Reflections on the Oscar Feeding Frenzy

Okay, I admit it. I joined the Oscar feeding frenzy on Sunday night and got my yearly fix. I’m not going to criticize the MC whose name I forget (which I guess is a form of criticism). And I’m not going to argue that Boyhood should have won best picture because I haven’t yet seen Birdman. But I am going to reflect on the ceremony itself and what it symbolizes.

I think many of us watch these awards because we are hungry for ceremonies. A lot of people don’t participate in the traditional religious scene, me included. So Hollywood’s annual parade of its stars functions as a kind of religious event where we praise the gods of mammon, but somewhat covertly. For a short time, we can identify with these silver screen gods and goddesses, some of whom win the big prize, Monsieur Oscar, for transforming themselves in their various roles. They offer us the illusion (delusion?) that we too could have a similar transcendent experience. But our deities have clay feet and are there to be seen, seeking plaudits and money and fame.

I approach these evenings, as I think many of us do, with anticipation. Will our favorite movie and actor be recognized for their achievement? Will the excellent acting and directing move us? Then why do I usually feel deflated when it’s over? It’s not because I don’t want the event to end. It’s because the ceremony feels empty. It doesn’t have the kind of foundation that an actual religious rite does. Too much depends on these fallible men and women providing us with meaning. And, of course, they fail. But next year I’ll be in front of the TV again on Oscar night, hoping something magical will actually happen.