With ratings slipping every year for the Oscar® telecast, some think the members of the Academy are particularly anxious this year because of the preponderance of low-budget, under-viewed movies in the running. More than 55 million people watched the TITANIC win the Oscar in 1998. Compare that with just over 42 million viewing THE AVIATOR win last year.
This year, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, a saga of homosexual cowboys, has had a cultural impact - - the endless articles, the jokes, the spoofs - - that even people who haven't seen the film might want to see if it really does win Best Picture. On the other hand, many feel the Academy is out of touch, since the box office receipts for all five nominated movies combined ($229 M) is less than that of Star Wars III (over $380 M). Only the top grosser BROKEBACK ($73 M) broke into the top ten list, and only for one week.
The question a number of reviewers and critics are asking is, "If few people even go to see the nominated movies, why should they watch the Oscars?" Well, many non-industry people watch to gaze at the bling, glitz and glam, scope out the fashions, hear the music, to be generally entertained (jokes by the host, etc.), to see if their favorite star still looks good, or is getting long in the tooth.
Or, perhaps, they will get lucky and see a streaker like the one that shocked David Niven one year, hear a daring political statement like Michael Moore's, someone like Sasheen Littlefeather accept an award for someone like Marlon Brando, or hear a brilliant acceptance speech like the ones Laurence Olivier used to make. Of course, they could be watching simply to see if one of those almost dresses will finally fall down on the stage. There are many reason people watch, and there is much more to the Academy Awards than the movies themselves.
In the main, grownups watch the Oscar telecast. The nominated movies this year are for grownups. They deal with reality, but an exotic reality that the average working stiff wouldn't dare enter. They can, however, go to the movies, or rent the DVD, and for two hours be a wicked voyeur, legally.
These movies are all low budget (under 10M), and BROKEBACK because of its homosexual cowboy theme has been hyped the most. CRASH, with its "Can't we all get along in this California melting pot" theme has received the least attention. The others are in between.
The main purpose of instituting the Academy Awards®, besides honoring the industry's own, was to bring attention to the movies and increase the box office take. Well, grownup movies have been steamrolled by the big-budget movies aimed at the younger set, and Hollywood has fed them Pabulum with whiz-bang computer generated effects long enough. Perhaps, this year's nominate movies - - all of them - - will help the still-kids grow up, and the eyes of the adults open wide.
No, the members of the Academy are not out of touch. The majority of Amricans seem to be swimming in a noisy sea of cognitive dissonance, being driven to distraction, and the constant noise is too loud for them to hear, or see, what is really happening around them. Thank goodness for this year's producers and directors who are trying to change the cinematic course for the industry and the American People. More about this in my next post.
Now, if only the Academy Awards telecast will do what the Oscars were originally designed to do, entice the viewers to the theaters, or to at least rent/buy the DVDs. All the films receiving nominations in any category this year are worth seeing.