The Oscars may not be everyone’s cup of tea, although the worldwide audience for this year’s Hollywood’s glitz-and-glamour showcase is estimated at nearly a billion viewers. With its high-concept design and lowbrow comedy, memorized scripts planned in advance and unexpected slips and emotions captured live, the Oscars are not a seminal cultural event, despite the weeks of pre-broadcast promotion or the giant audience. It is, on one level, a self-congratulatory awards show that runs too long and means little.
The Oscars may not be a night to remember, but they do celebrate something beyond the piles of cash generated, the careers reinforced, the fashions showcased and the moviemakers themselves. Movies are our modern campfire, the place we gather to engage in storytelling, the means by which humans have always shared experiences, reinforced or challenged norms, passed along values and taught rituals. In celebrating movies, the Oscars honor storytellers.
Telecast host Seth MacFarlane pointed out that sometimes their stories glorify vampires and wizards, as fairy tales always have. But sometimes their stories expose deeper truths that may lie at the heart of cherished mythologies, such as the heartless brutality of the human slavery on which antebellum Southern culture depended.
Michele Obama declared from the White House that the Best Picture nominees “remind us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage within ourselves.” Stories like that deserve celebration, even for only one overhyped night.