And The Award For Biggest Grump About The Oscars Goes To…

January 24, 2012


The Oscar Nominations came out today, and you know what that means!  That’s right!  It’s time for my annual rant to my film students about the meaningless crassness of the Oscar awards!  Hurray!  And this year, you can share in the crabbiness!

"Oh, this is so unexpected! I can't tell you what means to my Q Rating, and the amount I'll be able to - sniff - command in salary for my next few films..."

I know, they seem fun and harmless, but the thing to understand about the Oscars is this: they were created during a period when the US dominated the film market, but more and more countries were developing better and better cinema.  Out of fear of losing control of the industry, the studios decided to create an awards program to promote American films.  Presto: The Oscars. The big tip-off, of course, being the inclusion of a “Best Foreign Film” category, since re-named the “Best Foreign-Language Film” category.  There’s the best in every category!  And then one for all those other, weird, explosion-deficient countries where people’s teeth aren’t as eerily white as ours.

Obviously, Hollywood loves to give itself awards – in fact, there are more awards ceremonies in Hollywood for Hollywood each year than there are days in the year – and sometimes joke, Hollywood roasts like the The Golden Globes that were never intended to be real awards have cameramen show up because celebrities! And so everyone sobers up and pretends they’re real awards, but the Oscars, like buildings and whores (as John Huston says in Chinatown) got respectable with age.

*Side note: that entire paragraph is one sentence.  Feel the power of my grammatical disdain!

Even I can't believe this got called the Best Picture of the Year!

Really though, it’s still a promotional game.  Never minding that studios will regularly spend more to promote a movie for Oscars than they spend on the production of the movie itself, there’s a very specific formula to making movies to get nominated for the Academy Award. Obviously, there are frequent surprises (Hugo, this year, was really good and I loved, loved, loved Midnight in Paris), and often the films nominated in the Best Screenplay category are among the very best mainstream American films of the year.  Also, I’ll admit, every so often I’ll still watch the awards for a little while, often as an excuse to sit there and scoff, and harumph and  Ooh! Peter Dinklage, I like him! and Pshaw with derision.

My favorite year was 2001, when they announced Gladiator as Best Picture.  Just as they announced it (and don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly fun, Saturday afternoon sword-and-sandals action movie), I said, “What?!” and right then the TV blew out.  I don’t know if I did it with the power of my mind or if the TV died in outrage, but it would have been a perfectly poetic moment if I hadn’t then had to buy a new TV.

I feel like there’s no more crass example of award grubbing than this year’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.  Admittedly, I’m biased against the film because I like the book so much, but the film has been tailor-made to win Oscars in every way except genuine excellence, from the production team to the ad campaign.  The story of someone with a mild, kind of charming, disability he must overcome amidst family upset, set against a backdrop of cataclysmic world events… or am I thinking of The King’s Speech?… the film is supposed to be awful, but it has everything it needs to be Oscar Bait, including the all-important “Aging actor whose work hasn’t received proper recognition” to snag that Best Supporting trophy.

Anyway… not to be a killjoy about the whole thing. I’m sure there will be some wonderfully scandalous outfits worn to the show… And Hugo really is good…  I’ll go watch “A Trip To The Moon” and listen to my Victrola now.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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42 Comments on “And The Award For Biggest Grump About The Oscars Goes To…”

  1. becomingcliche Says:

    I haven’t seen the list of nominees this year. My reaction will probably be the same as every year. “Seriously? Good grief. Ohh, that one was good. I hope it wins. UGH! Brad Pitt? Kill me now.”


    • Walter Says:

      Yeah and how is that everyone thinks Brad’s wife can act? Have you ever tried to get through one of her movies? I feel ashamed afterwards.


      • PCGuyIV Says:

        Actually, I have watched quite a few of her movies. While I would generally agree that anything “serious” she’s done is even close to palatable, in most of the action films I’ve seen her in, she was fairly decent. The movies certainly didn’t suffer because of her presence, at any rate.


      • The Byronic Man Says:

        That’s why she’s adopting so many kids. Build your own fan-base.


