Brian Niemiec (Founder and Moderator of the Cinema Lounge) writes:

As Homer Simpson once told Bart: 'I find your theories intriguing and I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.' I believe that Gladiator will be awarded Best Picture for two reasons:

1. Technical merit -- The scope of the film is one that Hollywood traditionally rewards. The grand sword-and-sandal epic is a particular favorite. The battle sequences are phenomenal, the (over)acting is remarkable and the reconstruction of Rome is fabulous.

2. The Titanic Syndrome -- Plot and story coherency do not matter. All that matters is the technical merit. Special effects, special effects, special effects. Remember, most of the Academy voters are old and senile. They think Cameron actually rebuilt the Titanic and sunk it (he practically did). Likewise, they think Scott rebuilt Ancient Rome in the Nevada desert denying the fact that a "new fangled electric abacus" could ever produce such stunning visuals.

Hmmm...technical merit and The Titanic Syndrome seem like the same thing.

I agree that Gladiator is subpar, but so was Titanic, Chariots of Fire and countless other movies that have taken Best Picture Oscars. While I think the Oscars are a lot of fun, I don't place much merit in the award. Sometimes it's a popularity contest. Sometimes overdue awards are given. Sometimes deserving films are recognized. Either way, I view it like a long, boring episode of Survivor with musical interpretations of Requiem for a Dream. I don't always agree with the outcome, but it sure can make for interesting television.

Adam replies:

I agree with Brian that Hollywood loves to honor "epic" period films. But special effects can only boost a film's Oscar chances if it's in the "right" genre. By contrast, brilliant special effects do little to improve Best Picture hopes for sci-fi or fantasy films.

As far as the Oscars are concerned, I don't place much merit in them either. Oscars (or the lack of them) do not change my opinions about any film, any filmmaker, or any actor. But they do matter. They can affect which movies are made or which actors get roles. It is also a status symbol. Academy Award winners, like members of a championship pro sports team, carry that honor with them the rest of their lives.

So I'm the first one to say "Sit back and enjoy the show" with the full realization that often the Oscars are not awarded to those most deserving. But when we believe that the emperor has no clothes, I think we should say so. That's part of the fun too.

March 16, 2001

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