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Oscars 2015: What it means to those who actually care

By Archie Del Mundo

For the pop culture obsessed, the Oscars is the worthy equivalent of a world cup or the Super Bowl, all things considered. For the diva worshipers, the Academy Awards was born the day dedicated voters wrote in Bette Davis' name even if she had not been listed as one of the Best Actress nominees in 1935, prompting the AMPAS of the day to give in to this beautiful display of idiosyncrasy. Why an octogenarian awards show that celebrates the day when the film industry pats its own back is relevant is not one for mystery? Even so, what is actually more puzzling is the lack of recognition for Karen Black for Family Plot. The amount of time we actually spend to give the Oscars a damn is directly proportional to the number of hate, tirades, vitriol, and backstabbing we exhaust our energies with by all means entertainment. It’s all for show, and to all the amusement it sparks our plugs, a self-congratulatory gathering of self-important people is something to write home about. 

In 1992, a would-be B-grade filmmaker and a lifelong frustrated actor by the name of Josh Becker wrote the cover story for then fledgling indie film bible, the Film Threat. It’s a special Oscars issue that gave Entertainment Weekly the shivers. In more points than one, Becker carefully analyzed the meaning behind the categories with the help of an undisclosed AMPAS official for references. Becker opined that for a film to win, it ought to be the most thematically important. It has to be at least commercially viable for re-release because everything is all about the money that the Oscar victory could generate in posterity. For Oscar winner Frank Capra, it’s the most important, yet the least inexpensive PR tool Hollywood has created for itself. 

However, the point in all this that you will hopefully care enough to read is not the meaning that have all been, uncovered since 1992 but more of the effort to understand why the Oscars still matter to pundits and the observers of the human spectacle; and why studios and players are still actively coveting to have one. We have already pointed out one and probably the most important factor why the Academy Awards remain to be relevant and watched out for through the years. We have insinuated many times the smell of corruption and the destructive effects of bad political choices. But what we have never taken into account is why at the bottom of every one’s oceans, the Oscars continues to exude legacy and aspiration. The answer, simply put, the movies – however unreal - are important. Whatever it takes to create one that is better than before deserves our full and undivided attention. Once a filmmaker continues to dream, he takes us away with him.

So dream, if you must, to get one, Tom Cruise. Relinquish all your attractive qualities and hit the bottle, or be gay-for-pay (Sandford, Film Threat, 1992); survive the holocaust, or come home from the war disturbed and stare at TV for hours; chew the scenery playing a real-life person (Saia, The Leftist Review, 2011); if you are a foreigner – take some American sensibilities and recreate the story from Colorado to expose your own country’s longstanding battle against corruption and opiates of religion. Whatever images of human condition that can be translated on screen for as long as it speaks with universality and baits a golden statuette, please do. Revere the Oscars. Tell your publicists to go the extra mile and pay everyone off to generate buzz. 

At the end of the day, we all want to see a good movie. Save “the best” for the Olympics because as gauge and barometers go, the arts can’t be measured by the awards they receive. As George Roy Hill once said, let time be the final judge of merit regardless what contemporary awards say. William Friedkin and The Exorcist proved that to be true. But not for the Oscar victory actually bestowed upon Hill and The Sting. 

Whether you are an Oscarologist or a cardiologist who wishes not to be booked on Oscar week, the excitement is as hypertensive as the guy next to you who thinks every comment box on the internet is an invitation to be relevant with opinions as varied as “meh” and “duh.” Like the Oscars, we all have survived and nearly gotten destroyed, careers or otherwise, with the choices we make and the pop culture we declared to embrace. We booed and shooed and Harvey Weinstein continued to manipulate the awards game. Whatever role comes next for Jennifer Lawrence, she will emerge a victor for as long as she chooses to portray strong female characters that reject stereotypes. Because the Oscars told her she could have it. For as long as Julianne Moore, Glenn Close, and Amy Adams have dreams, whether they admit or not, they will strive harder even way past their goals and achievements. For as long as artists of color and foreign extraction are relegated to the sidelights, and worse, snubbed and ignored – the Oscars will be a socio-political platform encompassing cultural hemispheres and diversities, blunders and BS included.

This year’s edition will be held on February 22nd and as far as progress, however uneven, goes, two comedy films (Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel) are on the verge of getting recognized after 16 years. Forget for a while that this is the whitest Oscar ever. And quit debating for one minute that Civil Rights Movement culminated and ended with 12 Years A Slave. Josh Becker, in his Oscar article that I usually plagiarize give attributes to, he admitted that his personal interest in the Academy Awards actually stemmed from liking to win one. The idea of showing up behaved and polished for the event is self-congratulatory already. Because like the case for everyone else, struggling to matter is only secondary to struggling to survive – and to get recognized for that is a beautiful thing. It’s as forever as “Academy Award Nominee (or Winner) Steve Carell” and not even as blatantly corrosive as James Nielson can take that away.

Dale Bacar
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