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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Why the Academy will always be wrong

Photo: AP Photo

Art is subjective. No two people perceive any form of art the exact same way. Even though there is usually a general consensus on these matters, the term “universal acclaim” can never literally be “universal.”

For instance, we just saw “The King’s Speech” sweep all the major awards at the 83rd Academy Awards last week.

It seemed that the whole world, in addition to those present at the Kodak Theatre on Oscar night, was cheering for the film, but Tom Hooper’s big win for his directorial work on “The King’s Speech” over Darren Aronofsky, the Coen brothers and David Fincher in particular, really upset me.

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Since 1929, the Academy Awards has been an annual event, and after more than 80 years in existence I think it would be safe to call the Academy Awards one of the most prominent and influential rituals in popular culture.

Films that win big at these ceremonies start performing better at the box office immediately after. Of course, there are numerous other organizations and critics societies that honor what they deem the best in the past year, but the Academy’s word is believed to be the final one. And that is what irks me.

If art is subjective, why is the Academy allowed to tell us what the best picture in the year 2010 was? It can tell us what it thought was the best picture, certainly. Despite the fact that I mostly disagree with the Academy, its panels’ opinions are not what I’m against here.

No, I am against the impact their opinions seem to have on Hollywood, on film enthusiasts’ circles and even on the average movie-going public’s psyche. I am against the perceived “universality” of their opinions.

It deeply troubles me that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences promises to honor the greatest achievements in cinema every year. That promise right there, even though it is not really a promise, is what puts me off about the Academy.

No one can, or has the right to, point to a film and say, “That was the single greatest film of the year,” because even though that choice may stand true for that person, it is presumptuous to assume it will do the same for everyone else.

Not even if they are a large organization of veteran filmmakers and actors, because doing that strips the art of cinema of its subjectivity, and as a direct consequence of that, it strips the audience of its right to perceive that art in whatever way it would like. It robs people of their right to enjoy cinema.

And this brings me to what made me want to write this piece in the first place. “The Social Network,” despite being considered the initial frontrunner for winning all the major Oscars, was shown little love on the day of the actual ceremony.

Much of its momentum was stolen by “The King’s Speech” in the last month, and while I can live with the fact that “The King’s Speech” won Best Picture (even though I do not agree with the Academy), it is David Fincher getting snubbed for the Best Director Oscar that has left me absolutely livid. Never mind the fact that Andrew Garfield was not even nominated when Mark Ruffalo was nominated for playing an entirely insipid character in “The Kids Are All Right.”

“The Social Network” is an outstanding film. It was all around well-written, well-acted and well-directed. With this directing gig, Fincher managed to make “The Social Network” look as beautiful as it is intellectual. And let’s not forget all the subtle emotions he squeezed out of this rather mechanical looking and sounding film.

Tom Hooper’s work on “The King’s Speech,” though being commendable, was not at all spectacular like Fincher’s work on “The Social Network.”Everything from the brilliant performances that he extracted out of an immensely talented but far more inexperienced cast to the choice of the colors in which the film was shot, makes Fincher, in my opinion, the best director who worked last year.

But the Academy did not think so, and 10 years from now, I will have moved on, and quite possibly not even remember I felt so strongly about this. On the other hand, the Academy’s opinions are indelible, and so “The King’s Speech” will prevail, only because in 2011, the Academy members were easily won over by the heartfelt yet simplistic tale of how an English monarch overcame his crippling stammer.

I think “The Social Network” is hands down a better film, and I am sure a lot of you agree (or disagree) with me, but the sad thing is, that will not help “The Social Network” become as cemented in cinematic history as that Best Director or Best Picture Oscar would have.

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    AndrewMar 6, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    I agree but I just had to say Mark Ruffalo deserved the nomination. He played the character so so well. I love Andrew Garfield but it wasn’t top 5 worthy. Armie Hammer I can see making a case for.

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      AsmitaMar 11, 2011 at 10:41 am

      Art is subjective, case in point! 🙂