  2. Walter Says:

    I’m with you el presidente! I dread this time of year for the exact same reasons. Although I must admit that I do not go to the movies unless it is with someone under the age of 11. I can get with a kids movie. The rest is dross…or I watch it on dvd. But just you wait Lord Byron, I have to WORK at one of those Oscar parties and let me tell you it is disturbing. I wear Deet. The undernourished, overly tanned, tanked and desperate! And that is just one with a golden statue in hand…


  3. natasiarose Says:

    I can’t watch the Oscars, it’s a bunch of famous, rich people giving themselves awards. I’m even bored with the fashion. Everyone looks the same after awhile.


  4. booksnob Says:

    It really grinds my gears when films that have not even been released yet get nominated.


  5. PCGuyIV Says:

    I typically enjoy watching the Oscars simply for the whole farce of the affair. Of course, that’s why I like watching most awards shows.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Every few years there’s a moment like Marlon Brando sending an American-Indian women up to accept his Oscar, so she could give a speech decrying the treatment of Indians in the US… but you can’t really tune in hoping for that.


  6. madtante Says:

    One does wonder (I could look it up but again, I don’t actually care) what the other nominees were against Gladiator. I’d actually liked that actor til that film. Seem to recall being annoyed.

    I prefer the TV series “Rome,” if we’re going for swords and sandals. That was an epic (I don’t mean how the kids use that word) buddy story.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      The other nominees that year were Chocolat (perhaps slightly better); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Waaaaaaay better); Traffic (way, way, way, way better); and Erin Brockovich (a lot better).

      Speaking of sword & sandals series, have you watched Game of Thrones? Highly recommended.


      • madtante Says:

        LOVE GoT!

        I liked all of those films better than G, too. I bought Chocolat on DVD but I used to work in France and I love the “fairy tale” aspect. Thanks for telling me what they were, too!


  7. gojulesgo Says:

    I wasn’t sold on Hugo, and it’s one of the only nominees (for Best Picture) that I actually saw. My poor Leo, snubbed again in every way. (Although I think he’s done better than J. Edgar.)

    I’m with you on the award shows in general, but I do like when they have -get this- funny musical numbers (I know! Can you believe I like that?!) and of course I probably watch the outfits/styles like you watch the actual awards, LOL (With derision.)

    Despite the fake-itude, I’m really rooting for Michelle Williams and Melissa McCarthy.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Really? You didn’t like Hugo? Huh. I don’t know what to say to that. I loved how it seemed to be going somewhere pretty predicable and fine, then just cascaded into something so much more.

      And I do like Michelle Williams, even though I heard an interview with her that was a little heavy on the “I am an ARTIST” stuff.


      • gojulesgo Says:

        Would it make you feel better (after my Hugo comment) if I told you that when I was 17 and saw Michelle Williams naked in an off-Broadway play, she invited me and Babs out to dinner after?

        Oh wait, I think that just made me feel better.

        Matthew Fox should punch me in the face.


        • The Byronic Man Says:

          So, that’s the second thing I’ve misread of yours today (I’m reeeally tired). I thought it said you saw Michelle Williams naked in a play when SHE was 17, and I thought, “Mmmm, I don’t think that’s legal…”

          Did you get her number? And does she like charmingly handsome humor bloggers? That would make me feel better.


  8. BrainRants Says:

    Hollywood baffles me. I ignore it.


  9. MJ, Nonstepmom Says:

    I fully acknowlege acting, directing is a talent and something I cannot do. But it made me scream this morning to listen to brad Pitt talk about being a “craftman” in reagards to a movie titled “Moneyball”.
    GIVE ME A BREAK. The Oscars need to be pre-empted for the “best teacher in a poor school district award” or “doctor who survived the longest while working in the Amazon”. Oops, Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox, this is your blog……


  10. Kansas Keeton Says:


    I haven’t seen about half of the movies that were nominated this year, though I did see Moneyball, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, and Tree of Life. I have to say I’ve never agreed with the addition of five movies to the best picture category, because I feel that most of them are fillers as they have all the components of a “good” movie, but no character or originality. Additionally, the Oscars are almost solely for Hollywood films, usually blockbusters; the only sort of “indie” films recognized are those of animation or foreign nature. If they actually picked GOOD films, a 10 picture category would be exhilarating.

