February 28, 2014 in Reflections on Pop Culture
There are a lot of things to love about the Oscars—great movies, beautiful performances, humorous witticisms from the host, presenters, and winners, the fashion, the spectacle of it all—but my favorite part is participating in my sister’s annual Oscar poll.
Every year, she invites her fellow movie aficionados (of which she is the queen) to predict the Oscar winners in 11 select categories. Not only do you get to share your Oscar predictions with the other participants, you get to explain why. If you are not passionate about movies, then you may not appreciate the beauty of this, but if you are, then you know exactly how great a feature this is. Movies are polarizing, and so are actors and actresses. I might be enamored with a performance by an actor someone else can’t stand. I might despise a movie someone else thinks is brilliant. But we all get our moment to defend our picks, and if the situation warrants it, to talk smack about someone else’s picks. (cough **Frankie** cough)
I do my best to see all the Best Picture nominees, but have never done it. My sister does, though, which means she is the one to beat. (See her reviews of all nine Best Picture nominees here.) I have a lot of different strategies for making my picks (sometimes it even includes seeing the movies), but I get hung up every time because of my own personal belief system: the Oscar should go to the BEST performance.
In 1992 (and yes, I am still stewing about this), I saw Denzel Washington in Malcolm X and he was mesmerizing. He simply was Malcolm X on the big screen. It was a stellar performance deserving of much more than just his Best Actor nomination, but he lost to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. Pacino’s performance in that movie was—well, I don’t want to say because I don’t want to get on his bad side. Let’s just say he is unquestionably a good actor, just not in that movie.
Pacino had never won an Oscar, despite being nominated seven previous times for wonderful performances in both Godfather movies and in Dog Day Afternoon. He was getting on in years and Denzel Washington had already won an Oscar for his supporting role in Glory. I have no proof, but I am willing to bet that the Academy members checked the box next to Al Pacino’s name for reasons other than the quality of his performance.
It’s like watching a race where the first place winner crosses the finish line, but the trophy is given to someone else further back in the pack because…well who knows why anyone would do that, but it happens all the time. Read the February 28, 2014 issue of Entertainment Weekly where anonymous Hollywood bigwigs explain who they voted for and why. One actress said:
“I’ve always adored Sally Hawkins…And she had to work with Mr. Woody Allen—that’s another reason I’m going to check the box for Sally.” Seriously? She gets your vote because of who she had to work with?
Or this from an anonymous screenwriter who is voting for 12 Years a Slave:
“It was by far not my favorite picture, but choosing 12 Years validates the idea that the film should exist.” High praise indeed.
Movies are many things beyond entertainment. There are political, social, and cultural messages strewn about, reflections on the human condition, and advances in technology to kick movie viewing into another dimension. Ultimately, though, the Oscars should celebrate the moments where all of the above, plus great acting and a great story swirl together to create something that is so magical it takes your breath away.
Here is to the BEST on Oscar night, regardless of who ultimately takes home the Oscar!