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Recovering from the Oscar Nominations

Recovering from the Oscar Nominations

The Lego Movie

I’m still reeling from this morning’s Oscar nominations, and for good reason.

The Lego Movie was not nominated for Best Animated Feature. Life Itself was not nominated. Gone Girl was not nominated for Best Picture. Ava DuVernay was not nominated for Best Director. Robert Duvall was nominated for a movie no one saw. Meryl Streep was nominated… for the 19th time. Morten Tyldum, and numerous other silly names from mediocre movies, were all nominated, although we knew about many of those going in.

There’s certainly cause to be frustrated, to throw up your hands in anger, confusion and disgust, and perhaps this year even more so than the countless other indiscretions of Oscars past.

And yet I can’t help but roll my eyes at so much of the whining. The most obvious reason I can offer is, “What did you expect?”

But there’s really a lot more to it than that. Despite all the toxic gamesmanship and politicking that goes on in Oscar season, these are, if anything, supposed to be fun.

Why do you have to make such a lazy observation and play the race card or gender card as though nominating DuVernay or David Oyelowo or Angelina Jolie was going to change things in our society overnight?

Why do you have to dump all over the Oscars with snarky BS just because Goodbye to Language wasn’t nominated and never would be? Would that change your estimation of the Oscars or of awards season in the slightest? It didn’t when The Tree of Life was nominated. It didn’t when No Country for Old Men won Best Picture.

There were actually some genuinely good surprises this year at the Oscars. Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner got four nominations. The Polish film Ida got two nominations, including one because someone in the cinematography branch recognized that it looks incredible. Marion Cotillard got nominated for a French film she’s seriously great in. Whiplash, an indie movie that has survived all the way from Sundance on sheer word of mouth as a movie that anyone who watches will love, got five nominations. That’s as many as Interstellar.

And The Grand Budapest Hotel, a movie so weird and instantly cultish from a director who has hipster cinephile written all over him, got nine nominations. That’s tied for the lead with Birdman, another seriously weird movie that on paper didn’t fall into the category of an “Oscar Movie” until people started saying it did.

I’ve never watched the Oscars and treated them as an absolute. In fact, I started getting more into movies because I watched the Oscars. I was motivated to see all the movies, and now I see more movies that will never be nominated for Oscars.

Not to call all film critics elite or pretentious, but it’s very easy to look at the Oscar nominations and scoff when they fail to realize that most people have not seen any of the nominated movies. To them Whiplash may as well be from another country.

But for one morning and one evening in February, a huge portion of the country is thinking about and talking about some good movies and curious to see them. Do you have any idea how valuable that is in a day and age when Netflix shows and Taylor Swift and Candy Crush are all people think pop culture is?

The Oscars for that matter could be a lot worse. They could be the MTV Movie Awards or People’s Choice Awards or the Grammys and only nominate things everyone has heard of. Wouldn’t your time be better spent complaining that the human race gave a Transformers sequel $1 billion than complain that the maybe just okay Theory of Everything bumped out Jake Gyllenhaal in the Best Actor race?

This year, as with every year, the Academy consensus, which isn’t you personally, nominated some movies that aren’t so great, left out a few that are, and nominated a whole bunch more that are certainly great. Even by tomorrow you won’t be able to name what is and isn’t in, and a year from now we’ll still remember the really good ones.

So if you’re still mad about the Oscars and aren’t already trying to have fun with the pageantry of this whole wacky awards season, just get over it.