Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Oscar, Pop Culture, Entertainment, Art

Are the Academy Awards for the most artistic film?

Are the Academy Awards given for the most entertaining film?

Are the academy Awards passed out to the film that most resonates with pop culture?

Of course not!

Yet, at the same time there is a desire (I share it) for the films that win the major awards at the Oscars be films that is art, entertaining, and maybe even a small piece of pop culture.

I think of previous films like Forrest Gump. The Godfather, or The Silence of the Lambs, as some examples that seemed to cross into these different areas in ways this years films did not.

As I think about why this might be the case I've thought about where we gravitate for entertainment and pop culture in recent years, and in honesty it is not typically the movie theater. And if we do, it's certainly not "artful cinema." Popular movies in the theater seem to really be the action film (think this year's Furious 7 where a car chase will go through the skyscapers) and super-hero genre films. These are clearly for entertainment and are a part of pop-culture, but doesn't touch the art space (well, maybe in some technical realms, but no rational person will be arguing that Vin Diesel is Oscar bound or that the screenplay for Furious 7 deserves a second look come award season).

But there is artful work being done that is also entertaining and a part of pop-culture, but I venture to suggest that much of that is happening on a much smaller screen. Like many people, we've tuned into a number of the serial television shows from England -- we enjoy Downton Abby, Sherlock, The Hour, Broadchurch and Mr. Selfridge. We were captivated by Maggie Gyllenhaal's work in The Honourable Woman this past year. And HBO, Neflix, and cable networks are bringing challenging television, compelling stories, and talented performers to the small screen.

In many ways for this reason, in an award show like the Golden Globes, I think many people (myself included) were more drawn towards many of the television categories than the film categories this year.

I don't think Hollywood is doing itself any favors on this front with some of the film release schedules that make watching some of these films very challenging. And while there are many mediums to watch a film, not everyone utilizes every medium. Some people are going to pay for the rental on a pay-to-watch service directly from their cable provider, others go to Redbox, some watch from online services like Hulu and Netflix, and others purchase what they want to watch directly or in a digital form.

So when it's award season there's a good chance that the limited release holiday feature wasn't something you saw, and if it did release in another medium who knows if that's a medium you seek out.

The awards shouldn't chose best actress based on how well the film was distributed to a wide audience, but when a winner is selected from a film they haven't seen, don't be surprised for a little social apathy. The right winner's may have won this past year, but general people wouldn't know. And while some are going to seek out opportunities to see these award winning performances, others might not, simply based on the distribution method.

I am absolutely content with a pop-culture/award winner disconnect. Although, I think it's unfortunate that there isn't a greater interest in creating award caliber work that people (from low-brow to high-brow) might actually want to seek out and enjoy. That these winners would not just create art, but create art that is part of the collect conversation of pop-culture and entertainment.

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