The best of the year: Who’s to say?

Shortly after eight o’clock tonight, thousands will fill the seats in Hollywood’s Dolby Theater to honor the biggest names in the film industry. At the same time, millions will sit on couches in living rooms around the country and think, “How have we never heard of these movies?” Hmm.

Academy_Award_trophy.jpgAs I do on many Sundays, I sat down and read Mitch Albom’s column in the Detroit Free Press. Today it’s titled, Didn’t see that movie? Good chance it will win at Oscars.

In the end, he asks the very question that so many viewers have been asking themselves while watching the Oscars lately. “It seems strange to be constantly told that the movies we most choose are not the good ones, that the books we read are not really the best. Are we all dumbing down, or are the judges turning elite?”

Over the last several years, the most prominent awards show in the film industry has celebrated some wonderful movies—according to the critics and Hollywood—that were seen by far fewer people than the box office hits of the previous year. So where’s the disconnect?

What truly piqued my interest was that Albom invoked the Pulitzer Prize into his argument. “By the way, this phenomenon is not limited to films,” he says. “Books that win the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award are rarely ones many people have read. You’ll never see a John Grisham or Stephen King in the bunch.” So once again, where’s the disconnect?

Is it elitism from the industry critics and insiders? Or is it that our society is losing the ability to appreciate true art, that we need to be stimulated by special effects on the big screen and fast-paced thrillers on the pages?

It’s certainly something to ponder as movies we’ve never heard of raise their little gold statues tonight.

Photo by Thomas Wolf.

1 Comment

  1. I know a little about the disconnect and the Academy. Some years ago, while living in Los Angeles, I was invited by an Academy member to see all the foreign film submissions. We watched about 20 films in a 4-week period. No one had seen these films nationally. It was great to see other filmmakers break all the Hollywood rules and do things their way. It came down to a vote – by members only. Then 5 of them were nominated. This is not the People’s Choice Awards, or Golden Globes. Just the Academy members vote, and they are an interesting bunch. They have different reasons for voting for a particular project – other than their favorite movie, they also have their favorite people. They try to not follow the masses. They like to discover things themselves. They also tend to reward members and associates that they feel “should have won before,” and maybe now it’s their turn. It’s a closed group, they have their favorites, and usually don’t represent public opinion.


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