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Feb. 28 2012

Does popularity breed contempt?

By Dyana Neal | Posted in Host Blogs | 2 Comments

Jim & I actually watched the Oscars this past Sunday – a first for us, & we’ve been together since 2001. We don’t usually tune in to awards shows because they are so long & commercial-packed; if I want to see fashion pics from such events, there are plenty of websites that will help me do so, some in real time. (Jim loves this because it ensures that he has the TV all to himself if there’s an interesting basketball game on. Yes, we only own one TV.) This year, however, our friends J & Page invited us to an Oscar-viewing party, and as we have a very hard time turning down an evening filled with great food, wine, & company, off we went. A good time was had by all & I even won the “Oscars picks” game, in which the guest who correctly guessed the most award-winners was rewarded with a bottle of wine – pretty funny given that “The Artist” was the only nominee I’d actually seen.

An oft-heard complaint re: the Academy¬† is that “movies people have actually seen” – in other words, mainstream, multiplex films – don’t get nominated. I mentioned this to Mark Malinowski on Monday morning & his reply was perfectly logical: the Oscars are supposed to be about rewarding the best films, which are not necessarily those that sell the most tickets. Giving out gold statues to honor the slew of generic rom-coms & special-effects-driven action films that come out of Hollywood every year would be like awarding a Michelin star to a “casual dining” restaurant. Of course, most of us eat such fare far more often than we do haute cuisine, but isn’t that why we appreciate the “good stuff” when we have it? A really fine meal doesn’t just fill us up; it delights our senses, opens us to new experiences, & perhaps even makes us think by presenting familiar elements in a new way. So does a great film.

 

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Dyana Neal

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Dyana is WBJC's midday host. Her full bio can be read here.

2 Responses to Does popularity breed contempt?

  • Reed Hessler
    Reed Hessler says:

    Thank you. I couldn’t agree with you more. As I’m sure you know, there has been quite a bit of press about how the Oscars are “out of touch” with the mainstream film audience. There was even an article in the Business section of yesterday’s New York Times about how the Oscars are becoming marginalized in contemporary culture because of their recent focus on “little” films that no one wants to see. The article concluded with the statement that it was “up to the voters to decide” whether or not the Academy Awards would descend into irrelevance. Now I realize that a lot of money is riding on the ratings success of the Oscar telecast. Apparently it did quite well this year, but perhaps not well enough to compare to the golden age of Bob Hope. As far as the production values go, if the broadcast got any leaner and meaner winners would have to jog to the podium. (I thought the Cirque du Soleil routine was way cool, but overall there was a thankful shortage of production numbers this year.) However, if you are going to have an awards competition worthy of respect, you can’t justify rigging the votes to make sure only popular films win. Many blockbusters have taken home the Oscar (“Ben-Hur”, “The Sound of Music”, “Titanic”, “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”), but so have films that won on their quality alone (“All Quiet on the Western Front”, “The Best Years of Our Lives”, “The Lost Weekend”, “Chariots of Fire”, “The Last Emperor”, “Driving Miss Daisy”). The Oscars haven’t changed. Has the audience? I think the problem is that if a film does not gross over a hundred million dollars, it is automatically considered a “little” film, even if millions of people eventually see it. Apparently Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, winner of this year’s Oscar for best original screenplay, has grossed over one hundred million dollars internationally, and is the highest grossing film of Allen’s career. And yet it is still considered to be a “little” film since it only made forty million dollars at the American box office. There’s something wrong with that.

  • Dyana Neal
    Dyana Neal says:

    Well said, Reed. Perhaps the audience has changed, but I think the movie industry has changed more, & not for the better. Back in the day, films like “The Godfather”, “Amadeus”, & “Sophie’s Choice” played in mainstream theaters. I doubt they’d be shown in such venues today.

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