Friday Face/Off: The Oscars
Tash (I’d like to thank cliche Oscar phrases, for giving me a jumping off point…)
I genuinely can’t see a downside to The Oscars. It’s a bit like having a faith – if you believe fervently in what it has to say then it’s interesting for you, if you just don’t care it can’t really affect you in any case. Considering most of the traditions Hollywood has developed seem to revolve around being thrown in jail, kicked out of rehab or marrying Jennifer Lopez, I can’t believe anyone doesn’t have a bit of fondness for the night The Film People dress up, listen to some words and gaze feverishly at plastic figurines (AND NO I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THE CAST OF SATC! YEAH? YEAH???) It’s escapism, it’s glamour, it’s fun and it’s a celebration of some darn good work. What’s not to like?
Jonny: (had enough of Kate Winslet in a posh dress)
The downside of the Oscars? Let’s start with what it does to Hollywood and the film industry as a whole. The very fact that a film can be labelled as “Oscar bait” is indicative of the damage it does. Applying a universal set of standards to judge the quality of any art is foolish, and one that reaches such a high level of prestige is tying the entire film industry down. And like an sub in a sex dungeon, if it gets tied down too much, it’s going to be fucked. Because fundamentally what the Oscars are looking for isn’t originality: it’s the same old shit they gave awards to last year. It’s ass-kissing biopics, or touching dramas about social problems that make everyone feel better about themselves without actually engaging with the problem; because everyone knows you never go full retard.
I’m not sure I agree with you there – I mean, just take a look at WINNER WINNER ALL THE AWARDS WINNER WINNER film The King’s Speech, which as you may have guessed, won 78 Oscars last year. No-one had ever heard of director Tom Hooper, he’d managed to scrap the budget together with the help of the UKFC (sob), and only managed to get his stars involved through trespassing on their public property and shoving it into their letter-boxes. And yet everyone in the world went mental for it. Katheryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker triumphed over the gluttonous monster that was Avatar and, generally speaking, Helen Mirren looks well fit. “Applying a universal set of standards to judge the quality of any art is foolish” – not shooting yourself in the foot there, oh film critic? I give that argument a 3/10. There’s nothing wrong with lots of people who know a lot about films all agreeing that some films are better than others. That’s all The Oscars are.
I never said that Oscar winners aren’t good films, that’d be mental. But I never said that it was only blockbusters that won – blockbusters hardly ever win and I really don’t think that anyone genuinely expected Avatar to take the prize. But it’s telling that both The King’s Speech and The Hurt Locker were intense personal dramas, big on EMOTION and ACTING. And, of course, all the Oscar winners are similar. That’s fine, but it does kind of imply an element of snobbishness: that no film that’s made with any other intended effect is worthwhile. It’s why, with the one or two exceptions (I’m looking at you, Lord of the Rings), there are never any genre films that win. And creating that internal division between “fun” films and “serious” films is potentially very destructive. And yeah, as a film critic I try to adjust my judging criteria depending on the film: I wouldn’t criticise a RomCom for failing to create a tense atmosphere, and I wouldn’t criticise a gritty urban thriller for not having enough laughs. There are so many different ways a film can touch you, the implicit Oscar message of “Only films like this MATTER” is rather repulsive.
God forbid that the judging process should take into account the quality of the ACTING. I know what you’re saying: you’re saying that it’s not often that a big budget action flick, a slap-stick comedy or chilling little horror gets much recognition, but is that necessarily true? Look at last year alone: Black Swan, of Best Actress fame was a horror flick above anything else, Inception was the biggest of big-budgest bigguns, The Kids Are Alright was a comedy – albeit a talky talky one and True Grit was a bloomin Western for Eastwood’s sake. If your point is that films like Tron: Legacy (a film that I will argue the case for until I get sucked onto the Grid) don’t really get recognition because Tallking About How Difficult It Is To Do Technology isn’t particularly audience-friendly, fair enough. But that’s kind of like being angry that Monster Munch doesn’t come in Fois Gras flavour – you’re looking in the wrong place, darling.
But I want my luxury Monster Munch so badly! And I’ll tell you the real reason I hate the Oscars. You know what I do when I want to have a wank? I go somewhere nice and private, have my bit of fun and don’t bother anyone with it. But when Hollywood wants to have one massive wank session, they spend millions on it and everyone turns on their TV to watch the film industry suck itself off over four hours of self-important smugness. And I resent the fact that I am forced to examine the rancid jism it spews as a result of this self-love as if it made any goddamn difference. The film industry is brilliant, but it’s really not as fucking important as these self-involved assholes make it out to be. Also they got Hugh Jackman to do a silly little dance. WOLVERINE DOES NOT DANCE!
Technically, a lot more people lose than win at the Oscars – that’s just maths. So, if it helps, a lot more celebrities leave feeling disappointed than validated. Not Wolverine though. He’s incapable of feeling any emotion that isn’t either rage or lust. Or rust (both). Sure it’s self-congratulatory, sure it’s excessive and silly and it’s more about what people are wearing that what anyone says, but you know what? Don’t watch it. I think everyone would agree that it’s sort of lost its original objectives (created in 1929, it came into existence as a way to mediate labour disputes. Seriously. ) but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it for what it is. No-one really takes the Oscars seriously anymore, do they? The only actual thing that ever happens as a result of the Oscars is that pictures of celebrities on DVD covers have to be made a bit smaller so that the EXCITING GUSHING OSCAR WRITING can fit on. Is that a reason to do away with a joyful institution? An institution that MIGHT HAVE MUPPETS THIS YEAR (hello Houston? I think we’re in the presence of an ACE IN THE HOLE)
Wait, it might have the Muppets this year? FORGET EVERYTHING I JUST SAID THE OSCARS ARE AMAZING!
Thank God for that – I don’t think Gonzo heard you, so our invitation will still be en-route.
By Natasha Hodgson and Jonny Sims