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The Academy vs. Viewers: Who Really Knows Best Picture?

Erin Ennis

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Sunday night, I sat around my room to enjoy a favorite pastime: the Oscars. As usual, I had taken many bets on the awards. As the last award (and the most prestigious) of the night rolled around, those watching with me started to take bets…would it be Avatar or The Hurt Locker? We all agreed: Avatar was the better overall movie, but The Hurt Locker was what the Academy would appreciate. We were right of course…but why? Why does the Academy seem to never agree with what home viewers enjoy the most?

Erin Ennis, Assistant Editor

Many viewers of the Oscars know exactly what the Academy looks for: artsy movies. Movies that make people think. Movies that cross a line, or send a message, or cause the audience to experience some monumental epiphany. Sometimes, to be completely honest, these movies are the most boring movies ever made. These movies are not the action packed, emotionally driven movies that most home viewers enjoy. The Academy enjoys the stuffy movies that try to move you…usually into a nice long sleep. As usual, most of us felt that the Academy had gotten it wrong.

Has this happened before? You bet! In 2005, Crash stole the show from Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Munich. American Beauty, although an amazing film, beat out the much more inspiring and moving The Green Mile in 1999. Jaws dropped in 1998 when Saving Private Ryan, the most successful and beloved war movie of all time, lost Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love. Ghandi won the award over E.T. The Extraterrestrial and In the Heat of the Night ran away with the award in 1967 over favorites The Graduate and Sidney Poitier’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Of course, sometimes the Academy has a pretty hefty list to choose from. Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, Titanic, and As Good As it Gets were all nominated in the same year. The cult classic Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption were also nominated in the same year. Sometimes the movies fit in both categories, like last year’s winner Slumdog Millionaire, which was both action-packed and inspirational. So yes, sometimes the Academy is forced to choose between a few incredible movies and sometimes it chooses the best. But most times, the Academy sticks with what it knows: artistic, message-driven movies.

I’m not saying that is a problem. Yes, I normally don’t agree with what the Academy thinks. While I’m sure The Hurt Locker was brilliant, it was chosen because of the world it portrays not because it was truly the “best” film. While the plot may have been unoriginal, Avatar is quite possibly one of the greatest movies of all time and it truly deserved to be recognized. Like usual, the Academy chose its own brand of movies and home viewers, represented best in the Golden Globe awards, chose the movie that best represented the hearts of the people.

As the Academy of Motion Pictures closes the door on another year of movie making, expect to see the same process next year. The “best” movie, based on viewership and general reviewing, may not win. Make sure to go out and see the artistic, “story” movies that are considered to be the best…just make sure to stay awake during them. Artsy “epiphany” movies are usually pretty boring, after all.

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The Academy vs. Viewers: Who Really Knows Best Picture?