Oscar Voting Transparency, Overt Politicking, Tarnish Once-Golden Awards

My favorite Oscar moment came back in 1989 when Kevin Kline accepted that golden statuette for A Fish Called Wanda.

Kline isn't a distant cousin or family friend. And I didn't have so much as a nickel riding on his victory in the Best Supporting Actor category. I simply found his performance sublime and thought he deserved the honor over the other four actors.

I've come to realize little of that matters now.

The current Oscar voting process feels like a high school club, one where knowing the right people, saying the right things and sharing the right (correction: left) opinions are more important than artistic merit.

I'm not daffy enough to think it was once purely about The Art. Voters will always have subjective reasons to choose a particular film or actor, like when an aging icon is up for what could be his or her last chance at Oscar glory.

Still, watching the Oscar discussions play out in the press is more than discouraging. It makes me care very little about the names hidden in those secure envelopes.

Part of the problem is the media's fault, at least indirectly. Entertainment outlets follow Oscar season like sportswriters tracking their local ball team. As Andrew Breitbart would say, more voices ... not less. The cacophony of Oscar-related noise is merely showing us the sad truths behind the current system.

This year's Oscar competition started with the movies, but the conversation quickly moved from quality to telling the right kind of stories. For Zero Dark Thirty, taking a neutral stance on enhanced interrogations meant its chances for a major award are somewhere south of zero despite entering awards season with a plethora of raves. Several voters have already announced they play to boycott the movie, looking past its artistic merit in order to punish it for not adhering to their own belief systems.

Stars are now judged by the speeches they give at various award presentations prior to Oscar night. A great speech is said to enhance their prospects. A boastful speech ... well, let's not even think about what that could mean.

Do we even remember the performances and movies in play?

Kevin Kline

Ben Affleck's directorial snub for Argo appears to be working in the film's favor for snaring the coveted Best Picture Oscar, even though the film itself hasn't changed a frame since its October release.

Studios spend buckets of cash to influence potential voters. Try reading The Hollywood Reporter without suffocating on ads pleading with Academy members to mark down Movie X, Y or Z.

The latest sign of Oscar madness comes courtesy of The Hill.

In the past few months, stars and directors from at least four Oscar-nominated films have stopped in the nation’s capital to tout a cause, mention their movie and get some free publicity in the process. And what’s unusual about this year’s campaigning is several of the films have nothing to do with politics.

And this topic doesn't even touch other perennial flaws in the Oscar system, from all but ignoring superhero, comedy and horror entries to foisting far too much love on biopics and, well, anyone named Meryl Streep.

I'll be watching Seth MacFarlane's maiden voyage as Oscar host this Sunday all the same. It's my job, and habit would prevent me from changing the channels. Even if all my favorite films end up in the winner's circle, the victories won't make me feel anything like what I experienced when Kline hoisted his well-deserved Oscar in the air.


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