Why the Oscars DO Matter: A Rebuttal

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in Film, NY Press Exclusive.


Today I wrote about why the upcoming Academy Awards risk becoming antiquated and obsolete. I’d also like to offer a rebuttal to myself, reminding all of us fans why we should still tune in on Sunday night:

One word: Billy. As in Crystal, quite arguably the greatest host of any live event ever. No one knows better than Crystal how to put stressed-out nominees at ease while also entertaining a global audience of varying interests and movie knowledge. This is his ninth hosting gig. Will he dare do a Best Picture medley now that there are nine nominees instead of the five he’s used to? I can’t wait to find out.

Huge stars really will be there. Some of the biggest stars and greatest talents are all swimming together in this year’s nominee pool: Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, Glenn Close, Christopher Plummer, even Steven Spielberg will show up for War Horse. These are not just huge names; they are Hollywood incarnate. And all of them, to at least some degree, will have a vested interest in whose names rests in the envelopes. It’s like the Parthenon has been transplanted to LA, turning the Kodak Theater into Mount Olympus for a night.

The Oscars still create plenty of memorable moments. At least it does to the rabid film fan. The movies are about turning moments into lasting memories, and the Oscars have always informed that ongoing mission. Take your pick from its 83 year history, whether it’s a spontaneous moment like Cuba Gooding Jr.’s acceptance speech or Sophia Loren presenting Best Foreign Film to a chair-climbing Roberto Benigni, or a heartwarming one, such as Best Actress winner Louise Fletcher signing to her deaf parents. Or Heath Ledger’s family getting up to accept his posthumous Oscar. Or Singin’ in the Rain director Stanley Donen dancing with his honorary award. Or Hattie McDaniel’s gracious acceptance speech, knowing her win was about a great deal more than just her wonderful performance. Or Steven Spielberg finally getting his first Oscar in a year that saw him direct both the year’s best picture and the highest-grossing movie of all time. The list, for me, goes on and on – and I’m assuming will only get longer come Sunday night.

Hard work should always be rewarded. Hollywood’s output is a visible one, so it only makes sense that it honors itself in an equally visible way. Yes, the Academy Awards are long, and the speeches can be tedious and self-promoting. Don’t like that kind of bloated back-patting? Then maybe the awards aren’t for you. I don’t think anyone ever said it better than Streep herself, twenty-nine years ago, when she accepted her Sophie’s Choice Oscar: “I’m going to read a bunch of names now, because I know just two seconds ago, my mother and father went completely berserk, and I want to give some other mothers and fathers that opportunity.” Because I can’t fathom anything more awesome than being the loved one of someone getting their big moment in time. Take, for example, Viola Davis, who is quite likely to win on Sunday. She came from humble means, got into the right acting programs, paid her dues with training and excellent theater experience before climbing the rungs of the highHollywood ladder. Can you imagine being one of her parents come Oscar night? We won’t have to. We’ll get to see it for ourselves.

Why will you be glued to your TV this Sunday? Let us know @N_YPress

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