    I think Moneyball is a perfect example of this primary category. It’s the stereotypical inspirational sports film, falling in line with plots like Remember the Titans or The Blind Side. I feel like Brad Pitt has cemented into his inevitable typecast, a fate that has befallen many great, once versatile actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, or Johnny Depp. He is the embodiment of an unyielding badass, giving so little of a shit that he’s eating all the time in your face (seriously, what’s up with that?)

    I thought Hugo was positively excellent, but I don’t need to go into details why. You know why. We see eye to eye.

    I thought the first half of Tree of Life was wonderful, but the second half bored me to tears. A friend of mine convinced me that it’s actually a good movie, claiming it is the ultimate dichotomy of nature and grace, and although that is a beautiful analysis, it just couldn’t keep my attention.

    Midnight in Paris was clever, witty, and imaginative, but some things about it didn’t quite sit right with me. I just recently watched Annie Hall for the first time, and the brilliance of that film overshadows anything Midnight and Paris had to say. I was also pretty disappointed with it’s ultimate moral of “the key to happiness is jumping from woman to woman and not ultimately discovering myself in France like this movie was supposed to be about.”

    Did you see Melancholia or Shame? Those were two movies this year that I found to be utterly fantastic. If you haven’t seen them, you should do so.

    Anyway, I wrote a little disclaimer above, so I’m exempt from apologizing for the length of this response, aaaaaaand yeah, fuck the Oscars.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I forgot to mention Midnight in Paris, so I went back and added it in. I really like it. Not of Annie Hall caliber, but deeply enjoyable – especially as someone who might, maybe periodically wish he could hang with the ex-pats in 1920’s Paris.


  11. Tori Nelson Says:

    I was going to offer up some really well-informed comment about the movie industry, but facts are facts. I have a toddler so the only movies I’ve watched in the last two years are animated tales about ogres and singing gnomes. I still think Finding Nemo deserved some Oscar buzz 🙂


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      A friend of mine has a daughter who’s into princesses, so he told her that Star Wars was the story of a princess. Now she’s a hard core Star Wars fan. You could try something like that with your favorite films.


      • AnonymousVisitor Says:

        Sad news, my friend. That ship has sailed. After about a year or so she reversed course and decided she hates Star Wars now. She won’t even use her awesome Star Wars lunchbox anymore. Unfortunately, she still likes the awful Disney princesses. There’s still hope for the younger one, though, so I’ll focus all my attention on her from now on.


  12. thesinglecell Says:

    I absolutely adored “Midnight In Paris” in spite of what I thought was a one-dimensional character for Rachel McAdams to play. She wasn’t the point anyway, so whatever. I’m hedging on “Extremely Loud” because it just feels like emotional manipulation and I’m not sure I need more of that in my life. Does Meryl cry in “The Iron Lady?” She only wins if she cries. I want to see that film, though, as well as “The Artist.” But the thing about the Oscars is, these people campaign for the award. It’s a political event. I like what I like, and while I do enjoy watching the show, I don’t need it to tell me what movies to see.


  13. Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

    Obviously, Hollywood loves to give itself awards – in fact, there are more awards ceremonies in Hollywood for Hollywood each year than there are days in the year

    For someone who lives in Los Angeles, it took me awfully long to grok this: “Wait, WTF? Why are their “accomplishments” so much more worthy than anyone else’s? Ooooh, right. They’re not. They’re just in show biz. They have to make it showy.”

    I’ve worked so long in IT, I’ve become accustomed to brilliant people hiding away in the shadows because it’s more comfortable to them. 😉


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I always think it’s funny how there’s the “non-beautiful people” Oscars – that aren’t televised – for the technical end of filmmaking, which is more and more, most of filmmaking.


  14. Rocket Says:

    I am probably admitting to something lame here, but I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and I cannot wait to see Hugo. *Squeeel*

    (prepare for some awesome irrelevance)

    And if I ever pursue my hobby of acting seriously (outside of college productions I mean) and make it big, my dream is to blurt out something about rainbow burritos, take my award and walk out. The End.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      This is not something I would ordinarily ever say, but see Hugo in 3D if you can. It’s the first film I’ve seen to really employ the 3D artistically – it both enhances the narrative, literally and symbolically, and uses a “newness” for filmmaking to illustrate the sensation of when movies were new.


  15. Jackie Cangro Says:

    But I still want to know: Who are you wearing?


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