Are the Oscars still relevant?

28 Feb 2011


The 83rd Academy Awards presented an opportunity for Hollywood’s A-list and pushy wannabes to gather on the red carpet and congratulate each other on a year of success.

Colin Firth picked up an Oscar for Best Actor, but why should we care?

Once the stars dragged themselves away from the flashes of camera bulbs on the red carpet, they settled down to enjoy the limited edition Motorola Xoom tablets and other assorted toys in their goodie bags.

Meanwhile, those of us who pressed our coffee makers into action to brave the ceremony in the early hours watched as the winners of each category came forward to accept their prize. Each winner managed to appear totally surprised, but had a comprehensive speech prepared, naturally… Perhaps they’re better actors than I give them credit for.

But while I cringed at yet another “this is so unexpected” moment, I wondered if the Oscars were still relevant.

The Academy Awards were created at a time when watching films at the cinema was the premier way to enjoy movies, if not the only means for many. Blockbusters resulted in queues snaking through the streets outside the cinema.

Look down the list of this year’s Best Picture nominations. How many have you seen? I’d be surprised if you’ve taken in any more than four of the 10 shortlisted.

In the age of HD TVs and home cinema systems we’re more likely to see these movies as network premieres on satellite TV or to boot up our laptops to rent a Blu-ray copy online. We’re no longer excited by the controlled release of Hollywood movies.

What do the Oscars mean for the average film fan? It’s not necessarily a celebration of what has occurred in the previous year of cinema, but a nod to what they might want to rent in the coming months, or look out for when it finally hits our TV screens.

But even then, how much are you guided by the reviews you read from your favourite critics or the recommendations you get from your friends, rather than what the Academy thinks?

We’ve not lost any of our love for the cinema or movies, but there’s now more choice available to us.

So why do we have this enduring love affair with the Oscars?

Well, it’s not just about the movies anymore. It’s about what she’s wearing, who he turns up with on his arm and long, tearful, sometimes tedious, acceptance speeches.

Many people predicted that Natalie Portman would pick up the Best Actress award for her role in Black Swan, but what we really wanted to see was if she’d become a tearful wreck, Gwyneth Paltrow-style. There were tears, but not too many.

We love pouring over the tabloids and working out who will feel the most bitter about remaining in their seat all evening. Then we’ll move the conversation on to what we haven’t seen and whether our friends rated The King’s Speech.

The Oscars may not be purely about the films as the Academy intended all those years ago, but they still remain central to popular culture and it’s hard to imagine the celebrity calendar without them.

Are you interested in the Oscars, or do you regard them as just pomp and ceremony for Hollywood prima donnas? Comment below…