Oscars, Schmoscars: Why I’m Boycotting This Show on TV in 2015

The Lives of OthersI refuse to watch the Academy Awards next year.

That’s right. I’m unofficially boycotting it. When it comes on TV, I’m gonna change the channel. Maybe watch Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). Or a cooking show. Just not the annual debacle that is the Oscars.

Why am I so adamant? Well, I’ll tell ya. This perspective only comes after years of viewing the event on the telly and disagreeing with the choices—as well as suffering through the interminable tributes and musical numbers, which only served to extend the show’s already inordinate length. Does anyone remember the Paula Abdul-choreographed dance spectacle “inspired by” The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)? Where gaily dressed performers ended up in some kind of pile onstage? Hm? That’s the kind of quality I’m talking about. Junk masquerading as entertainment. And I’m not about to succumb to that trap.

OK, I admit these are just minor points when compared to the real reason why I’ve been frustrated with the Oscars. That has to do with the poor selections that voters have registered over the years, ranging from Gone with the Wind (1939) to Moulin Rouge! (2001) and beyond. I’ve come to recognise that winning an Academy Award is not necessarily a measure of good taste. It’s frequently an instrument of politics, in part determined by who’s done what in the past and whether they’ve said and done the right things. Masterpieces frequently are overlooked. I mean, c’mon. Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (1985) won its sole Oscar for Best Costume Design. What gives, huh?

Yes, I’m a little bitter. Guess I’m still stewing over the fact that Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) lost out for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year to The Lives of Others (2006). It’s hard to get over that type of thing. I’m trying, believe me.

The important thing to think about, for me, is that an awards ceremony should not be a determinant of quality in the cinematic world. Not that it’s always a sign of garbage, mind you. But that a win or a loss isn’t necessarily an indication of a film’s true worth. Plenty of great actors and actresses haven’t won Oscars for their performances. Lots of great movies haven’t landed the fabled statuettes, either. Does that make them any less valuable? Should we enjoy them not as much?

Pan's LabyrinthI don’t think so. I’m still going to rate Seven Samurai (1954) over most movies that have breezed through the Academy Awards, even though this wondrous Kurosawa flick hasn’t an Oscar on the shelf. And I’ll continue to be plenty pleased with Philippe de Broca’s That Man From Rio (1964), though the Academy passed it by, too. The lack of this honour doesn’t lessen my appreciation of these pictures. In fact, it doesn’t affect that factor in any way. I remain a fan of these movies. And I know I’m not alone.

Does that mean we should discount the Oscars altogether? Frankly, I don’t think so. It’s quite a marketing scheme, and films that land the hallowed golden idol often find it a boon when it comes to adding days to their theatrical lifespans. It’s a widely viewed spectacle and offers solid publicity to the movies and players mentioned on it.

I just think there are so many more that go unmentioned, and although I realise you can’t broadcast everyone in one program, so much is left by the wayside that it has become irrelevant for me.

So I’m going to watch something else next year when the Academy Awards make their small-screen appearance. Perhaps it will be that Star Trek marathon, if it’s on. Maybe I’ll find something else—a good, unheralded film, for example. I think watching something like that would be a nice way to give myself the feeling that I really am making a difference, despite the fact that I’ll be a very tiny statistic in the Oscars’ ratings results. It’ll be a private statement, for sure, but a meaningful one. Plus, it’ll involve a bonus: I’ll be able to go to bed without wondering how long it’ll take for the Best Picture to be announced. That can’t be a bad thing, right?

Let the Oscars be your movie guide? Nah. I’m letting my own feelings do that now. And I’m really happy about it, too.


Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and operates a restaurant-focused blog called Critical Mousse (criticalmousse.com) that showcases his opinions on the culinary arena. He also blogs about anti-Semitism for the Times of Israel. His views and opinions are his own.

