This Sunday’s annual Academy Awards wants you to tune in. After suffering lagging ratings in the last three ceremonies, they’ve decided to nominate 10 films for the best picture category in an effort to let more popular movies slip in, unlike the more esoteric films of past Oscar seasons.
This move, however, encourages a disturbing trend: Can consumers appreciate future experimental — and not necessarily economically successful — films if they label big-money blockbusters like Avatar as worthy of being called best picture?
With studios prepared to make movies out of Facebook (The Social Network) and board games (Battleship) to fill a successful model that has rewarded GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra and The Twilight Saga: New Moon with insane profits, the lines blur. While the Oscars might be a corporate enterprise, they should at least hold on to some semblance of respecting art instead of popularity.
The choice to double the nominations for best picture was announced last summer, a year and a half after the show’s ratings plummeted to the lowest they had ever been since Nielsen started tracking viewers in 1974. Coincidentally, the film that won best picture that year, No Country For Old Men, placed 36th for domestic gross that year, earning less money than Ghost Rider.
The most watched Oscar telecast was in 1998 when a romantic drama called Titanic picked up 11 little gold guys — after, of course, racking up the most domestic gross of all time as 55 million Americans on their couch cheered on.
That record, of course, was recently snatched up by another James Cameron film, Avatar, which could very well win.
The reason the Academy Awards has had flagging ratings is because potential audience members preferred to see Pirates of the Caribbean instead of Atonement.
The problem is that the hunger to consume certain movies has to come from the individual and people are choosing to only shell out money to watch buildings explode on screen.
One can wax poetic about the nature of film and the communal experience of sharing a two-hour moment with a room of strangers, the magic of being moved by some story on the screen that mirrors some poignant part of the soul — but really, in the end it’s about ratings and numbers.
Can we blame the Oscars for letting blockbusters slip into the upper echelons of film recognition in a world where we have splintered lucrative mass media with iPods with individualized playlists and TiVo-ed programming?
But though the Oscars certainly aren’t the only indicator of what makes a movie great, the awards should be meant to recognize movies that might not have made billions of dollars but inspired or moved individuals.
So go out there, Trojans, and go see a movie. Watch one of 10 fine nominated films up for a huge paperweight Sunday night. Heck, borrow a good one from past years at Leavey; it’s free.
Maybe it’ll prompt you to boost the Oscar ratings.
Clare Sayas is a junior majoring in public relations. Her column, “Spitting Cents” usually runs every other Tuesday.