MGM studio exec Louis B. Mayer started the Academy Awards in 1929 as a way to bolster the image of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- and assist in mediating labor disputes. From that modest beginning, the awards ceremony has grown into one of the world's biggest annual media events. The 2013 Academy Awards will be held on February 24 -- but I haven't yet decided if I'll be watching.
Why? Here's my list of five things I freaking hate about the Oscars. And the award for the snarkiest commentary goes to....
5. The fashion critique Thank you, Mr. Richard Blackwell, for creating that first "worst dressed" list in 1960, because it spawned another years (and counting) of television viewers, magazine and newspaper readers, then internet users being subjected to about a jillion self-styled fashion critics who most of us have never heard of slicing up sequined dresses that cost more than a modest suburban home, on stars we will never meet.
Even folks who don't watch the actual awards show seem to know who basked and who bombed on the red carpet, and my eye rolls and bird-flipping never seem to dissuade somebody from giving me their opinion on whatever black-lace uber-goth creation Helena Bonham-Carter was sporting at the Oscars that inevitably gets her on every worst-dressed list, every single year.
Strangely enough, I like Helena Bonham-Carter's outfits, Oscars or otherwise, and if she ever ended up on the best-dressed list, I'd be disappointed. That said, I live in a first world country, and I can deal with my fair share of first world problems like high fashion -- and hearing about first world problems like high fashion -- but seriously: As a movie viewer, I would not give a fuck if a movie star showed up at the Academy Awards ceremony dressed in barrels and pairs of suspenders.
4. Films I've never heard of being nominated How many times have you watched the Oscars, and seen movies that you've never heard of nominated for awards, then had to go Google them on your phone? I'm sure that I'm not the only one, and this may very well be my fault for not patronizing indie theaters more often. Still, I'm always a bit confused as to whether or not the Oscars is a popularity contest, or a performance-based meritocracy-rewarding exercise.
I'm not naïve enough to think that the Academy Awards process is not influenced by money, favors and relationships, but that aside, I think it might make things easier on -- and more beneficial to -- the film-viewing public who pay ever-rising ticket and concession prices if the unknown movies that ostensibly are good enough to be nominated for Oscars were shown in mainstream theaters, not just the niche or indie ones, before the awards, rather than after.
3. Their lack of sufficient controversy Seth MacFarlane -- always good for some raunch and laughs -- will host the 85th Academy Awards telecast this year, there is confirmation that Ted, the potty-mouthed bear, will be there. Which sounds promising, because I would like to see more controversy, not less, at the awards ceremony. Celebs in this country are treated like royalty -- but we often forget that they aren't -- and seeing them poked with sticks (especially the snotty ones who take themselves waaaay too seriously) would be amusing for the unwashed masses of peasants watching at home.
And those are the Oscar moments that people remember -- like in 1998, when Roberto Begnini lost his fucking mind for like an hour on stage, or the ceremony in 1972 when Marlon Brando made headlines by NOT showing up to collect his statuette, instead sending a native American activist to make everyone feel like shit, or Michael Moore getting booed off the stage in 2003 for smacking President Bush around.
2. The Oscars make me think about Billy Crystal, and I don't want to I don't think Billy Crystal is nearly as funny as other people do, and he's nowhere close to being as funny as he thinks he is. Maybe this is a generational thing, as I'm more of a Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Daniel Tosh-sort-of-funny fan, and I cannot see how Crystal's jokes were anything but passé after 1989.
My impression of Billy Crystal: Snar, snar, snar, jokes about Jews in Hollywood that he gets away with because he's Jewish, snar snar....PG-13 one-man vaudeville song, snar snar.
He's hosted the Oscars nine times, he is a pinch-hitter for host no-shows, and he could be back hosting at any time. But I hope he isn't, because if the academy wants people under the age of 45 to watch the show, they'd do well to stick with new -- and actually funny -- talent.
1. Oscar snub-a-dub-dubs Some of the films/directors/actresses and actors that get snubbed by the academy are positively mystifying. This year's snubs are just weird: Ben Affleck not nominated for best director for Argo? Sure, Affleck as an actor alternates between cheeseball roles and great ones (I compare him to Duran Duran albums for good after bad) but Argo was so good it washes out Gigli AND Jersey Girl. And what the flop-whopping hell is up with Quentin Tarantino not being nominated for best director for Django Unchained? Is Tarantino really that scary and weird? I mean, they give Tim Burton Oscars, even though he's always been weird and he sucks now.
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I think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences desperately needs to collectively determine if the Oscars are a popularity contest or a professional meritocracy, so that those of us attempting to watch actually can.