The Oscars do/don’t matter

All too willingly I got sucked into the Oscars vortex last night. I can’t count how many years I’ve sworn I’d never watch the show again, how many tirades I’ve spewed about how worthless the award is in the grand scheme and how moronic are the voters to grant statues to the films they often do. Yet this year, because several films and people I really admire (including a few I’ve met) stood a good chance of winning, I wanted to watch.

…despite the fact that the very mention of the show’s hosts prompted more yawning in me than anything else, despite the fact that the telecast always drags on interminably, and despite the fact that the nominees I’m most ardently rooting for almost without fail lose every single year.

And, for the most part, it all happened again—surprise, surprise. Optimistically, I was happy to see Christian Bale win an Oscar, because he’s a great actor. I enjoyed seeing Randy Newman win, even if his nominated song was a bit of a dud compared to his past Toy Story songs; his speech was the evening’s most sardonic and entertaining. Toy Story 3 absolutely deserved its best animated film win, and I was overjoyed to see the boyish Lee Unkrich accepting his trophy. And of course it was great to see The King’s Speech take home so many awards, simply because it was the classiest, best acted film I saw last year.

But the three best original scores lost to one of the two weak nominations (as usual), and I didn’t even get the pleasure of seeing the deserving nominees’ faces in the audience. I live for film music, so to see (what I consider) inferior scores winning year after year taints most of the satisfaction I get from the outcome in other categories.

Year after year I tell myself that it doesn’t matter whether my favorite score wins. The Academy only gets it right about half of the time (if that), and a look back at cinematic history shows that the list of the art’s most talented practitioners rarely correlates to the list of Oscar winners. Steven Spielberg said it right last night when he noted how many iconic films aren’t on the latter list. It simply doesn’t matter!

But last night reminded me that, despite my huffing, it does matter. It matters very much to the artists—from the most anonymous technical craftsmen to the most celebrated celebrities, winning an Oscar is a huge deal. It might not alter the course of a winner or loser’s career, and popular status (or even cult status) often pay no heed to the Academy’s decisions. But winning the Oscar is the pinnacle of recognition for most Hollywood folk, and for that reason, the Oscars matter.

So reluctantly, painfully, I continue to hope that the true best scores will win, year after year. I hope to see John Powell and Alexandre Desplat win their first Oscar, and Hans Zimmer his second, and John Williams his sixth. Because it matters to them, on some level, and so it matters to me. I love to see great film music given its due. And like it or not, in “this town” (meaning Tinseltown), the golden bald man is the biggest pat on the back you can get.