I wrote something important last May about the annual Oscar season wars that needs to re-posted every year. I was responding to a then-recent A.O. Scott N.Y. Times rant about the many offenses of the Oscar show. “Do something!,” he said. In an almost touching submisssion to the nihilistic impulse, Scott also suggested that the Oscars be killed.
To which I responded: “Rejigger and rejuvenate by all means, obviously, but never kill the Oscars. Never. Not because the show itself is anything close to magnificent (although we all derive fleeting emotional charges each and every year), but because every Oscar season is like a great spiritual Olympics. Because each and every film of any merit and our reactions to them are opportunities for assessing our values, lives, beliefs — the whole magillah.
“Because the Oscars, of course, are only nominally about the competing films. They’re really about how we feel and think about these films, and what we’re looking or hoping for each time we enter a theatre and submit to the dark. In short, they’re about us.
“Each year the Oscar race allows — demands — that we assess who we are, what we need and want, what defines artistic greatness or at least distinction, and the kinds of spells and meditations that films need to provide.
“Every day I’m looking to understand and sometimes redefine who I am and what I want, but we all do this en masse during Oscar season. It’s a stirring, at times joyously argumentative process. (I loved trashing Chicago and praising The Pianist in ’02 — it was all to the good.)
“For me, the October-to-February argument is all, or certainly 95% of the game. The show is maybe 5% of it — the end, the crescendo, the cherry on top, whatever. And through all of it the distributors of the films in the arena, the ones that each year compete and strive and receive the constant attention, clearly benefit.”