Why I'm Still Going to Watch the Oscars


It happens to me every year. In the run-up to the Academy Awards, I wonder if I should forget about the award ceremony and catch up on the winners the next day. But each and every time, I’m drawn back to the glitz and glamour of the time-honoured Oscar pageant. I’m planning on plunking down on Sunday and following the wins, the losses and the painfully awkward scripting.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be ashamed of my decision to the watch the Oscars. There’s something pleasantly communal about tuning in with millions of other viewers to see the Oscar highlights and pitfalls happen live. Until I can get an invitation to the ceremony itself (hint hint, Academy), I might as well take the Oscars for what they are: an industry trying (and sometimes failing) to glorify their craft.

For some reason, we expect the Oscars to be more than they are. Critics and columnists have long pondered how the Academy could fix the ceremony. Shorten the speeches? Cut out the songs? Hire hosts who can deliver the hackneyed Oscar script without flinching?

Whatever the solution, we’ve had a run of disappointing shows in recent years, including Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin tag-teaming the host job in 2010 and last year’s laughable performance by James Franco. Most unfortunately, the faults of the hosts, the presenters or the show producers often eclipse the achievements of the award winners.

When we do find out who won, another battle begins. So-and-so was robbed of a “well-deserved” golden trophy. (Film critic Roger Ebert wrote an excellent blog post on that topic recently, and it’s a must read.) Some people will promise never to watch the show again, or swear the Oscars don’t matter, because a favourite star or filmmaker didn’t win.

Strangely though, about a week after the show, it’s practically faded from memory. We forget about the bad jokes, the bizarre onstage gaffes and - very often - who went home with (or without) the prize.

So why watch? If any of this sounds familiar, why does the Kodak Theatre fill to the rafters in L.A., and why do millions block off their Sunday evenings for the telecast? Because we keep hoping this year will be better. Like the fans of a losing sports team, we don’t want to be out of the loop when the Oscars suddenly throw a good party.

That’s how it works for me. I hold out hoping that the Academy will see the error of their ways and pay tribute to the movie industry in a way it deserves.  (In fact, Slate Magazine did a great user-driven investigation into how to fix the ceremony. Check it out here)

Even if the Oscars do disappoint, then we can all get together the next day and talk about our favourite flubs with our friends. We’ll all be trading variations of, “Did you see when…” or “I can’t believe she said…” The collective discussion of the Oscars becomes as much of an event as the ceremony itself.

It's gotten to the point that I see the Oscars as a guilty pleasure. There’s something delightfully voyeuristic about watching Hollywood royalty mingle and (ostensibly) be themselves for my entertainment. It’s like when two TV series do a crossover episode: characters that existed in separate worlds suddenly collide and new relationships are created. There’s a sense of a bigger universe beyond the individuals we’ve come to know on the screen.

Maybe it’s just wish fulfillment. As a lifelong movie buff, I probably won’t be satisfied until I can attend the Oscars in person, and finally figure out if it’s worth my time. I’m guessing that it’s the same for many Oscar viewers. We all want to feel immersed in the glamour, and the telecast is our closest proxy.

That desire to attend the show also gives us another reason for Oscar hate. When the ceremony underwhelms, it bursts our bubble of appreciation for the stars. When they mix up their lines or show up stoned, the magic goes poof. The beautiful, talented people we admire are revealed to be regular people doing their jobs, just like us. The fairy tale is interrupted, and we take to the Internet to vent.

Personally, I’m getting this out now because I’m hoping it might help me chill out on Sunday and enjoy the show. But if the ceremony is anything like previous years, there will be a lot to talk about as it happens, so I’ll be live-tweeting the telecast starting around 8:00 p.m. ET. (I don’t care about the red-carpet stuff). You can follow me on Twitter to get to-the-second updates on what I think about the show.


What do you think about the Oscars? Are you fed up with the annual pageant? Will you tune in because you don’t want to miss out on the key moments, good and bad? Or are you an Oscar ceremony fan? Sound off in the comments section below. If you liked this post, share it with your friends and followers, and browse through my recent film reviews here:


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Chronicle | The Artist | The Grey | Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

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Midnight Cowboy | Spellbound | The Graduate2001: A Space Odyssey