A lot of people sure do get worked up about the Oscars, and I’m sure The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wishes those people would watch their Academy Award telecast. Unfortunately, no matter what that group throws at our TV screens, their awards show sinks deeper and deeper in the ratings each year.
I used to be as gaga over that show as anyone, but in the past couple of decades, I’ve watched that show all the way through only once. (Happily, that was in 2017, when the show ended with the big Warren Beatty-Faye Dunaway wrong-winner fiasco.) Other than that, I haven’t even watched portions of the telecast in years. Not that anybody asked, but here’s why I extend a personal boycott to the show.
- I almost never go to the movies anymore. I don’t even watch current movies when they end up on pay-per-view a few months later. Before I saw Stan & Ollie last month, the last new movie I went out to see was The World’s End in 2013. So I obviously am not in any position to say which movies should win any awards.
- It used to be that just watching Hollywood’s finest get all glammed up for one night was reason enough to watch the show. Now that the show’s ratings have fallen, the Academy keeps putting the cart before the horse. They’ve forgotten about the glamour of the event and keep trying to come up with gimmicks for watching the show that stick out like sore thumbs in viewers’ eyes.
- Even when famous stars such as Jimmy Stewart got older and older, they still had enough charisma to draw viewers in. Nowadays, even the show’s hosts (remember Johnny Carson?) don’t inspire the awe they used to. (The Academy seems to be acknowledging that with this year’s show, which is host-less.)
- As ever, the Academy’s voting criteria seems to be prestige rather than the actual quality of a given movie. Everyone has his or her famous gripes about this. Which 1952 movie would you rather watch — Singin’ in the Rain, or Best Picture Oscar winner The Greatest Show on Earth? (My own touchstone is 1982, when the hugely entertaining successes Tootsie and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial lost Best Picture to the well-meaning but never-ending Gandhi.)
- Once you’ve figured out the magician’s tricks, you’re not as enamored of his acts anymore. The gloss started wearing off the Oscars for me when I started reading about the origins of the awards show. Legendary M-G-M boss Louis B. Mayer founded the Motion Picture Academy and its Oscars in 1928, and here is Mayer’s matter-of-fact statement as to why he created them:
I found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them. […] If I got them cups and awards, they’d kill themselves to produce what I wanted. That’s why the Academy Award was created.
Back in 1978, Woody Allen avoided the Oscar ceremony altogether, even as his comedy film Annie Hall was sweeping the Oscars (including Best Picture) that year. Here is his equally down-to-earth statement about why he ignored them:
I think what you get in awards is favoritism. I mean, people can say, “My favorite movie was Annie Hall.” But the implication is that it’s the best movie, and I don’t think you can make that judgment. Except for track — track and field — where one guy runs and you see that he wins, then it’s okay. I won those when I was younger, and those were nice because I knew I deserved them.
Back then, I thought Allen was being a snob about the whole thing, rather than acknowledging that his peers thought he did good work. Nowadays, I tend to agree with him.