(Repost, lengthier[?] version from The DBK)
The Oscars aren’t relevant anymore. To prove this point, allow me to crudely (and offensively) split moviegoers into three broad categories.
The first category are the people who go to the movies entirely for escapism. To them, movies are a lot like popcorn; agreeably tasty while being consumed, utterly devoid of nutritional content and completely forgotten after you’ve finished.
They comprise the majority of American moviegoers and they mostly watch big blockbusters, animated films, rom-coms, etc. Nothing wrong with that. Let’s call them the Rockers.
The second group of people are the hardcore cinephiles. They’re type of people who sneer at films with budgets more over $30 million, whose list of favorite movies contain only a handful of American movies. They like movies a lot, and they watch a lot of movies. Call them the Mods.
And then there’s the third and last group of film watchers: folks who have more discerning taste for films than the Rockers but aren’t quite as esoteric as the Mods. These people like to watch movies that make them think and make them feel. They’re not quite ready to fully dive into the kooky world of subtitles, but they’re on the verge. They shall be dubbed the Proletarians.
The movies enjoyed by the Oscars rarely line up with the movies favored by the Rockers. How many blockbusters have been nominated for Best Picture in the past decade? You’ve got Avatar, Lord of the Rings and Inception. Maybe Gladiator? That’s five out of 74 nominees.
So, the Oscars don’t really have anything to do with mainstream entertainment. The Los Angeles Times recently found that median age of the Academy was 62 and that only 14% of the voting body was under the age of 50. Your doddering old grandfather isn’t going to have the same taste in films as you, especially if you’re a Rocker.
But even if the Rockers’ favorite film of the year gets nominated, everyone will have already seen it by then. The Oscars have never been relevant to the Rockers, except as, perhaps, an interesting bit of trivia about their favorite movies.
The Oscars might be just slightly less relevant to the Mods. Partially because the Mods have already seen all the films nominated for Best Picture, and partially because a large portion of the Mods are smartasstic cynics.
If you watch enough films to call yourself a Mod, chances are your taste in film is more refined and diverse than the modern Academy’s. I love War Horse, and I adore The Tree of Life, but the rest of this year’s nominees aren’t within spitting distance of my personal top ten list.
When you’re a Mod, your favorite movies aren’t likely to be recognized by the Academy. Your favorite movies are likely to be idiosyncratic in a way that polarizes audiences. You might admire Antichrist for its brazen, genital-mutilating artistic bravery or respect the restraint and pacing of Mysteries of Lisbon.
So, for the Mods, the Oscars exist solely as a thing to bitch about. “The Artist is the frontrunner for Best Picture? Man, those geriatric Academy members are so out of touch. Fuck ’em.”
That leaves us with the Proletarians. They’re the people with tastes that most closely align with the Academy; they like movies that have depth, are accomplished but not intimidating or abstruse enough to be off-putting. They loved The King’s Speech, and will probably eat The Artist up.
They are the reason why the Oscars were relevant, and the reason why the Oscars are no longer relevant.
Before the internet and before Rotten Tomatoes, the Oscars were a good tool for the Proletarians to hear about new, intriguing movies, and to provide a basis for discussing movies.
Now, with the proliferation of armchair film critics and Facebook, there’s no real reason to use the Oscars as advice. The awards might still somewhat reflect your taste in movies, and you might still watch the awards ceremony, but they’re pointless now. If you’re a Proletarian, the Oscars are just a bit of movie trivia, and some form of validation for the more pretentious among them.
I’m not going to say that the Oscars should be abolished, or even drastically revised. The point of the Academy Awards isn’t relevancy – they’re just a reflection and celebration of what its members (veteran filmmakers slash some people with really good connections) liked and loved.
Long ago, in the past, when movies like The Godfather were winning Oscars, the Academy Awards had some connection to a good chunk of society. Now, they’re just the reflection of a specific, if vocal, group within society, largely useless to and detached from the rest of us.