23 thoughts on “Oscars, Schmoscars: Why I’m Boycotting This Show on TV in 2015

  1. I have to respectfully disagree – you don’t watch the Oscars to determine the worth of films etc. You watch the Oscars for the politics. I think I got that way back when Glenn Close lost to Jodie Foster or something. That is why it is fascinating – because it is a reflection of what the industry thinks of itself, the values it projects to the world. I wouldn’t miss it for anything (plus, I can rarely cheer for the odd win I approve, such as both of Kevin Spacey’s oscars).

  2. Your frustration is validated. Anyone who cares about films has a few disappointments come springtime. L.A. Confidential losing to Titanic, Cate Blanchett losing to Gwyneth Paltrow come to mind. Foreign films at the Oscars are always dicey business. So few films get through, although more get through than ever before, to be seen by others before the Oscars are announced. Kurasawa’s consistent record of beautiful films runs alongside Hitchcock’s record and you see how much love the Oscars gave Hitchcock films. I will say, I love the slow-build of tension and performances in The Lives of Others. I have not seen Pan’s Labyrinth as I do not want to have nightmares.
    I offer this option as one film lover to another. Don’t watch The Oscars for the expectation of disappointment but for the rare moments of honesty and surprise. One of my favorite moments in watching the telecast for the past 35 years was when Martin Landau won over Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson’s immediate reaction was priceless. Life is indeed unfair, sometimes. What follows raises the bar, challenges us to exceed our expectations.

    • It’s an interesting point you bring up, Andrew, and there have been wonderful moments during the Oscars that I’ve remembered — wonderful, surprising moments. They’ve been few and far between, though, and I can’t say I’m expecting any different come 2015. Maybe the right movies will be awarded; maybe not.

      I hope one day you’ll be able to see Pan’s Labyrinth; hopefully it won’t give you nightmares. My thinking is that bad movies are more likely to give me nightmares than good ones. Pan’s Labyrinth just have me, to borrow a phrase from the great James Curnow, “believing in cinema.” 😀

  3. I also think “Das Leben der anderen” (The Lives of Others) was overrated. To be honest, I did not watch the other contestants, but that one was far too predictable. Can you imagine the hype here in Germany? I didn’t get it.
    The Star Trek marathon will be a good alternative. 😉

  4. I have to agree Simon, as I never watch the Oscars. I hate the rubbish that sometimes wins, and like you, the great stuff that is not even nominated gets me angry. Add to that the hype about what clothes are worn, who’s dating who, and the blatant bribery involved, and it has had its day. Besides, the leaks are so bad, we mostly already know who has won what, long before it is on TV.
    I have a suggestion though. When it is on next year, watch ‘The Lives of Others’ again. ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is a truly marvellous film, but the Germans rightly got the statuette.
    Best wishes from England, and a Happy Christmas too. Pete.

      • Your comment made me laugh, Pete–I, too, didn’t see the comments earlier today … and then they reappeared again! One of The Mysteries of CURNBLOG(tm), I guess. 😀

        My personal feeling about Pan’s Labyrinth is that it’s one of the few masterpieces of the 21st century, but I will do as you say re: The Lives of Others.

  5. I rarely agree with most Oscar selections. I assume that is true of a great many people. And I really hate the musical monstrosities that are presented on the show. But my biggest pet peeve is the self-congratulatory nature of the enterprise. That makes it hard to watch. But I will watch, not because I place supreme value on the selections, but because I think it serves as an excellent historical and cultural marker. The Oscars don’t really recognize the “best” of anything. They recognize what we considered to be most significant in the time the award was made. They provide a great window through which to view the culture.

    And, as you know Simon, I watch The Lives of Others at least twice a year. I have no plans to revisit Pan’s Labyrinth in the foreseeable future.

    • Ha ha, Jon–I know you prefer The Lives of Others. No worries. I think you have a good point about the Oscars being an excellent cultural marker; that’s an insight I hadn’t thought of. It’s not enough to make me want to watch, though I understand why it would be important. I think you’re right about how self-congratulatory it all is; that’s truly dismaying. But it is an industry get-together, after all. I guess the whole point is to pat itself on the back.

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