I once dated someone who considered himself to have superior taste in entertainment, most notably music and cinema. Up until that point, I’d really only listened to Top 40 radio and I didn’t have much of a taste in movies at all. The mix tapes he made me while dating were pretty good–I’m showing my age again–but he refused to listen to anything I liked that I found on my own. We saw a lot of Serious Movies too, but for someone who claimed to care about movies more than I do, he took me to see Cable Guy–oh, how he loved Cable Guy–and Titanic. He was completely floored by The Shawshank Redemption, even though I knew what was going to happen because I’d read the novella. (Although he’s known mostly for horror, Stephen King’s work spans a number of genres. The movie Stand By Me also is based on one of his short stories.)
After we broke up, my horizons grew beyond Top 40, thanks to a noncommercial radio station I started to listen to. And I started to watch a lot more independent film, too, but mostly I’d try to watch all the Oscar nominees each year, because I thought that was an arbiter of taste. When I started dating the person who became my husband, it rapidly became apparent that we did not have the same taste in music or movies (or television shows). And that’s fine! I had some friends who wanted watch the same movies I did, but then we all got married and had babies and going to dinner and a movie became an investment.
I live in a different town now, and if I want to see a Serious Movie, I just go by myself. I once felt sorry for people going to the movies by themselves, but now I understand that they were doing exactly what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it, without any distractions.
But I don’t see many Serious Movies unless they’re out on Netflix or Amazon Prime around Oscar season. Instead, I go to the movies with my friends as a form of entertainment. We usually see a movie a few weeks after it opens, so we have a better chance of happening upon a nearly empty theater with some very gracious patrons. Because my friends and I are LOUD when we are at the movies. We sang along to all the songs in Pitch Perfect. We hurled warnings at Anastasia in Fifty Shades of Grey. We stood with Katniss.
I stopped paying attention to the awards ceremony years ago, regardless of the host or the presenters or the nominees. I discovered that the Oscars aren’t based on merit, but as the result of fierce campaigning and power-brokering on the behalf of studios and a handful of actors. I’m guessing–I’m not a Hollywood Insider or even a Hollywood Outsider–that becoming an Academy Award winner allows you to make films or star in them a whole lot easier, so it really perpetuates a cycle of the same kind of entertainment being made every year.
I know on the surface that this theory is pretty weak; films like Fifty Shades of Grey and even Hunger Games don’t win Oscars but they are huge hits at the box office. But they’re based on books that already have sold millions of copies, generated copycats and spinoffs, and are pretty much destined to be hits, despite questionable quality.
I have friends who have Oscar parties: they get all dolled up and it’s a really serious affair with ballots and prizes for the attendants who guess the most winners and everything. I’d go to one of those if invited (again, as a conduit to hang out with people), and I’m actually quite interested in Chris Rock’s material and what he has to say–but something tells me he needs to get everything approved by Powers That Be, just like the Oscars themselves.