The Oscars are cool (with YouTube clips to prove it)

The Oscars do not suck. They’re great. “Moneyball” is a great movie. So is “The Tree of Life.” And “War Horse.”

“Slumdog Millionaire” was a crazy, inventive, wonderful movie, and it won the Best Picture Oscar. So don’t say the Oscars are hurting Hollywood. I just listened to a guy on Studio 360 say the Oscars make movies worse – because campaigns for nominations cost so much money… and an Oscar bumps up actors’ salaries… and, remarkably, Oscars discourage more creative films from being made.

Hogwash! I complain as much as anyone about how many stupid comic book sequels we get every year, or movies based on video and board games. But Oscars aren’t part of that problem. “Winter’s Bone” last year was about a teenage girl fighting a family of meth dealers in the Ozarks, and it was nominated for numerous awards including Best Picture.

“The Hurt Locker” (about the psychology of a modern volunteer soldier) vs. “Inglourious Basterds” (about a crazy band of Jewish Nazi scalpers) vs. “Avatar” (about robots fighting dinosaurs for the soul of society) was an awesome slate of movies competing for the top prize two years ago. “No Country for Old Men” vs. “There Will Be Blood” in 2008? I still think they got that one wrong, but those are dynamic, scary, interesting movies, and the fact they faced off at the Oscars will forever bolster the legacies of each.

The show, itself, is very stupid. Fine. And we can always beef with who wins. But don’t let that distract us from the fact that every year the Oscars encourage reflection on movies – everyone’s favorite art form – and what we should see if we want to see the best.

Remember “Juno” and “Michael Clayton”? Each of those was nominated for best picture, and was rewarded for the nomination with a boost in box office. “Milk” and “Precious” weren’t just awesome movies, they had arguments to make concerning race and sexuality, arguments megaphoned by Oscar nominations.

And I still, every year, get into a conversation with someone about what a travesty it was that “Forrest Gump” beat “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption” in 1995 for Best Picture. “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption”! You tell me, in hindsight, which is the better movie between those two. (In the comments window below. Seriously.)

My personal favorite Best Picture is “Gladiator.” I was pulling for that one. Pumped a fist when it beat out “Traffic” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Adrien Brody in “The Pianist” over Daniel Day Lewis as Bill the Butcher in “Gangs of New York”? Don’t get me fucking started.

The debate, though, is fun. Even if it’s stupid, it’s not nearly so stupid as some of the other things we find ourselves constantly arguing over.

So diss the show, I guess, if you wanna complain about the Oscars. But know that the awards themselves are a perfect means for showcasing movies. I think “Sideways” got robbed by “Million Dollar Baby,” and that “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was egregiously shafted that year, and I think it will always be fun to have that goofy conversation. The Oscars make it possible.

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