The Oscars - an alternative perspective

There are a couple of film critics in particular who constantly provide me with challenging, interesting critiques of films on release... and who happen to be Christians. One is, of course, Mark Kermode of BBC Radio 5 Live's Film Review show (a Methodist), who presides the show in tandem with straight man-foil and award-winning DJ in his own right, Simon Mayo. The other is Jeffrey Overstreet, American film critic, journalist and author (both of film-related books and fantasy novels). 

The latter recently posted on his website an article of Oscar Predictions, but not in the sense of actually predicting the winning films. He presents in a very clear-minded fashion the extent to which the Oscars can be and are influenced by non-artistic factors. He began as follows:

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Based on my experience of watching and reading about the Academy Awards in past years, here are my Oscar predictions… BEST PICTURE

Of the nine nominees, the Academy will give the Best Picture award to the movie  that, at one particular (but fleeting) moment, wins the most approval based on a mix of these factors:

• how much money the studio spent marketing the film;
• political trendiness;
• the popularity of the values it obviously endorses;
• audience accessibility;
• celebrity popularity;
• and absence of involvement by anyone currently inspiring Hollywood’s scowl of disapproval.

Some consideration may also be given to the actual artistry on display in the film. But all of the aspects listed above pollute the Academy’s ability to discern a film’s artistry. Thus, artistry is unlikely to be a major influence on the voting.

If voting had occurred a few weeks earlier or later, the mix of influencing factors would have been different, and a different film probably would have taken the award.

Thus, the award will be relatively meaningless in the long run, except that it will earn a great deal of money for the studio involved with the film.

In less than a year, most of the Oscar audience will have to pause and think hard to remember which film ended up winning, even though as they watch the Oscar-cast it will seem like a very, very important ceremony.

Those are my predictions.

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… and so on, through the different categories. But it was his conclusion that actually struck me the most. Even though on this side of the "pond" the gushing tributes and tears can sometimes seem overwrought (Gwyneth Paltrow, anyone?), I think he makes a very valid point. See below.

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SO, WHY WATCH THE OSCARS?

You could find better ways to spend the evening.

Me, I enjoy watching them sometimes, so long as the films being honored aren’t horrible. Why?
Because it is a rare pleasure to see so much prime-time television devoted to speeches full of gratitude. It often moves me to hear celebrities and unknowns alike getting up to name those in their lives who have contributed to their work. Because any film, any performance, any screenplay is a collaborative work.

Thus, I’m grateful when anybody who stands up to accept and award remembers to express these things… remembers to express humility, to remind us just how fleeting and inconsequential Hollywood’s favor really is, and to show us how it is nevertheless a beautiful thing to support and encourage and bring out the best in one another.
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