Must One Weep to Win an Oscar?
February 19, 2013
When I read a review of the recent film The Hobbit, the writer commented on the fact that even though the movie was just as well made as The Lord of the Rings, it probably would not garner the same kind of Oscar buzz. Why? It wasn’t dark enough (translation: not dramatic enough). Tolkien’s book was always lighter fare, so the movie is simply reflecting the source material. But it made me wonder why it is that for movies, television, and books to be honored, it seems they must also be grim.
The Academy Awards are being presented on Sunday. When you look at the nominees for Best Picture, there is not a lot to laugh about. Nearly all the films are very tense, very dramatic, and fairly gloomy. Stories about a hostage crisis, a civil war, the hunt for a terrorist, and the slow death of a loved one are all up for the top honor. Not to mention that musical about the French Revolution that leaves almost no one alive at the end. And this trend of giving all the accolades to the dismal and depressing is not confined to the screen.
When I was kid, even though I was an avid reader, I didn’t enjoy a lot of the award-winning books. It just seemed to me that they were all too depressing. Even today, whenever I hear that a book has won a prize, my first question is, "Who died in it?" Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy good dramatic tales as much as anybody. And some of my favorite books have had a lot of death and unhappiness in them. However, I think it is sad that well written material will sometimes get ignored for the simple fact that it doesn’t portray the bleakness in life.
Humor and simple adventure have their place in the world of literature and film. And, I think that these should be considered right along with the more sorrowful stuff when critics are looking to honor good material. After all, the quality of the writing and the production is just as important as the subject matter. Over and over, I have seen things recognized that were not that great but fit the mold of what a good book or film should be. I can’t tell you how many times I have picked up one of those "Winners" (of the (whatever) award) or seen a movie that had garnered numerous statues, then been left scratching my head as to why they won. Until I count the number of tear-filled scenes, tortured souls, and deaths.
Of course, last year The Artist won for best picture, and it was a silent comedy. But this was fairly unusual for the Oscars. One of the things that I like about the Golden Globes is that they separate out the musical/comedy category. This forces the industry to recognize the good in those genres. Maybe The Academy should consider doing the same. And I must admit, I still can’t get over the fact that three decades ago E. T. lost the Best Picture race to Gandhi. Now Gandhi was a good film, but E. T. was not only extremely well made, it touched a generation. I can’t help thinking that if E. T. had died at the end, it would have won hands down.