Sorry, Oscar Pundits, But Movie Critics Don’t Think About Awards


When looking at the jobs of people who work in or around the entertainment industry, it’s easy to miss distinctions about who does what and why. Robert Altman noted that his idiosyncratic films often went against what the studios wanted: “They sell shoes and I make gloves.”

This month, there have been many on Film Twitter and elsewhere who seem to misunderstand that while film critics and Oscar-conscious entertainment journalists both write about contemporary films, the similarities end there. . To extend Altman’s metaphor: some people read critics’ awards tea leaves for clues about the Oscars, while critics drink coffee.

As a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for over 20 years, I can safely say that handicapping the Oscars is probably the last thing on our minds as we come together each year to choose our own winners. If our tastes were to align with those of the Academy – over the past decade, both organizations have chosen “Spotlight”, “Moonlight” and “Parasite” as Best Picture of the Year – well, that’s it. is a nice coincidence. But at no time during my tenure did the group give out an award in hopes of boosting someone’s chances of walking the Dolby Theater red carpet.

So when LAFCA, the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics all gave top prizes to “Drive My Car” – Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s gorgeous three-hour Japanese-language contemplative drama about love, loss and Chekhov – it puzzled these tipsters who know that, despite outliers like “Parasite”, the Oscars tend to focus on upbeat, in-between studio products that are in English.

Critics, say awards reporters, are contrarian, ivory tower snobs — or even (gasp!) globalists:

The critic-disabler divide was further widened when the New York Times published an article by Manohla Dargis and AO Scott titled “And the 2022 Oscar nominees should be…” There’s nothing revolutionary about critics applying their personal picks to “Hollywood’s Biggest Night”; For years, Siskel & Ebert hosted an annual episode called “If We Picked the Oscars.”

Somehow the fact that Dargis and Scott mentioned performances like Fabrizio Rongione in “Azor” and Toko Miura in, yes, “Drive My Car,” was dealt with by the industry awards complex of ‘Internet like shots fired through the arc. Roger Friedman of Showbiz 411 called the list “ridiculously elitist” while Sasha Stone of Awards Daily scolded on Twitter: “I hate it when they do that. I hate that so much. They claim they’re over the Oscars, except they’re just as eager to rub shoulders with them as anyone else.

best movies 2021

Phew. Let’s take a breath here. In my experience, critics tend to “rub” the Oscars for two reasons: 1) Years of hype and attention have made the Oscars the best-known and most-discussed annual barometer of quality and of success in the film. industry, and if critics want to borrow that spotlight and shine it on lesser-known but still deserving films and performances, it’s a way to get readers interested. 2) Engaging readers is the main job of most print and online editors, and very often they will say to staff film critics, “Hey, write about the Oscars, even if you don’t care about the Oscars , because our readers do.” Which will often bring the reviews down to 1).

It’s not the job of critic groups to help handicappers at the Oscars. It’s not cultural snobbery to use the hype around the Oscars to elevate movies the Oscars won’t touch with a 10-foot For Your Consideration ad. Again, to be perfectly clear: movie critics and awards experts have different jobs.

And as for anyone who thinks great movies shouldn’t be praised by critics because those movies don’t fit the mold of an Oscar nominee and won’t be part of the awards conversation, critic Chris Evangelista de /Film puts it perhaps best: “If you approach movies this way, I have to say it again: [Y]ou don’t like movies. You like gambling.


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