Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On Cinema, Sports and Predictability

I think we can all agree that this year's Oscar ceremony was particularly terrible. What we might not agree on is the reason why it was terrible. You may single out James Franco's blank pseudo-stoner visage, or Anne Hathaway's array of cheerleading yodels, or that horribly uncomfortable moment when Spartacus nearly toppled off the stage, or when one of the characters from Strange Brew was hired to mimic the voice of Bob Hope. You may have found the transitions from silent film to the E.T. soundtrack somewhat jarring, and you may have found the daisy chain of celebrity introductions particularly bizarre, and you may have been distracted by the dearth of Charlie Sheen jokes. But we all know the real reason this year's Oscars were so eminently forgettable is because they were so utterly predictable.*

This is the problem with an event like the Oscars: Given the flood of awards shows that come before (and the amount of coverage given to each), the winners seem patently obvious by the time the ceremony arrives. Imagine if there were five National League pitchers with 20 victories apiece, and sportswriters voted for the Cy Young Award every week in September before the final vote at the end of the season; that's essentially what the Oscars have become. They're predictable, and there's nothing worse, in cinema or in sports, than predictability.

This, above all else, is what's riding on the NFL and NBA labor negotiations, from a fan's perspective. Baseball, whether true or not, suffers from a perceived lack of parity--even if the Yankees or Red Sox don't play in the World Series, there is a perception that they are going to, and that spending six months following a small-market team may result in the occasional anomalous playoff run, it is generally a futile pursuit. And so baseball has suffered, and the NFL--despite a growing uncomfortability with the repercussions of violence--remains America's most popular sport, because a socialist collective can win a championship...and the NBA is in a state of flux, especially now, as power increasingly becomes concentrated in a handful of major markets.

Of course, I'm not saying sports will ever be as predictable as the movies. This is why, if I had to choose to eliminate one of the two from my life, I would choose film (though I'd prefer if it didn't come to that). Entertainment value is in the eye of the beholder, but I'd still prefer a world with surprises.

*For what it's worth: I would have voted for Fincher, Jesse Eisenberg, Jennifer Lawrence and Exit Through the Gift Shop.


EricP said...

One of the characters from Strange Brew? C'mon, Michael, that's not Rosy LeRose or Brewmeister Ming the Merciless we're talking about. It's Strange Brew co-star/writer/director, SCTV alum and Hollywood's #1 Bob Hope stand-in Dave Thomas!!!

Sorry, as the former #2 Disney soundalike for Rick Moranis' Brother Bear character, got a little caught up in my defense of Mr. Thomas. Strange Brew is underappreciated genius, though.

Michael Weinreb said...

Oh, I could write a book about Strange Brew. It wouldn't be a particularly good book, but it would be thorough.

EricP said...

We need to talk, Michael. I had the privilege of being Mr. Thomas' driver to the Animation awards a couple years ago. Oh, the stories I got about the greatest movie featuring a Toronto skunk.