Alex Stephenson THE MACGUFFIN MEN: Bottled Promise

The Academy Awards ceremony happened again this year, as it is wont to do, and as usual the majority of the Academy’s choices upset and personally offended me. After it was all over, I contemplated why I give a shit about awards handed out by super-old, super-rich people who I have little in common with other than the fact that we are human and allegedly value film as an art form.

This inner dialogue is as much an annual tradition as the Oscars ceremony itself, and while I can comfortably say I have known that the Oscars are virtually meaningless since I’ve been old enough to spell the word meaningless, I still find it wildly uncomfortable that the Academy’s choices somehow manage to upset me. I’m still bitter about Roger Deakins losing the Best Cinematography award for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, much like I’m still furious that the 2006 Best Picture Oscar went to fucking Crash. Most smart people tend to agree that the Oscars don’t matter because of their penchant for making poor choices, but the fact that so many people still feel compelled to watch and (especially) discuss them proves that they do, in fact, matter. But how? Why do we care?

In a recent podcast, James and I briefly discussed the idea of why people still care about the Oscars, whereas other awards like the Grammys seem to have a much lower cultural value. James suggested that he likes the Oscars as a time capsule of sorts, as a way to determine what films and performances were crucial to that given year in film. I agreed with that on the podcast, but I don’t agree now. The Oscars actually tend to do the exact opposite, and this year is proof of that. The King’s Speech is a good, funny, well-shot, but generally unremarkable period movie. Almost everybody who saw Toy Story 3 didn’t just like it, but loved it. Inception was debatably the most culturally significant movie of 2010. The Social Network was Inception’s only competition for this title, but the Social Network has the edge in that it was entirely about what our culture is like in 2010. Put simply, three of the four movies listed will be fondly remembered, and the one that is most likely to be forgotten won the 2010 Oscar for Best Picture.

Sometimes I agree with the Oscars. I still think No Country for Old Men was the best movie released in 2007, just like I thought Christian Bale’s performance in the Fighter was the best male supporting performance I saw in 2010. More often than not, however, I think they’re wrong. But for some reason I still want them to get it right, and that’s why I keep coming back. Once a poorly-chosen Oscar has been awarded, it instantly loses all of its value to me, but until the name inside the envelope is read aloud, I can still hope that my favourite movie or performance will be selected. Nine times out of ten, however, my tastes are ignored and the Oscar goes to the choice that appeals to the Academy. Jennifer Lawerence couldn’t win Best Actress for her role in Winter’s Bone. Lawerence is just a relative newcomer who has had one great role, and almost nobody even knew about it. The Academy needed to see Natalie Portman’s well-known, charming, and youth-endorsed face on their stage.

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I was so, so jealous that you got to inrvetiew Robert Osborne (I consider him to be the human encyclopedia of film). This would be an inrvetiew of a lifetime. Kudos to you for lining this up, it was a lot of fun to watch and I thought your questions were interesting even if I was jealous during the whole segment.

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