March 06, 2006

oh the juices are flowing now

Some thoughts on the Oscars, which I think makes me the 10 millionth blogger to offer a unique insight in the past 24 hours:

The only dramatic moment during any of the major award presentations was Crash's surprise victory for Best Picture. Even the supremely unflappable Jack Nicholson was moved to say "Whoa!" as he made the presentation. The cast's impromptu celebration was giddy enough to make the 36 Mafia look droll. Ryan Phillippe was greased lightning as he rushed across the room to join the party, his wife Reese Witherspoon left to celebrate with her newly-acquired golden boy. Clearly, the cast and crew of Crash did not expect to win the Best Picture award. Brokeback Mountain was the odds on favorite and, in my opinion, was the superior movie. BM had emotional depth and persuasion that Crash's contrived melodrama couldn't match, despite fine performances from most of the sterling cast.

It's likely that Crash benefited from a strong PR campaign to the Oscar voters, or perhaps there were other politics afoot. What struck me was how different an Oscar upset is from an upset in sports. When a sports underdog wins, it has defeated the favorite on a level playing field. The Goliath has been slain by an expert sling shot. Goliath usually has noone to blame but itself and its subpar performance, or sometimes the Goliath does almost everything right (Georgetown 1985) and still loses to a truly superlative effort. In the case of Brokeback Mountain, however, most people agreed that after watching both movies - in fact, after watching all five nominees, Brokeback was the most deserving of the Oscar. Both the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly, with two very disparate readerships, had Brokeback as the odds-on favorite going into Sunday. One could argue that the Academy voters have very different, more refined tastes than the moveigoing public AND most critics. Otherwise, one must conclude that there were factors totally unrelated to the actual content of the two films that pushed the plurality of votes in Crash's direction.

In this respect, the "upset" win that Crash pulled off cannot carry the same level of satisfaction for the victors that as a sports upset earned on the playing field. To win by superior PR or other external chicanery falls short of becoming a compelling memory for those who watched last night's telecast. Can you imagine Jon Stewart asking "do you believe in miracles?" at the end of the show last night? Neither can I.

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