It’s an inevitable – downright traditional – part of Oscar night: people who hate the Oscars want to tell you how they feel, again and again. No problem. After all, if I get to clutter your Facebook feed with minute-by-minute yuks about James Franco’s altered states, you get to bitch about how the Academy is out of touch and never recognizes your favorite movies. It’s only fair.
The same thing happens every Super Bowl Sunday. There’s always somebody around to mention just how stupid the game is, how the players are all rapists and the league is the reason corporate America is ruining everything and the commercials are stupid. It’s not enough to quietly decide to watch something else; these folks want you to know they’re not watching the game, and why.
To me, this makes more sense than the Oscar hater. After all, odds are pretty good the Super Bowl hater doesn’t like football, or professional sports in general, and his Super Bowl hatred is simply a focal point for broader grumpiness. (It’s probably the media attention that fuels his hatred, not the game itself; otherwise, the guy’d flip out at every World Series and NBA Championship, too.)
But the majority of openly vocal, pink-faced Oscar haters are movie fans who love cinema just as much as Oscar lovers. You never hear a grandmother who only goes to the multiplex once a year ranting about how directors’ branch politics factor into Christopher Nolan’s multiple snubs. No, it’s always someone whose very passion for film is the fuel for their Oscar hatred.
Problem is, the hatred always – always – boils down to one point: “they never pick the movies I want them to pick.” Consider this recent column from Drew McWeeny, which began circling the internet in the post-Oscar hours. He keeps stressing how the Oscars don’t matter… which overlooks the fact that, really, no movies matter in the grand scheme. But on a personal level, yes, they do matter, which is why we obsess. What McWeeny is really saying is they don’t matter to him, and dammit why can’t you see that too?
The core of his claim of irrelevance stems from an inability to accept that not all one’s favorite movies will win all the awards, unless you’re the one handing out all the awards. Yes, Raiders of the Lost Ark was the best movie of 1981, but there’s no reason to dismiss the entire process just because the Academy picked Chariots of Fire instead.
Indeed, knowing why the Academy votes the way it does is part of the fun of Oscar obsession – being an Oscar lover isn’t just about memorizing a list of winners, it’s about studying each year and seeing why people voted a certain way in a certain point in time. When you get into the history of the thing (the race was between Chariots and Reds; Radiers was just along for the ride), you get a fuller sense of Hollywood’s past. McWeeny calls out Back to the Future not getting a Best Picture nod as another sign of Academy ineptitude, but quick research would reveal it did receive a nomination for its screenplay, suggesting its quality was indeed recognized, if not in all branches, then at least in one.
McWeeny finishes his column by suggesting Oscar lovers are incapable of appreciating anything outside the Oscar view. This is, of course, ridiculous to the extreme, a case of childish “I’m a better movie fan than you are” posturing. He lists a pile of never-nominated, of-all-genres movies he supports, as if Oscar lovers are highbrow snoots incapable of finding any joy in Ghostbusters (nominated for two Oscars, by the way, even though McWeeny lists it as a non-Oscar kind of movie).
He also tosses in two odd claims: that Oscar lovers always love the winners (and will love a movie more after it wins), and (in a downright impressive bit of pot/kettle/black action) that Oscar lovers are maladjusted twits who can’t properly handle their favorite contender losing. We rant and rave over Hooper trumping Fincher because we have no perspective.
Crikey, that’s a bunch of poseur nonsense, a way of standing above the uncouth Oscar lovers who, in his eyes, can’t understand cinema the way he can. We rant and rave because we’re swept up in the game. A loss for Fincher is to us like a favorite quarterback being sacked in the final seconds – it gives us something to yell about. We know the missteps are as integral to the Oscars as the great calls – and when we look back, we can remember past missteps with great understanding and greater passion, debating Crash the way a Red Sox fan might discuss Bill Buckner. It’s all in the game.
And with the game over for the year, I can sit back and ponder some of my favorite films winning, other favorites losing, and others not even getting considered for nomination. I’ll ponder what it means for one great film to lose to another, in the company of a few other great films and plenty of not-great-at-all ones. I’ll wonder if this year’s awards indicate a permanent shift back toward traditional material or a mere hiccup in the growing trend of recognizing darker, more complex fare. I’ll scrutinize the stats. I’ll crunch the numbers. I’ll mumble something about Rick Baker. I’ll look ahead in an effort to guess who’ll be winning next year. And I’ll love it.