02 February 2010

It's National "So What?" Day For Cinephiles, Oscar Nominations Announced

When I used to drink -- and boy did I used to drink -- those of us who were serious about our alcohol consumption considered New Year's Eve to be amateur night. People who got no more than tipsy all year suddenly became sots for a night. We were not amused.

In much the same way, Oscar season emboldens every Tom, Dick and Mahmoud to venture an opinion on nominated films. Even though they haven't seen most of the films, if any.

Here's the thing that one should remember about the Oscars and every other award show or list that names the "best" film or performance of the year: They're full of crap.  There is no empirical evidence for the best work of art or performance of the week, year, decade or century. What is being named is the favorite. In the case of the Oscars it's the favorites of the voters of the The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. And these are people who have a notoriously bad track record. Please see, time permitting, this post of mine from a year and half ago in which I detail just a few of the egregious omissions the Academy has made. (To be fair, last year I provided some examples of when Oscar and I agreed on the "best" picture winner.)

Picking a "best" in the arts is an interesting parlor game but nothing to be taken seriously. One reason many of us sports fans love competition is that you can in fact name a winner. This Sunday's Super Bowl will be the definitive answer to the question, what was the best team in professional football this year. Of course sports fans can always fall back on things like, "yeah well the ref blew a call," or "our best player was injured." But savvy  fans know that there is no category for woulda, shoulda, coulda.

The Oscars are no better than the Golden Globes, the New York Film Critics or this blog in naming the "best" of anything. Does that mean that the whole shebang has no value? No. While it is an always bloated show, constantly interrupted by commercials (I DVR it and start watching a half hour after it starts so I can fast forward through the ads) it does at least bring attention to some films that are worth seeing that many people may have missed. There are also some nice moments when clips of films are shown, sometimes as a tribute to a director, other times to pay homage to the recently deceased and other times as part of some theme.

Plus this year Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin are co-hosting. It's hard to imagine a more delightful pairing. I anticipate laughs aplenty, enough to offset the dreary acceptance speeches of people we never heard of thanking people we never heard of.

Just please don't think there's any great significance to what "wins." That's a lot of hooey.

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