On 12.29 Patrick bloggy-blog Goldstein wrote that “it’s painfully obvious that somewhere in the evolution of the Oscars academy members started rewarding movies not for their skill and craftsmanship but for their aesthetic and social importance. This has transformed the Oscars from a mainstream movie institution to an elite art society, leading to its increased marginalization both as a barometer of public taste and as a big-time media event.”
Marginalization be damned. And Oscar show ratings be damned also, if need be. It is the duty of any award-giving organization to honor the highest motion picture standards across the board — paying tribute to movies with some kind of vision of life on earth and the focus and craftmanship to make it whole, along with whatever aesthetic and social gravitas can be thrown in to provide a little art-house spritz.
A list of the ten most popular films of any given year makes it clear that average ticket-buyers only occasionally care about “high standards.” They mostly like movies that provide laughs, jolt rides, cheap cries and wish-fulfillment fantasies. Look at the recipients of the People’s Choice Awards. It”s like a vision of narcotized hell. This year the PCA’s have Queen Latifah as their spokesperson, for heavens sake.
Understand, then, that it is the duty of any award-giving organization worth its salt to — no offense, respectfully — spit in the eye of the moviegoing public. Is that clear to everyone, and Goldstein especially?
A group that really cares about movies needs to say to the public each and every year by way of its nominees and winners, “Look, you guys do what you want, enjoy what you want, eat your popcorn…fine. But we’re supposedly trying to reward the best films being made each year, and you guys just don’t care that much. You never have and you never will. AMPAS gets it wrong in many ways each year, granted. It’s way too political and sometimes embarasses itself (a la Crash vs. Brokeback Mountain), but at least it’s half-trying to keep the idea of passion and professionalism in mind when it divvies out nominations and Oscars.”
Goldstein thinks it’s possible for both camps to be made happy. His implication seems to be that the Academy needs to broaden — a polite term for “lower” — its standards.
“If we want studios to make movies that embrace both popular taste and deft artistry, we need to find a way to give out awards that reflect both kinds of aspirations,” he writes.
Indeed, the best films are the ones that manage to combine the two, but this happens once in a blue moon. You have to deal with the world as it is, and generally speaking it’s a good idea to pooh-pooh popular taste because of the cloying emotionalism and razzle-dazzle vulgarity that the public too often responds to and celebrates.
“If we put the Oscar movies in an Oscar ghetto of limited release in small pockets of urban America, we’ll end up insuring that they never reach a broader audience,” Goldstein laments.
Good! Mass culture is swirling downwards anyway, and those resisting this trend need to cling to the rim of the toilet bowl at all costs. Anyone who cares about real film art needs to ensure that the game is defined and controlled by denizens of those small pockets of urban America. Once an awards show starts taking into account the opinions of Average Joes in Fresno and Abilene and Trenton, it’s finished. Tennessee Williams wrote it 61 years ago: “Don’t hang back with the brutes!”