Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oscar buzz: Is the tail wagging the dog at this point?

I just bought an issue of Entertainment Weekly when I was was on a trip and stressed out and needed to get my mind off things, and it was comfort food to read it.

When I skipped straight to the prediction section, I started to realize a problem.
What I was reading was information I already knew with just minor alterations (i.e. now Steven Spielberg is in the best director category instead of Terrence Malick and Money isn't one of the BP frontrunners).

And then it struck me as ridiculous. I was eagerly wanting to consume information telling me most of what I already know. Then I'll eagerly watch the Oscar ceremony where 70% of the content is what I've already seen before.

The Oscar speeches will be mostly identical to the Golden Globe and SAG speeches and the results will almost be pre-ordained.

Oscar buzz likely started out as a few people wanting to be the guy in their office who says "I know who will win the Oscars," but 80% of the time, we all know who will win the Oscars and 80% of the time, the participants know who will win. How awful is it to invite Jacki Weaver (nominated last year for "Animal Kingdom") or Mark Ruffalo (nominated for "The Kids Are All Right) to the Oscars when they both know it's a practical certainty that they're going to lose. For all, we know the precursor gluttony decides the voting. Someone might have asked themselves in the 2010/2011 race: "Why should I vote for Jacki Weaver when all of the precursor awards show that it's either gonna be Hailee, Amy Adams or Melissa Leo?"

More disturbing is that when we discuss Oscar buzz, we're not actually talking about movies anymore for the most part. We're simply trying to use statistics and such to predict human behavior. Some of the most prominent people in the film criticism community are nothing more than glorified statisticians. Go to Awards Daily and you'll see that most of their articles consist of announcing press releases by various groups giving their awards of the films of the year. Commentary by the webmasters of the commenters will use this information to slightly recalibrate their attitudes about who will be selected as Oscar winners.

Just the other day, we had the Central Ohio Film Critics Awards announcing their picks. Are we now dividing states into latitudinal thirds for the sole purpose of disseminating a list of best films of the year that closely mirrors 200 other such lists?

I've previously written that the winners of the Oscars were originally publicized before the big night. Now, the stated goal of the Academy is to keep the results sealed. Technically, those awards are still sealed but when we have 8 million awards precursors; when they allow directors, actors, writers and producers of the academy to vote in other awards ceremonies; when sites on the internet are dedicated to using every algorithm they have to predict the results, what's the difference?

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