I worked with Dan Wood of The Christian Science Monitor on this Oscars this year; you can read his article here. For me, the only surprises were The Act of Killing not winning Best Documentary, and The Hunt not winning Best Foreign Film. I was also mildly surprised that Spike Jonze won for Best Original Screenplay for Her, but the rest were all predicted in my previous blog posts. It was business as usual, with the accent on business. A more artificial spectacle could hardly be imagined.
Gravity, one of the emptiest films of all time, swept most of the categories, including Best Director; Twelve Years A Slave won Best Film, because it obviously was the best film nominated, and the Academy could hardly ignore it. The show itself was overlong, as usual, with interminable musical numbers, tributes to cinema’s Hollywood past, but as I’ve noted before, and stressed in my interview with the Monitor, the Oscars are not an index of quality, but rather an industry event that advertises and reaffirms Hollywood as the center of the cinematic firmament, even as it marginalizes all of the rest of the world’s film output.
It isn’t voted on by critics, or even audience members; you have to be a member of the Academy to vote, and this year they turned out in record numbers, thanks to an aggressive e-mail campaign. So it’s really a popularity contest, or, as the actress Janet Gaynor once observed, a “nice pat on the back.” Anyway, it’s over now, and hopefully winter with it, and so we can wait until next year when the whole mad carnival whips up again, with more competition, more self-advertising, and more “bests” culled from a narrow field that is comprised, for the most part, of mainstream commercial films alone.