By Sean Callaghan. I used to love watching the Oscars. I used to wait the whole year in anticipation of drinking in the glitz and the glamor. I can’t do it anymore. Here are some of the reasons why.
1. Ricky Gervais. He changed awards shows forever.
2. It’s an event that lauds people who are already rich and powerful, who are constantly having their egos rubbed day in and out. Why do we need to give them anymore attention then they already have?… oh, right. An Oscar means money.
3. The mani-cam.
4. I left high school a long while ago, and don’t need to be reminded that there is a global cool clique.
5. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the host is, they always fail to impress. Why? Because hosting the Oscars is an impossible task for a comedian. Comedy depends on transgression and pushing people’s buttons. So now put a comedian in a room of people who are trained to be ultra-sensitive to having their buttons pushed (image always!) alongside an ultra-conservative press that is salivating for the next big “oops!” It is the dead zone of comedy. You know what would be amazing? If one year, someone hosted the Oscars and just took it down – revealed all its inherent narcissisms and self-aggrandizements, and pushed buttons so hard everyone was left squirming in their seats… oh right, someone did that already with the Golden Globes (See Ranking #1.) The thing with that is you can never do it twice (three times, ok, but never twice).
6. And so it amazes me that people are still watching awards shows. That is, RG did a great job poking fun at just how paltry the very idea of an awards show can be, and played off all its hypocrisies. It was comedy at its finest and most iconoclastic. Yet, still we watch. Despite knowing these awards have little to do with merit, and more to do with popularity and vanity – that they corrupt the fundamental principles of creative expression, and over-value work that is already over-valued – we continue to watch. See Mark’s blog on the Oilers for a deeper consideration of this particular brand of ideology and his own much more eloquent take on the Oscar ceremonies.
7. The people who do most of the work on these films get the least attention and the least pay. Ang Lee can be excused for not coming to the defense of Rhythm and Hues in his acceptance speech after the Academy cut short his VFX team’s speech, but can Hollywood and all its international offspring be excused for not providing adequate remuneration and job security for its VFX workers? These people are the industries bread and butter, and they do amazing work! Surprisingly, a large number of them are not protected by a union, and are left floating in the wind when places like R&H go into Chapter 11. So here’s a call out to all the actors who negotiate massive contracts for the minimal work they do (compared to the hundreds or thousands of hours the tech people put in – yes, Hollywood actors work hard, but the work is completely disproportionate to their pay). When negotiating your contract put in clauses that everyone else be paid a living wage, and be guaranteed benefits and job security. I’d be interested to see if any big name actors have ever done so. Or even better – create collectives – where everyone including the head name actor is paid as a group, and not individually, where a segment of the profits are not returned to the studios, but redistributed amongst workers. Honestly, anyone who has ever worked in any kind of creative collective endeavor knows it has nothing to do with the work of one person, but of everyone involved. Sure a good actor can make or break a film, but so can a good VFX supervisor or costume designer or sound editor or gaffer or best boy or re-recording mixer or…
8. Art is not a competition. It’s such a hypocrisy that the announcers can’t say “and the winner is…” and yet when the statue is passed on, it’s passed on to a single winner. And let’s be real here. Argo – great film (and no disrespect to Affleck, Heslov, or Clooney, whose works are always fantastic), but can anyone really say that there is any standard of comparison between something like Argo and Django Unchained or freaking Amour!? That’s like trying to decide if apples are better than plaid or feet.
9. When someone gets up on stage and thanks their “team,” how can you not cringe? Here’s an idea, rather than thank your team – given them the Oscar! They probably did all the work. (And where the heck is the Oscar for best personal assistant? For all the horror stories we hear of what they have to go through, they should have an entire awards show!)
10. Joseph Gordon Levitt has yet to be nominated or awarded – not as an actor, but as a pioneer in rethinking creative organization. See his site hitRECord. And yes, he does split the profits with his collaborators. There are few out there that turn their fame into something beyond themselves (Paul Newman and his Newman’s Own are still a favorite; Brad Pitt’s work to provide affordable housing in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina is another). Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an award for basic human decency at the Oscars? Oh, but I guess that would be too political.