I would like to start out by making very clear that I love the Oscars. I am not some grumpy so and so who complains year in, year out about how the Oscars ‘lack any real representation of what is a true piece of cinematic brilliance’, etc. I do understand their point of view – the Oscars, as a judgement of the best film, the best performances, the best direction, has some serious issues. However, this does not lessen my enjoyment as, quite simply, I love the Oscars. I love watching the films, getting caught up in the hype and, come the big night, seeing all those stars looking glamorous in their best Oscar frocks and suits. I root for my favourites and while I’m disappointed when they don’t win (probably not as disappointed as they are!), I accept that generally the other performance is good, even if there is an element of politics behind the award. I mean, if I’m being honest, I always support actors and actresses I like more, sometimes even if I don’t think they necessarily gave the best performance that year (see: supporting Jennifer Lawrence over Jessica Chastain in 2013). Why would I expect the Oscar voters not to do the same?
So, it’s established. I love the Oscars.
What I strongly dislike is the constant, and belated, negative appraisal of the Oscar winners in the years after they win. We encountered the arty type in the beginning of this post, the person who dislikes the Oscars as they believe the films being nominated are not worthy of the accolade, or disagree with the process. This is arty type’s cousin, and they irritate me far more. I can understand the arty type’s point of view, even if I do reject it. But their cousin – this is the person who, a year after it won, decries how awful Argo is. That Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t deserve the Oscar for Capote, and that Ledger didn’t earn the award for his work in The Dark Knight.
Now, I realise that maybe the best films of the year don’t always win. A classic example – Crash beating the superior Brokeback Mountain. But it’s every year, the same story over and over. When Argo came out, everyone loved it and couldn’t wait for it to win. Now its a ‘soft winner’. I’ve used Argo as an example twice because it demonstrates what I dislike so much about the belated-haters: after a while you start to believe them. I went back to Argo a couple of months ago fully expecting to think it was an inferior film given all the abuse it had received over the past year, and I enjoyed it, and was impressed by it, just as much as the first time. Slumdog Millionaire has been treated by some as the worst film ever made – rewatch it, I bet you’ll enjoy it more than you think. Each year in the build up to awards season I hear about how great this year’s films have been, and then in the months following awards season I’m informed of how sub-par it actually was. The belated-haters start to make me, at least, doubt if I like a film because not only is it not worthy of its Oscar, it’s now just a bad film. It’s overrated, it’s badly made. On and on it goes. It’s already happening to 12 Years a Slave and, frankly, I thought I wouldn’t see that – that is one good film, deeply touching, well made and incredibly well acted.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t have their opinions, of course they should. One shouldn’t like a film just because its won a little golden statue. But could we tone it down just a bit, and admit most films up for nomination in February are decent, and we can enjoy them without proclaiming them as the worst film ever made come June. There are problems with the Oscars, but please, don’t critique unthinkingly. Don’t ruin the films.