In my realm the basic Oscar oppression is that Academy members always vote from a lazy and complacent place. They’re too old and smug and soft-minded to search for and identify and support the best films. They prefer comfort to envelope-pushing or greatness. But in Marshall Fine’s view, this is nothing compared to the much bigger sensibility gap between those of us who follow the Oscar race and average ticket buyers who don’t give a rat’s ass, and the fact that the economic benefits of being nominated or winning are in flux as we speak.
There’s always been a huge aesthetic gap between Serious Film Catholics and casual ticket buyers. The former tend to view Average Joes as not just “easy lays” whose tastes are stubbornly unsophisticated, but in some ways committed to being “stupid and ineducable,” to quote from “The Film Snob’s Dictionary.”
“Obviously, there are exceptions to [any rule], but here’s one final bit of polarization that the blogosphere and the Oscar pundit industry don’t seem to get: No matter how loud they scream for this or that film, the average person — who may only go to the movies once or twice a month yet whose leisure dollar is crucial for building a film’s audience — generally doesn’t care.
“They don’t care about the horse-race coverage, whether it’s about 12 Years a Slave peaking too early or whether accusations about Woody Allen will tar the star of Blue Jasmine. They certainly don’t care about arthouse films, no matter how many hosannas the critics and pundits sing. If they did, these titles wouldn’t be arthouse films.
“But that, finally, is what wins awards. The studio films that do find their way into contention generally are generated elsewhere. I think it’s a rule enacted by the California State Legislature: The studios are only allowed to produce cookie-cutter, mainstream multiplex filler. That’s what draws the under-21 audience so crucial at the box office.
“Anyone interested in serious film will find it: through critics, through websites, through on-demand services. They’ll form a small but cohesive little rooting section for those films, which have a better chance of being seen by a mass audience on one of those VOD services than they would if they were flung into theaters for a week in large cities.”
“The mass audience doesn’t care about the Oscars because mass-audience movies don’t figure in the Oscar equation in any meaningful way. That should be obvious by now. Don’t make me say it again.”
My direct response to Fine: “The general public, by and large, is lazy, incurious, under-cultivated and ineducable. And a lot of people are just plain lacking in sufficient brain cells. So what do you want the Oscar punditry to do about this? Take dumb-down pills?”