Oscar voters will argue, correctly, that they bestow awards for artistic merit, not "inspirational uplift." But what the Oscars honor these days is usually a list of dark, arty, "edgy" films. They're like the anti-Doves. They're for unsentimental, depressing downdraft.
The exception this year is "Juno," which is the best-grossing movie, and which is inspirational in its own teen-slacker way, even if it's still a cheaply made art film. Everything else on the list limped at the box office, films full of paranoia, ultra-violence and "There Will Be Blood," virulent religion-bashing.
The Oscars used to be populist. Now they're elitist -- in the worst definition of the term. Its nominations not only reject the major studio system, they've even trended against American-born actors. Nine of this year's twenty acting nominations went to Brits, Australians and the French lady playing the singer Edith Piaf.
The elitists are right that they shouldn't pick Best Pictures based on their box-office numbers. But the Dove awards nudge us to remember that the Oscars used to award films with both artistic merit and strong audience appeal. The films that audiences love the most, movies that quickly become "classics," are today often skipped by Oscar snobs.
Even film critics know the score. Time critic Richard Corliss wrote an interesting piece a few weeks ago that suggested there's a very good reason why the ratings numbers on the Oscar telecast have been slumping. He noted that in the old days, the Best Picture prize went to box-office hits -- "Casablanca," "The Bridge on the River Kwai" or "The Sound of Music." The mass audience had seen these movies, and they paid attention to the Oscars as they codified those hits as classics. Now, when the nominations come out, the process is backward. Some people go see the films and play catch-up after the Oscar nominations are announced. But "it's almost like homework," Corliss wrote.
The Oscar crowd might be better off doing its own "homework" by seeing the Dove-winning films they missed.
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