5 Oscar Secrets That Will Make You Wish You Hadn't Watched
Last night's Academy Awards ceremony invited 35+ million viewers to watch in wonderment as a bunch of millionaires cracked self-aware jokes about how exclusive and aloof they are while doing nothing to amend their behavior, as well as verbally congratulating themselves for braving an abominable 50-degree downpour during a time when the rest of the country is being crushed beneath an arctic hellscape.
But hey, at least we got to see Clint Eastwood's "I have no idea who Kanye West is" face.
So is watching a room full of mostly-white rich people pat themselves on the back for four hours really as meaningless as the vitriol hounds of the Internet claim? After all, we're talking about a gathering of the most powerful people in one of the biggest, most influential industries in the world. Surely they could spend their most visible evening of the year doing something worthwhile?
Actually, no, not really.
The Voters Are Mostly White Men Who Probably Haven't Seen the Films
Between the Sony hack uncovering the pay gap for female stars and Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech / middle finger to that fact, it sure seems like the inequality between grotesquely rich actors and slightly less rich actresses will finally close. Except that this message is falling on a group of people so old, Caucasian, and male that this year's nominations were the whitest the Oscars have been since Forrest Gump helped black people start the Civil Rights Movement. In a recent survey, Academy voters turned out to be 94 percent white, 76 percent male, and averaged at over 60 years old -- a cluster that absolutely does not match America's moviegoing demographics.
Still, so long as they are all objectively voting on which films excelled in their categories, then it doesn't matter what their race and ages are, right? Well, that's provided the voters actually see the movies they are voting for -- something that Academy members have frequently admitted to totally not doing.
"To be fair, Alzheimer's and ALS are real bummers, man."
No, really. When 12 Years A Slave won best picture, at least two of its winning votes were cast by Academy members who hadn't seen the film; they just thought it was culturally important for that film to win. In an anonymous interview, another voter complained that having ten best picture nominees is unreasonable because that's "too many movies for anyone to have to watch." And a third idiot refused to vote for Hugo because "children's films shouldn't win Best Picture." This anti-children's-movies sentiment also bled over into casting votes for "Best Animated Feature" -- yet another anonymous member bragged that they saw none of the nominees that year. That's right, a person responsible for judging the best films of the year actually took pride in watching as few of them as possible.
In other words, these crusty old slices of stale Wonder Bread have boldly embraced the act of voting based on random prejudice and vague gut feelings -- really anything besides actually watching the films. It's as if they think of it as a joke, which we guess makes sense when you consider that searching for "Oscar Shorts 2015" on Amazon inexplicably yields more gay erotic fiction than award-winning films.
We stand corrected; this man deserves an award.
Or maybe there's another reason no one gives a shit ...
The Voting Rules Are Impossible to Follow
People were pissed when last night's "In Memoriam" somehow didn't include Joan Rivers, who spent the final act of her tireless, barrier-breaking career pretending to care who they were wearing as they arrived at the Oscars. So what gives? Did the Academy have a beef, or was it a subtle hint that she's alive and well, cracking abortion jokes on the Weinstein compound with Heath Ledger? Most likely, the answer was actually simpler: The Academy just forgot she died.
Joan Rivers, 1933-2014. Joan Rivers' Nose, 1995-2014
No really, it actually happens all the damn time. The "In Memoriam" presentation tends to have more snubs than the awards themselves, on account of the process being mostly subjective. For example, 2009 decided to honor Vampira from Plan 9 From Outer Space, but not legendary actress Eartha Fucking Kitt (not her actual middle name). Harry Morgan (an actor who appeared in over 100 films) also got the shaft. This is why you'll see tributes to random industry executives, and not obvious candidates like Rivers or two-time Bond villain / Happy Gilmore's boss Richard Kiel. There's no vigorously kept rules, beyond a bunch of interns Googling Los Angeles death announcements.
"Google? For what they pay us, they'll get Yahoo and fucking like it."
The incredibly random rules for what does and does not qualify for an Academy Award are especially apparent in the different musical categories. Best Picture winner Birdman, for example, couldn't be nominated for Best Original Score because it occasionally used preexisting music, and was therefore technically disqualified. Confused? You really should be -- because it turns out that nobody can freaking understand why some movies qualify while others don't.
When Moulin Rouge! was booted from the Best Original Song running, it was because the song in question, "Come What May" (which was an original, and not one of the various covers in the film), had been written a few years earlier for Baz Luhrmann's previous film, Romeo + Juliet. Even though Luhrmann didn't actually wind up using it in Romeo + Juliet, and even though nobody else had ever heard it until it appeared in Moulin Rouge!, the Academy decided that since "Come What May" had originally been written for a different film, it didn't qualify. Meanwhile, "Falling Slowly" from Once managed to snag Best Original Song despite having already been featured in multiple albums before the film ever came out.
We made it then
Falling slowly sing your melody
We've sang it before
So even though plenty of the voters might be lazy snobs passing arbitrary judgement because they couldn't be bothered to watch a bunch of really good movies, it's hard to place the blame squarely on their shoulders when the Academy's rules are so convoluted that they make it really difficult to be invested in any category.
