enjoy seeing films that speak to us as individuals, and also enjoy seeing films we disliked. Some of us even write about why we enjoyed or didn’t enjoy them. All of this is based off our own personal views of film. For the dedicated fan/critic their opinions are not skewed by an outside perspective, but cultivated over years of observation, and in some cases experience. So why do so many take umbrage over a television program not sharing in a particular opinion? Why do so many ideas wither under the shine of a long winded advertisement?

I ask these people, many of whom I respect, to take a step back and gain some perspective. If The Tree of Life doesn’t win any awards will it no longer have the enraptured beauty, and spirit of life you so admired. Or if it wins, will it no longer be the bloated whimsy of a pretentious film maker?

If you consider yourself a fan or critic of film always remember this when viewing the Oscars; The Academy relegates foreign films into their own category, and limits the number of entries per country. There is a reason for this; it is because foreign films aren’t as marketable to the American audience they are pandering to. Like I said earlier, this is a show for American studios to make money on DVD sales and rereleases. This is why marketable films like War Horse often get nominated (and many times win) and films like Once Upon a Time in Anatolia are routinely overlooked.

It is true that The Academy Awards is a long standing tradition. It is the time of year when Hollywood takes center stage and the public stops for a moment to gawk. It is the biggest celebration of film we see, so naturally we’d like to see the films we enjoyed included. But when we lose sight of the spectacle and look to it as a true evaluation of art, we get in trouble.

So please, enjoy the Oscars for what they are: a celebration of glamour and Hollywood film. Do not use it as a validation for your artistic opinion, you’re only going to frustrate yourself.

James Merolla

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