Opinion

Academy Awards: Do Movies Still Deserve Hollywood?

Grauman
Grauman's Chinese Theatre, a landmark of Los Angeles's Hollywood Boulevard.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons (author Samantha Decker)

(Originally published on White Cover Magazine...)

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In my younger and more vulnerable years, I spent my summers in Manitoba, at our small cottage on Lake Winnipeg. Our summers were quiet. They were especially quiet when you were a kid, because you didn’t have a lot besides arts and crafts and video games. Of course, it was better because it was quiet. Many things are.

But I do remember mornings – and, if I’m being honest – afternoons spent entirely in front of the TV while my mother told me, “Go outside and play” while she watched Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee. And, therefore, I watched Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee.

And I used to clip the movie advertisements out of the newspaper, I’m gonna say theWinnipeg Free Press.

I remember nearly every movie I cut out and I’d place it in this folder thing. I remember The Mask of Zorro and Independence Day, and I remember George of the Jungle and Men In Black. I remember Phenomenon with John Travolta and The Peacemaker with George Clooney. In fact, I remember The Peacemaker because it was the first movie the Cloonster did post-TV. Post–ER. And I remember the folks on Entertainment Tonight saying he could never make it as a movie star. That was a tough jump then, from TV to movies.

Now, I’m not sure why you’d want to make the leap.

And it’s a good thought to have, on the day the Academy Award nominations come out. Most people don’t care. It’s a nationally televised night where one industry salutes itself. And people are cynical, so eye rolls and harrumphs are the only sorts of reactions anyone gives you when you bring the Oscars up.

“I dunno, I don’t watch that stuff,” they say, almost like talking about the Academy Awards is like talking about Catholicism. I don’t want to get into that right now. Can’t we just have a nice dinner?

In analyzing any year in film, we’re wrong. You often here phrases like, “People say movies are in trouble, but box office takes are only getting bigger every year.” This is true, but not quite so true. After all, box office takes are not getting bigger every year and – even in years they do – it’s not a shared fortune. They often say Hollywood is full of liberals and hippies, but their business is capitalist, through and through.

Yes, if you’re Robert Downey Jr., your films are doing fine. Iron Man and The Avengers. Even if you’re Shia LaBeouf, you’ve done just great. The Transformers franchise is the apple of any studio’s eye.

And the Academy Awards honours the best. The brightest of any annual. So, you can celebrate movies like 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, and you’ll give yourself credit for liking cute ones like Her and Philomena.

But that doesn’t mean it was a great year, and it certainly doesn’t measure up to television. Not anymore.

Not in a year when Breaking Bad was the best thing on any medium. Not when Netflix comes out with Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, not when the only truly brilliant TV comedy ever made comes back from the dead.

Not when your TV stars are bigger than your movie stars.

Outside of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, honestly, what do you remember about 2013?

Do you even remember that movie with Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, that movie where the younger one moved into a frat house next to the older one?

Did you know James Franco was in eight movies in 2013? How many can you name?

When was the last time you saw a movie – in theatres – without reading everything you could before, without looking at Rotten Tomatoes first, or without binge-watching the trailer on loop?

Really, for me, a movie’s life is extended because of Netflix, or something like that. Netflix is the 21st century’s $5 bin. You’re thrilled when something big is released – like The Hunger Games or The Breakfast Club, or whatever – but your thrill is short-lived, because the fact that movie is on Netflix now just makes it, well, cheap.

It’s like your two-year-old Macbook Air or Alec Baldwin. It’s just not cool anymore.

So, what movies stay relevant?

For starters, the ones with scenes. The ones with trailers. And the ones that cater to men on Google after midnight.

I can go to Google right now and type in “Catherine Zeta Jones” and it knows right away the next few words I want to type are “laser scene”. Not because I’ve search it too often – well, you get me there – but because every other man on the planet who saw Entrapment knows exactly what to search. And they know the exact scene I’m talking about.

I doubt any kid is out there cutting posters or ads out of their daily newspaper. I mean, it’s probably because there are no kids reading daily newspapers anymore. They don’t need newspapers to see outside their living room anymore. And they don’t need movies, either.

Movies were big once. They were grand. They deserved the theatre.

Now? I don’t even have to pay or put on pants to watch one.

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