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Beware, Oscar fantatics: We worship a false god, you know

November 24, 2007 | 11:16 am

Before we get too carried away with Oscarmania this season, let's take a sensible second to remind ourselves of something very important: all of those sparkling statuettes Schindler1_2 are merely plated in gold. Worse, they're bestowed for something that doesn't exist.

Here's the single most fascinating piece of awards trivia that I know. Only once in modern history — that is, since the explosion in the number of showbiz awards that occurred by the 1970s — have all of the top Hollywood awards agreed on a choice for best picture. In 1993, "Schindler's List" won best-picture prizes at the Oscars, Golden Globes, National Board of Review, Producers Guild of America and the film critics' trifecta: L.A., N.Y. and National Society of Film Critics. It also claimed the top prizes from the directors' and writers' guilds.

However, that same year the People's Choice Award went to a different Steven Spielberg movie: "Jurassic Park." While it might be tempting to pooh-pooh that win — after all, come on, it's just the People's Choice Award — we can't. Back in those days, that award was determined by the Gallup Poll, which measures public opinion quite accurately. Today the award has little significance since it no longer applies scientific measures — winners are picked on line.

How ironic: In the end, when Hollywood finally made up its collective mind and decreed — "Yes, a best picture of the year does exist and we have found it!" — the rest of America piped in to say "No! No! No! Not that one! We say the best picture is the one with the dinosaurs running amok."

Schindler


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Comments

Given what is said about the sexual orientation of much of Hollywood, might be said that they voted for their pocketbooks rather than for supporting the so-called gay agenda.

Another interesting article Tom!
I also agree with Pointdematch. I think that BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN with its unprecedented number of Best Picture Awards, and despite (or maybe “because of”) its farcical loss to Crash, proved that there is indeed such a thing as BEST PICTURE. When you look at the list of minor movies that won Best Picture in recent years and consider some of the great movies that were snubbed, perhaps it's not such a bad sign that Brokeback didn't appeal to Hollywood voters. In the end, does it really matter that it didn't win the Oscar? It lost the Oscar but deservedly won so many others. OK, the Oscars are the most publicized awards but, as was mentioned by Pointdematch, when you look at the big picture (no pun intended), do they have any credibility left? I think that what is most important is to look at “Why?” Brokeback didn’t win the big Hollywood BP Oscar to top off its historic sweep through the award season, then one realizes that that little statuette (as you cleverly mention in your article Tom) is truly shallow and false. The Academy proved it that time more than ever before and I believe that a grotesque snub of this magnitude will probably never happen again.

Brokeback Mountain got more nominations than any other films that year, it won a record number of Best Picture Awards, but the Academy just wouldn't go as far as to bestow its top prize to a gay love story - that was simply too much to ask and expect. The gay presence (with Capote and its lead-actor as well as Felicity Hoffman of Transamerica being nominated) was already pretty strong that year and it probably didn't help Brokeback’s chances. Let's not forget that Hollywood means “Big Business” and it must preserve its “image” before the rest of the world and the average American Joe. I suspect that many in Hollywood feared that the Oscars were becoming "too gay". For Academy voters, naming BBM Best Picture didn’t “serve” them and they realized that it could probably actually hurt them, so they didn’t choose Brokeback Mountain which, even without the Academy’s top honour, still remains THE movie event and Best Picture of 2005 (it eventually garnered over 30 "Best Picture" awards around the world!).

The release of Brokeback Mountain in mainstream American culture was controversial from the outset and the fact that BBM became so successful and reaped an unprecedented number of awards just fuelled the controversy. This film is a timeless masterpiece. It stands as a landmark in film history and became a true cultural phenomenon worldwide. It’s too bad, but not really surprising, that the Hollywood Academy blundered on that one.

Oh yes, the conclusion to this is that in Hollywood, it’s fine to honour films with violence and crime, but it’s not OK to honour a love story between two cowboys (sacrilege!). At least the “good old American values” are preserved. Thank God!

