Is anyone actually watching the Oscars tonight? If so, why?

Why don't I watch the Oscars? Because this.

Why don’t I watch the Oscars? Because this.

I know that the awards show is on, because I’ve seen signs of it on social media. Also I’ve been reading about the Oscars in various newspapers for the past week, and that’s always a warning sign.

I used to love the Oscars, but I haven’t followed them in more than 20 years. I think it was 1998 when they gave the best picture statuette to “Shakespeare in Love.” That was an amusing, fun little light entertainment. But to choose that over such a masterpiece as “Saving Private Ryan,” or such a jewel as “Life is Beautiful,” was obscene. (The other nominees were junk, so I don’t care about them.)

Everything that is wrong about the Academy Awards was brought out on that night, particularly Hollywood’s absorption with itself. Hey, a fun movie about actors! Bound to win, right? That Harvey Weinstein had something to do with this travesty, of course, makes it much worse.

I wrote a column about it at the time which I’ve not finding a link to. But here’s a blog post where I summarized my indignation. (I think I’ve moaned about it several times here, but that was the first such instance I found.)

Perhaps you feel differently. Perhaps you actually care who won what in this year that no one went to the movies. Perhaps you’d like to share your views. And maybe you can help restore some of the enthusiasm I once had for these events.

Probably not, but please give it a shot. I’d like to be able to enjoy this stuff again…

21 thoughts on “Is anyone actually watching the Oscars tonight? If so, why?

  1. Randle

    Another malcontent whining about the Oscars. Why do you think people watch the Oscars. Why do you read books about ship captains?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Because they’re good. Really, really good.

      I used to watch the Oscars because I love movies. But then I realized the Academy doesn’t have the love and respect for films that I do. The awards seem to bear little relationship to the quality of the work.

      So in light of that, I wonder why people still watch them. It’s a sincere question. I’d like to be talked out of my position…

  2. but

    The Academy Awards does get it wrong sometimes. Somehow Citizen Kane, Casablanca, It’s a Wonderful Life and Psycho were all passed over for best picture. Hitchcock never won best director. At the end of the day it’s important to recognize that people have different opinions based in no small part on there personal life experiences. Clearly Brad has his world view colored by how he lived during his formative years. That is true for everyone. Which goes a long way toward explaining why to me Private Ryan is just an expensive production of a Vic Morrow Combat episode. That’s not a denigration of the film but rather an observation that it’s a good movie but hardly a masterpiece. We should all learn to value the opinions of others without harsh condemnation. There are lines that should not be crossed of course. We should unambiguously condemn dangerous conspiracy theories like those pushed by Qanon or global warming deniers. But we should also be open to the possibility that conventional wisdom sometimes gets things wrong. But on matters of personal preference respect for other opinions is a useful social construct.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And so it should have. Not only the best of 1943, but the best of the ’40s, and possibly the best of all time.

        You know, I seem to recall reading once that the folks making the film had no idea they were making a classic at the time — they were just cranking out another movie. And I know I read that about “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Jimmy Stewart was making his first film since coming back from the war, and was suffering from PTSD (battle fatigue, in those days). He just showed up for work and did the job.

        And it was magnificent. I really think ONE of those two was the best ever…

        1. Norm Ivey

          Casablanca is the best movie I’ve ever seen, but that hardly qualifies it as the best ever–I don’t have the breadth of knowledge to make that judgement. And Wonderful Life deserves to be that that category of near-perfect movies as well, although there’s one scene that really bugs me.

          As Mary and George are walking home after the dance, they wish by throwing rocks at the abandoned Granville(?) place. Moments after Mary makes her wish, We find out George’s dad had a stroke. Later in the film Mary says she wished for George to stay in Bedford Falls forever. It’s a bit of a Monkey’s Paw, if you ask me…

          1. Barry

            Casablanca is my personal favorite and very good because of the subject matter and the memorable lines. Plus, I love Paul Henreid.

            Ranking near that for me is Kings Row – I think Reagan should have won a Best Supporting Oscar for this role. It’s fantastic.

            From an Classic movie filmmaking standpoint, I think The Best Years of Our Lives and Marty are my favorite- after Casablanca- from a filmmaking point of view.

            1. Barry

              By the way, this is fantastic filmmaking to me – this very scene.

              I can relate to it in a small way- but more importantly- I use to see it all the time- a man trying to please buddies instead of himself.

              This scene won the best actor award for Borgnine. Just the greatest scene.


              and by the way- TCM is the best channel available in my view. The Noir Alley show is terrific.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “We should all learn to value the opinions of others without harsh condemnation.”

      Hey, I have lived my life by that. But when something’s unquestionably wrong, I say so. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone make a serious attempt to defend the “Shakespeare in Love” win. It was finagled by Harvey Weinstein, and has been an embarrassment to the Academy ever since.

      Want to have a really good argument? Check out this piece I read the other day: “The Oscars always get it wrong. Here are the real best pictures of the past 45 years.

      Of course, the authors correctly said that “Shakespeare in Love” was not the best picture. But then they did something outrageous: They said “Elizabeth” WAS the best picture. That’s nuts. I can remember two major disappointments from going to the movies that year: “The Thin Red Line” and “Elizabeth.” As a history buff, and a fan of James Jones’ novel, I went to both with great expectations. Big letdown, both times….

