Oscars lose their luster

The writer’s strike is over, hooray. The late-night kings will return to top form; simpletons who’ve never heard of Ricky Gervais will fall back in love with their horrid version of The Office; the film industry will pat itself on the back once more at the Academy Awards on Sunday.

Oh, the Academy. The all-powerful, all-knowing Hollywood body that preferred the mediocre Crash over, say, the beautifully paced real-life drama of Good Night, and Good Luck, or even the gut-wrenching cowboy love of Brokeback Mountain. The people who decided that Children of Men, one of the most intensely delivered but poorly marketed films of the past decade, deserved absolutely no recognition whatsoever. The group that decided that Ordinary People was better than Raging Bull, that Forrest Gump was better than Pulp Fiction, that the third Lord of the Rings would tie the record for most Oscars ever. Ever?! Of course, the film it lies equal with is the unquestioned masterpiece of the 20th century, Titanic, so far be it from me to question the choices of the movie industry’s elite.

That’s not to say the Academy is always primed for failure — if everything goes according to plan this weekend, it could be one of the few instances where they get everything right. Films like No Country for Old Men and performances like Daniel Day-Lewis’ in There Will Be Blood, expected favorites this year, are the reasons awards are given out.

The real problem, especially in this era of vast, vast multimedia, is that No Country has already been included on more than 354 top ten lists. Three hundred and fifty four. Its supporting star, Javier Bardem, has already won a Golden Globe, and the Coen brothers won Best Screenplay at the same ceremony. Everyone (and their mother) with a blog has already announced that this story of greed, violence and the murderous use of a cattle gun is a masterpiece. The same goes for Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton and even Ratatouille. While newspapers and trade sheets might have turned the possible delay of the Oscars into a big deal, in the grand scheme of things it would have made as much impact as a single tree falling in the woods.

Do we really need a big, grand ceremony to tell us who the winners are anymore? The entertainment industry has changed. It’s difficult to have a single body, whether it’s filled with screen legends or not, declare something to be the “best.” There are too many films released nowadays, too many demographics and too many opinions to condense it all into one celebrity-fueled night of pretty dresses and statuettes.

Case in point: apart from Juno, none of the films nominated for Best Picture have even cracked $65 million in box office revenue. That means a good portion of the people watching the show might not have seen a single one of the Academy-proclaimed “top five.” When that becomes the case, what was the revered award show might be no more important than all the other Hollywood spectacles. Back in the day, the Oscars were the cream of the crop. Now, they’re just one out of three-hundred and fifty-five.