While the claim that the People's Choice Awards are a better arbiter of "Best Picture" than the Oscars is pretty absurd (well maybe not completely absurd given the track record of the Oscars). I actually might agree with you in this particular instance.

I have always felt that Jurassic Park was actually the "better" film of the two Spielberg releases of 1993. Schindler's List is good, but its subject matter does a lot of the heavy lifting for it. Jurassic Park is a extraordinarily well-made genre film that stands among Spielberg's greatest films (in my opinion it is only second to Close Encounters in his body of work). Watch it again today and see how well it holds up 15 years later.

While I am no sci-fi geek (my favorite films are McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Red Desert, Days of Heaven, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, The Red Shoes, and 2001), I do think that just because the film is designed to entertain and with escapism in mind, does not mean that it is any less "good" than a film about an "important" topic. Jurassic Park succeeds at what it sets out to do and then some and uses the medium of film in the best way possible. I dare you to come up with a blockbuster film released since Jurassic Park that was as good. The only film I can think of that comes close is Starship Troopers and that only succeeds because it was a vicious satire of the Hollywood blockbuster, not a genuine, honest attempt at blockbuster filmmaking.

Like FYC said: Schindler's List was the "best" picture of 1993, All the critics awards agree on that.
Jurassic Park won the People's Choice because it was the "favorite" film.

It's not the same thing. In fact, SL and JP are my picks for best and favorite film of all time, respectively.

Schindler's List proves that there IS such a thing as best picture.

There's a difference between "best" and "favorite".

Duh, Tom.

Like all great things in life, award shows are about being intensely shallow.

It seems like the Oscars, more than any other film awards, serve special interests. They are “industry” awards and, by definition, serve the industry. They have lost relevance and credibility. The Brokeback Mountain loss of the Best Picture Oscar, after sweeping through virtually all the precursor awards, will live in history as the most incomprehensible and disturbing conclusion ever to the Academy Awards Gala. I still think that BBM’s loss to Crash was absolutely ridiculous! I don’t think a similar scenario will ever happen again. Any other film with such an astounding number of Best Picture awards prior to the Academy Awards would have won the top Oscar hands down, that is certain. There was therefore something in Brokeback Mountain that obviously did not totally suit the Academy and that deeply bothered some old grey haired voters (i.e. the gay love affair between the two main protagonists). They needed a quick alternative and, just like most of the characters in the eventual winning film, they found “redemption” …in Crash, which ironically, ultimately benefited from prevailing intolerance in Hollywood.

It makes me wonder if the people who made and promoted Crash actually believe that their desperately-fetched-through-a-never-seen-before-PR-campaign Oscar has any genuine value. The Academy, by not voting for Brokeback for Best Picture, turned itself into a total farce. As a big tennis fan, I’ll draw a parallel with tennis: Roger Federer, the world’s No 1 male tennis player for the last 4 years, was a finalist in the four Grand Slam events this year, winning three of them as well as winning the final year-end championships (a very exceptional record). At the end of the year, one player is named “Player of the Year”. Of course, that award belongs to no one else but Federer. If this were the Academy Awards, because of special interests, that award could very well go to the “local boy” Andy Roddick (the top US player who holds the No 6 ranking). As good and handsome as Roddick can be, he is no match for Federer and nobody would consider his award as genuinely deserved. Federer would still be considered “THE” Player of the Year is most people’s eyes, no matter what.

When Crash (a film about LA and shot in LA, therefore the “local” favourite) won, that’s how it felt. Movie fans and observers felt cheated. The Academy Awards completely lost the little credibility they had left. As good as Crash was (though that is very debatable since it was the worst reviewed film of all five nominees and did not make the top-20 list of 2005), it was no match for Brokeback Mountain. Personal preferences aside, Brokeback Mountain, with its general critical acclaim and unprecedented 26 Best Picture Awards, was indisputably “THE” film of the year, and arguably of the last decade. And yet, because it suited them at that time, Academy voters gave the Oscar for Best Picture to Crash (?!?!). Who was the Academy trying to fool? Very few people were duped.


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