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The Oscars matter

BY CONOR HOLT
holtco@mnstate.edu

In last week’s issue, Ross Peterson voiced his frustration with the current Oscar nominees and the many filmmakers that have failed to win at the Academy Awards. He even went as far as to say that reading this year’s list of nominations made him feel he was about to “have an aneurism.” As a film lover with a sincere respect for the Academy Awards, I must take exception to his complaints.

First of all, many of the nominees for this year’s Oscars were very deserving. “The Social Network” is one of the best-reviewed films of last year, and the winner of countless awards across the country, including Best Picture at the Golden Globes. “The King’s Speech,” this year’s Best Picture winner, is also critically praised and commercially successful. And even “Inception,” one the biggest hits with audiences and critics of 2010, received nine nominations. If you can’t accept them as worthy nominations, you are certainly in the minority.

Contrary to Mr. Peterson’s opinion, I believe that countless films in the past decades have rightly earned their Oscars. “American Beauty,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “No Country for Old Men” all won Best Picture. Daniel Day-Lewis won for Best Actor for “There Will Be Blood.” Francis McDormand won for Best Actress in “Fargo.” Oh, and “Forrest Gump” most certainly should have lost to either “Pulp Fiction” or “The Shawshank Redemption,” two vastly superior films.

Yes, a great number of phenomenal actors or directors never or haven’t won Oscars: Peter O’Toole, Alfred Hitchcock and Sergio Leone, to name a few. And many recent films have unfairly lost out on Best Picture (“Fargo,” “Brokeback Mountain”). But we know that they are great, and we need no Oscar to tell us that.

So am I saying that the Oscars don’t matter? No. What I’m saying is that in time, we will truly know what the great films are. Time will tell what films of last year are classics, just as it has done since the birth of filmmaking. Time now shows that “High Noon” or “The Quiet Man” should have won Best Picture over “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and that “Bonnie & Clyde” or “The Graduate” should have won over “In the Heat of the Night.”

To be honest, the Oscars work more as a meter of what the current members of the Academy think is a great film at that specific time. Like any awards ceremony, it does not always accurately gauge the greatness or importance of certain entries, and fails to award the deserving parties. It is subject to the whims and trends of the year in which it was held.

But is that such a bad thing? Are not the Academy Awards of any year a fascinating look into the feelings and beliefs of the past, a look at what was then considered great or worthy? We may look back at some winners and scratch our heads, but the ability to see what was considered a Best Picture or Best Performance of any year is valuable information.

History will crown the greatest films, as the greatest films do not die. They have not disappeared into the shadows, forgotten and ignored. They have refused to be brushed aside, and have continued to grow and live in the present.

The members of the Academy deserve to award who they consider excelled in their profession that year, just as much as we the public will award our favorite films by never forgetting them.

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