  3. bud

    Here are some that I believe the Oscars got badly wrong:

    The Kings Speech over Inception
    Gladiator over Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    The Godfather over Deliverance
    My Fair Lady over Dr. Strangelove
    The English Patient over Fargo

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Hmmm. I disagree with you on the first three. For instance, “Inception” made for a great trailer, but the actual film was disappointing.

      I’m torn on 1964. “Dr. Strangelove” was definitely more to my own, personal taste, but I respect “My Fair Lady” as a classic of its type — a type that most people seem to love more than I do.

      I suspect I would agree with you on 1996. But I didn’t see “The English Patient” — didn’t really want to see it — so I can’t say for sure…

  4. Norm Ivey

    I’ll repeat what I said about the Grammys. There’s nothing more boring or tedious than watching celebrities telling themselves how wonderful they all are.

  5. Randle

    So you say about your books.. And yet, not everyone shares that opinion or cares about the subject matter. Just like the Oscars.
    Figure that the people who watch the Oscars love movies and want to see their favorite movies and actors recognized, even though the Oscars are not the same as critics’ awards or film festival awards, and they never have been. Oscar recognition can mean a lot for a particular movie or actor or studio, and make more movies possible from creators we like. Oscars have more clout than the New York Film Critics Circle awards, and give winners and nominees a shot in the arm.
    The Oscars often reflect the zeitgeist. The industry and the Academy are made up of all sorts of different people with different tastes and world views. And most don’t go to film school. So their often “middlebrow” choices tell me something about where society is and where it might be heading. What are they willing to recognize, and what’s a bridge too far? Seeing them begin to recognize different people, different perspectives tells me something. Those movies will influence the culture, in one way or another.
    And it’s just fun to to try to figure out all of the variables in play and guess which way the Academy will go. I’ve been playing along for decades. This is an industry, after all, and money and politics are factors. Smart campaigns can make a difference. So can previous choices and general voting habits. Or momentum. Most of the time, I can suss out what the trends are, and win my contests. But no matter what, when I let what I think should win cloud my judgment about what will win, I lose. That’s why critics’ predictions often miss the mark. And the same sort of variables, independent of quality, go into much more significant choices people make than Best Picture. I’m thinking of many of our presidents and other elected officials, who don’t represent the best and the brightest among us, anymore than “Shakespeare in Love” was the best picture of any year.
    As for Hollywood’s self-absorption — what else is new? Artists are generally self-absorbed. Then, so are many politicians, academics and the media, to name a few self-regarding entities.
    Since forever, people have been complaining about the Oscars because they aren’t what they have never pretended to be. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they goof. There’s always next year.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, I’m not a sports fan, but I prefer filling out an NCAA bracket to trying to predict the Oscars. Sure, I get it wrong because I don’t follow basketball (and there are too many variables), but at least the winner has to go out there and beat the other teams. No, I don’t think a single game should decide things (it should be more like the World Series, best out of seven), but at least it’s an objective measure.

      As for some actors being, ahem, “middlebrow” — when I was young, I used to think great actors (or directors, or even gaffers) had to be brilliant to produce what I saw on screen.

      Then, for a time, I took up community theater, and acted in a few plays. I met actors for the first time — amateurs, but still actors. I was pretty disappointed. There was this one guy who was amazingly talented — not so much as actor, but as a musician. Although he did some acting, but his specialty was directing musicals. At that, I thought he was pretty much a genius.

      Then, the first time I was in a play with him and we started doing read-throughs, I was stunned by how small his vocabulary was. He stumbled over word after semi-simple word. It didn’t see possible. I though maybe he had a reading disability, but when we told him what the words were, he didn’t know what they meant, either.

      Since then (we’re talking more than 35 years ago), I’ve run across this with so many people who were really good at non-verbal skills that I’ve come to accept it as normal. And yes, I understand that there are different kinds of intelligence, and that my own facility with words was blinding me to the fact that there are a lot of bright people out there who can barely write their names.

      I understand that now. But it surprised me at first.

      Anyway, thanks for the good answer, Randle.

      And by the way, I know not everyone appreciates “my” books. In fact, I only personally know two people who I think fully do. One is Mike Fitts, who turned me on to O’Brian’s work to start with, and the other is our own Bryan Caskey.

      And I’m not sure either of them is as crazy about them as I am. The lubbers… 🙂

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Actually, this is another Rabbit Hole thing…

        As I say, I know ridiculous numbers of people, but only two who are serious Aubrey/Maturin fans.

        And yet… if I go on the Web, I find large communities of people who are SUPER into the books. Which can fool you into thinking that the world is full of people who confirm my own mania.

        Which is kind of how technology makes it possible for Qanon to work. People (particularly, I would think, those who are extraverted in the Jungian sense) feed off that resonance, and get really pumped at such apparently widespread affirmation that their delusions are normal.

        At least I understand that in my case it’s not real, and that I’m nowhere near what most people would call “normal”…

  6. Bill

    The Oscars are great trying to turn BS into art with more crass BS but movies will always suck
    ..the daytime Emmy Awards are the real thing..

  7. Barry

    I did not watch the OSCARS.

    I wanted an episode of Columbo – as I usually do – from 8pm – 10pm on Sunday night.

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