Oscar Post Partum – The Empty-Handed


There we have it, folks. Another year of movie awards come and gone, culminating in last night’s Oscars.

In retrospect, after sleeping on it, the show itself wasn’t particularly all that exciting. In last night’s recap, I said the show wasn’t particularly memorable. But with the light of day I feel like that’s giving it too much credit.

As much as I love Ellen, most of her bits fell pretty flat. The montages on the theme of “Heroes” were uninteresting and instantly forgettable, while the Wizard of Oz tribute was completely pointless. And perhaps most egregious of all, there were absolutely zero surprises in the awards themselves. How did such a tight and unpredictable race end up with such… well, predictable… winners?

Maybe in such a close race, any winner will feel unsurprising. Except, no, the vast majority of these were pretty obvious weeks, if not months ago. Maybe the extended voting season (waiting an extra couple weeks for the Olympics) allowed everybody to settle on generally agreed-upon group of winners well before the ballots were turned in. That’s probably closer to the truth.

Either way it’s disappointing that such a close, exciting nail-biter of a race ended with so anticlimactically. And it’s unacceptable that in such an amazing year with such a wealth of extraordinary films to choose from, so few of those walked away with any hardware at all. Here’s a short list of films that didn’t win any Oscars this year…

All Is Lost
American Hustle
Blue Is the Warmest Color
The Butler
Captain Phillips
The Conjuring
Ernest & Celestine
Francis Ha
Fruitvale Station
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor
Monsters University
Much Ado About Nothing
Out of the Furnace
Pacific Rim
Side Effects
Spring Breakers
Star Trek Into Darkness
Stories We Tell
This Is the End
Warm Bodies
The Way Way Back
The Wolf of Wall Street
The World’s End

All of those – and it’s by no means a complete list – received at least some amount of awards buzz throughout the year. While some are clearly better or worse than others, and individual tastes are clearly varied and subjective, every single one of those films represents teams of talented filmmakers whose are deserves recognition.

That’s not to say the Oscars are the be all and end all of recognizing art – we all know they’re not. But they are the most visible, the recognition that the general public is most aware of. Compare the list above to the list of films that did win Oscars

12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
The Great Gatsby
Blue Jasmine
The Great Beauty
20 Feet From Stardom

Fewer than 10 feature-length films came away with any hardware from 21 categories. The lion’s share of those trophies went to Gravity. And that’s fine. Gravity was an astounding, monumental work of art, and I don’t begrudge it a single one of its awards. But I do wish we could recognize the sheer volume and diversity of artistic vision on display in 2013 in a way that reaches the regular, non-cinephile public masses.

Many people like to repeat that film is a dying art, that movies are getting worse, and TV is taking over. There may be seeds of qualified truth in that refrain (especially if you compare movies like Grown-ups 2 to something like HBO’s True Detective). But in a loud and proud way, 2013 has declared that there remains no shortage art, genius, and life to be found in a movie theater.

Recognition of that fact is more important than any Oscar.

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One thought on “Oscar Post Partum – The Empty-Handed

  1. […] Oscars are over. They’ve been analyzed, re-analyzed, interpreted, and meme-ified. It’s time for a final wave goodbye in our rearview mirror. […]

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