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story.lead_photo.caption Spike Lee shows off the brass knuckles reading “hate” and “love” from his iconic film Do The Right Thing as he arrives at the Oscars last week.

I didn't mean to miss the Oscars.

Since we dropped our satellite TV service a little over a year ago, I planned to watch the broadcast on Hulu Live. But when I tried to stream the broadcast, I couldn't find it. Apparently it wasn't available in our market. Then I figured I could go to the Oscars' website and stream it from there. Once again, the stream wasn't offered in our market.

I could have fetched the antenna, hooked it up and watched the broadcast the old school over-the-airways style (that's how we saw it last year) but that would have taken some doing. So we watched the season finale of True Detective (which didn't disappoint) and an episode of Russian Doll (we have so far resisted the impulse to binge) and, before slipping into an old James Lee Burke novel, I checked Twitter to see who won what.

Since then, I've seen some clips from the show -- which I'm told we could have watched on YouTube TV had we had YouTube TV -- and feel like I'm up to speed. My picks were horrible as usual, but I redeemed myself in the Sunday newspaper when I said that if I had to risk any money on the best picture race, I'd have picked Green Book.

(This is how you get a reputation as a tout; make lots of picks across lots of platforms. People will remember when you hit on one, especially if it's perceived as a long shot, and they'll forget your misses.)

But it's over, and the ways we receive what we still call movies are ever evolving. I've had lots of people tell me they don't think a film should be considered for an Academy Award if they didn't have the opportunity to see it at their local cinema. That's fair, since the Oscars are what they are -- a promotional tool for Hollywood -- and hardly a meritocracy. They can give statues to whoever and whatever they want.

I didn't strongly dislike Green Book, though I thought it a little broad and dull. It's the sort of movie that wins Oscars, while Alfonso Cuaron's Roma is the sort of film that wins best foreign language Oscars. Spike Lee now has a competitive Oscar, which is good, but it doesn't certify him as anything. He's always been Spike Lee, subject to being misunderstood and prone to a certain heavy-handedness (but 2000's Bamboozled now feels like prophecy), the sort of prickly genius who you'd think wouldn't need an Oscar. It's endearing he seemed to have genuinely wanted it.

Writing on, David Edelstein suggested the Academy, instead of instituting a popular film category, create a retroactive Oscar category to rectify some of the Academy's more glaring mistakes.

"Paul Schrader still does not have an Oscar," Edelstein wrote, suggesting the Academy look back "40 or 50 years with a new slate of old nominees."

That might be workable and fun -- the Hollywood equivalent of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee. But what of the old nominees who don't win in the second-chance sweepstakes? Do they get to be re-nominated the next year? And are we just redoing one year's unfortunate result -- say, awarding Do the Right Thing over Driving Miss Daisy in 1989? Probably not.

I just can't get too worked up over a Chamber of Commerce banquet. I don't think several of this year's best picture nominees were particularly good, but I'm happy if they entertained people. Not everyone watches 100 movies a year, not everyone cares about how the magic trick is done. While it's true that the movies can be more than simple entertainment, simple entertainment is worth something.

I'm happy to argue with you about the virtues of Roma or Bohemian Rhapsody if that's what you want to do; but if someone says Green Book was the best film they saw last year I'm in no position to correct them. They know what they like.

So does Hollywood. We get the movies we get because we are the people we are.

The most astute comment I saw in the immediate aftermath of this year's Oscars came from my friend, the screenwriter Graham Gordy, on Facebook. He wrote:

"The problem isn't the movies or even what the Academy votes for. The problem, if there is one, is that we, as human beings, are absolutely allergic to discomfort and self-reflection of our personal or social sins, and we're looking to a multibillion dollar industry of companies with shareholders to change that. You can start going to see those things that point back at you, and not in a flattering way. You can even drag your parents or aunts or grandparents along. But the whitewash is too entrenched to go away easily. That's not just in Hollywood, but in us."

(When I asked Graham if I could use that, he agreed -- so long as I stipulated he's got nothing against escapism either.)

At the risk of oversimplifying (which is baked into my job description, I suppose) there are two kinds of movies in the world: those that flatter and reassure you -- that lend you comfort -- and those that don't. Hollywood, being a business, tends to produce movies that flatter and reassure us, because that's what most people want. And while a considerable number of us might enjoy being challenged, it's not Hollywood's job to edify or improve us.


A couple of things I need to call to your attention.

  1. Filmmakers, be aware that the Made in Arkansas Film Festival will take place at Central Arkansas Library System's Ron Robinson Theater on May 16. We'll have more details later, but the mission of the festival is to showcase Arkansas-made films from all corners of the state and to provide local filmmakers a chance to have their work screened.

To submit a film, go to:

  1. Riverdale 10's Classic Movie series will resume March 12 with a screening of Casablanca. The next week will offer the 1996 proto-feminist crime film Set It Off, and the week after that, 1994's The Shawshank Redemption. All classic screenings are at 7 p.m. Tuesdays; go to for tickets and details.

MovieStyle on 03/01/2019

Print Headline: ON FILM: Sorry, not sorry, for missing the Academy Awards


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