Are the Oscars out of touch?

Just having finished watching the Golden Globes, it put me in mind of the debate that raged in 2012 when The Artist won Best Picture, and a lot of people said “WTF?!?”

It seems that the Golden Globes are much more in touch with what mainstream filmgoers like than the Oscars - an Oscar win doesn’t seem to have the same cachet for a picture than it did years ago. The MPAA seems to have lost touch and credibility with mainstream audiences - I believe Titanic was the last Best Picture winner that also was a “blockbuster” release.


A movie that represents the best of the filmmaking art isn’t always going to have public popularity. In fact, a lot of people argue the opposite point from what you’ve made and feel the Academy Awards are too mainstream.

And a nitpick: The MPAA is the Motion Picture Association of America. They’re the people that assign movie ratings. They do not give out awards. The Oscars are given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Blockbusters don’t need awards. To quote Mad Men - that’s what the money is for.

Return of the King

I guess you forgot “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

Of the 15 winners since Titanic, 11 made more than $100 million domestic (ROTK took in $377 million domestic.) “The Hurt Locker” ($17M) and “The Artist” ($44M) are the outliers, not the standard.

A box office hit was never relevant for an Oscar win/nomination. People knew that decades ago.

If people were saying WTF?!? when The Artist won Best Picture they must have at least been saying wtf? when it won the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy.

Yeah, as others have said the Oscars aren’t supposed to be a popularity contest, they’re supposed to be about what was best in moviemaking in the past year. Sometimes those two things align; sometimes not. So no, I don’t think they’re out of touch.

Of course, there’s always an element of popularity to the Oscars, and while they’re the biggest and probably most prestigious award in town I don’t think hardcore cinephiles always agree with their picks. But personally I think they do a decent job of balancing the good and the popular.

Finally, I don’t know why people pick on “The Artist” so much. Yes, it was a silent movie, but that aside it wasn’t super experimental or avante garde or anything - it was really a pretty straightforward, light, funny story. I’m looking at the other nominees from that year, and “The Tree of Life” was a thousand times more experimental.

As a kid, I swore never to forgive the Oscars for letting “Gandhi” beat “E.T.” I still haven’t but I’m not so mad anymore.

The Oscars have never been about popularity exactly. They have also never been about critical recognition exactly. There are box office totals if you want to know about popularity. There are also other awards like the People’s Choice if you want a ceremony about popularity. There are various critical awards if you want an award (but not a ceremony) about critical recognition.

The Oscars are voted on by people working in the film industry (and mostly the American film industry). The movies they choose are the ones that they would like to pretend are representative of the movies that they make. The films chosen are not the mindless ones that make a lot of money. They are also not the really difficult ones that critics love but which make little money. The movies they choose are middle-brow ones that aren’t too mindless but which aren’t too arcane either. They are the ones that fall somewhere in the middle, having some intellectual content but not too much. And, of course, the Oscars exist because movie people love the chance to dress up and walk the red carpet and make speeches for a TV show that gets reasonably good ratings.

The Academy. The guys who never gave Hitchcock an award.

Or the guys who have not given one to DiCaprio. Or who let Star Wars and Saving Private Ryan lose.

Yes they are out of touch.

And Best Actor in a comedy.

They gave Best Picture to The Departed, an inferior knock-off of Infernal Affairs.

The Oscars are the Industry giving itself a hand-job. 'Nuf sed.

Also realize that a nominee only needs like 20% of the vote to win. For Best Picture even less than that these days.

At least now with all the voters getting copies of the movies to watch they mostly watch the movies they are voting on.

I don’t want to get in this argument again, but I will just quote from a post I made a few years ago about this very point.

However, since I made this it is becoming clear that the correlation between being B. Picture winner and a box office favorite is becoming a little more tenuous. But, given a list of nominees, smart money says to pay attention to the box office figures of the nominees.

And Dances With Wolves beat out Goodfellas.

And Forest Gump, though a great movie in my opinion, beat out Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction - which have both held up much better to the tests of time.

And Almost Famous didn’t even get nominated, because Harvey Weinstein schmoozed people into putting Chocolat up for Best Picture that year.

I’ve always felt like there should be an Academy Award for best picture; except the film has to be 5 or even 10 years old to be considered. It wouldn’t even bother me if it was in place of the current best picture award.

Much as I like Star Wars, the academy was right. **Annie Hall ** is still a better – and an infinitely deeper – movie. It has something to say, and considering the long term effect of Star Wars the choice was absolutely correct.