Saturday, February 21, 2015
With the 87th annual Academy Awards ceremony airing tomorrow night, the media is abuzz with predictions of who will win in each category. I have predictions of my own, based not on quality but on the Academy's reliable unreliability. But rather than add my two cents' worth to the pot, I'd rather repeat something Stanley Kauffmann wrote a decade ago. [the italics are mine]
I watch the Oscars every year, and every year, regular as a sort of intellectual clockwork, knowledgeable critics are ready to scorn: to disclose the industrial ogre beneath the artistic hoopla, to rip open the pretensions, to excoriate the lengthy and unexciting familial tributes and embraces. Each year I wonder what these critics expected. A coronation by the Muses on the slopes of Olympus, perhaps?
The super-lavish hall where the Oscars now take place, the unsurpassable grossness of the settings and the stage machinery - well, of course. Who would want anything Doric? The Oscars are out to supply once a year what ornate movie palaces of the past used to give viewers every week. The prizewinners are not worth discussing as artistic decisions: they are what an industry wants for its industrial well-being. Some people are still roiled by the injustice and neglect trumpeted by most of those prizes, but can they have thought that the film world would spend copious time and money to blazon worthy films, independent or not, that may have disappeared months ago?
I'm not suggesting the easing of critical rigor about the Oscars: I'm proposing a sense of the ridiculous. Our own taste and minds ought not to occlude what this bejeweled trade show is for. To judge it by the best standards at our command would be to debase those standards. For the most part, the Oscar broadcast is a glitzy attempt to attract and please the largest segment of the film audience.
-"Different Weights," The New Republic, March 21, 2005.