Related: Mail-In Voting Should Be The Norm
Studios Have No Idea What Makes an Award-Winning Movie
For those of you who might not have known this, movie studios actually have to make ads specifically asking the Academy to nominate their films for various categories (those "For Your Consideration" ads that you might have seen). Sometimes they're elegantly straightforward and make total sense, like a giant billboards lauding Benedict Cumberbatch's performance in The Imitation Game. Other times, you get this:
No joke we could make would be funnier than the ernestness of this ad.
Yep. Along with Gone Girl, Exodus, and The Fault in Our Stars, 20th Century Fox decided to throw the only blockbuster in history featuring a protracted defense of statutory rape, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, into the mix for nearly every single category. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes pulled a similar stunt, offering up their entire cast for Oscar consideration the same way past films like Crash did -- the primary difference being that no one solved racism by firing two machine guns off of a horse in the latter film.
In fairness, an angry monkey dual-wielding machine guns makes any movie more memorable.
It's a perfect demonstration of how clueless Hollywood is about what constitutes a good movie. Someone actually thought that the fourth Transformers deserved to be recognized as an artistic achievement.
Warner Brothers, opting out of high-pedestalling their summer blockbusters, somehow managed to take an even lower road by attempting to publicly discredit Foxcatcher by passing along Tweets saying that the film's real-life subject had accused it of lying about his life. After initially denying any trickery, WB eventually owned up to their secret smear campaign, while simultaneously throwing their promotional consultant straight under the bus and casually walking away whistling Bobby McFerrin.
Of course, one could argue that all this tone-deaf skullduggery is worth it to win an Oscar, except that ...
Winning an Oscar Costs More Money Than It Earns
Winning an Oscar is like eating a fine caviar -- it's expensive as hell and nowhere near sustaining. Also, it's kind of disgusting for anyone watching. By recent calculations, the general cost of getting a film nominated is a taint-punching $10 million -- enough money to just skip the ceremony and produce 25,000 of the golden man statues instead. Also, that $10 million investment averages out to only a $3 million boost in box office sales ... and that's only if the film wins Best Picture. So it's actually less like fine caviar and more like buying a sandy beach puddle for the price of a tank filled with sharks.
And the puddle is 90 percent pee.
Check it out -- not only does campaigning for the Golden Globes cost a fraction of what it does for the Academy Awards, but the films that win Golden Globes also make five times more money. It's as if the Oscars are designed to be so purist and exclusive that they are slowly murdering themselves in the process. Like how you'll never see a nominated film on Netflix until months after the awards have already been given out, which, considering the rise of streaming, all but extinguishes any public interest in Oscar-nominated films. So for all the criticism we have for the superhero or blockbuster genres, at least those films are trying to be universally seen and enjoyed. It doesn't matter how good Foxcatcher is if nobody gets to see it.
A visual representation of the concept.
The Oscars Aren't Actually About the Movies Anymore
Much like superhero blockbusters, Oscar films are becoming their own genre at this point -- their unique tonal motif being that they don't make any money and no one goes to see them. This year's ceremony went so far as to feature both Jack Black and Liam Neeson reading scripted banter about how Hollywood is a gaggle of mostly white men going after the Chinese market with superheroes and endless sequels. That's how cynical it's become. So why have an Academy Award ceremony at all if no one actually gives a big hairy shit about the movies that win?
Because there's still a Solomon-esque fortune to be made -- just not from the films themselves. Over the years, the Academy Awards have consistently been worth more as a television event akin to the Super Bowl than a celebration of filmmaking accomplishments -- the ad revenue alone is at a record-breaking $2 million bucks for 30 seconds of airtime. Swag bags handed out to the various attendees top off at $168,000 worth of bullshit per sack, all donated by companies hoping to pick up sponsorships. Remember: A room full of actors is potentially a room full of convincing sponsors. Remember Ellen's "spontaneous" Oscar selfie?
"Say, 'Perfectly chosen to appeal to all demographics!' on three!"
Yeah, you bet your ass that was a Samsung-organized publicity stunt. It resulted in a billion dollars worth of exposure for Samsung, which is now causing a ripple of companies vying to sponsor the next big viral Oscars phenomenon in exchange for an unreasonably inflated price. This all began three years ago when the Academy hired its first-ever chief marketing officer, who began a push to "integrate" (a term here meaning "force in with all the brutal subtlety of a gorilla beating a tricycle to death") sponsors and youth-getting social media into the show ... hence the Samsung selfie.
The Academy also poured cash into a new website, a stronger online presence, and a fucking museum. They're literally building a monument to patting themselves on the back.
You push the button on front to vent all the ego when it reaches capacity.
Because when people are throwing shade at your once-prestigious award for being a pointless, self-congratulatory waste of money based on a terrible system of disinterested judges, the best thing to do is build a glass temple that looks like a giant crystal spider egg full of incestuous greed and call it a day.
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