This Sunday night will be a lot of things to a lot of people, but it will be the best night of someone’s life. It will be the complete and total vindication of everything they have ever worked for. With just one reading of their name, a lifelong dream will become a reality. They will then get to stand on a stage, in front of the whole world, and tell the people in their life how much they mean to them and how grateful they are to know them. They will say how much they love them. And we’ll get to share it.
All logic tells me that award shows are inherently stupid. Besides the fact that they consistently fail to nominate deserving candidates, have a history of honoring inferior options, and are meaningless in the grand scheme of life, at their core they are an attempt to objectively determine the “best” artist winner in a form that is broad and deeply subjective. I know, with all reason, that awards shows are so flawed and unimportant that they shouldn’t elicit any kind of response from me whatsoever.
That’s probably why most of them have just become another thing in life that doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m never angered by them, about who wins or loses. I am apathetic towards them all. Except for one show, no matter how much it seems to be actively trying to make me hate it: the Oscars.
It’s a weird year to say that I still get excited about the Academy Awards. There have been controversial years in the past, even recently, but this year feels different. This year feels like a combination of disappointment, disbelief, and total disgust. What happened isn’t right, and people are rightfully angry.
But no one would care about who gets nominated if they, well, didn’t care. And people only care because the Oscars mean something to us as a society in a way no other show does. The Grammys are nice, but how often do you remember really caring about the Grammys? Or the Emmys for that matter? The Golden Globes mostly “matter” because they help us predict who will go on to win an Oscar.
For reasons we could discuss forever, movies just hold a different place in society, and as a result the Oscars are different. They are more important, and that importance results in a night that ends up, in spite of itself, being special, because nothing else matters when we watch a movie star have the best moment of their life.
If it’s weird to care about an inherently meaningless trophy, how bizarre is it that we care about who gives a “good” acceptance speech? Yet, we’re going to have that absurd discussion live on Twitter and at work the next day. It’s why we still remember some speeches long after we forget anything else from the night. I will never forget watching Cuba Gooding Jr. lose his mind with excitement, and yet I have no idea what won Best Picture that year.
We care about the speeches because we know what winning that statue can mean. It’s the culmination of everything a person ever wanted, a complete recognition of their skills and work, and then on top of it they get to recognize the most important people in their lives in front of the whole planet. What would it mean to you to let the whole world know how wonderful the people in your life are? What would it mean to them to hear it?
It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like for Louise Fletcher to win, for example, and then sign her message to her deaf parents.
The reason we all care about who the Academy nominates is because we know, despite the deep-rooted problems, it matters, and we don’t want anyone to be deprived of that spotlight. We recognize how special winning that trophy is, and it’s why we get angry about who has access to it and who doesn’t.
So while I know, logically, that some flawed, unimportant, stupid awards show shouldn’t mean anything, I can’t help that some still do. If logic had anything to do with it then it wouldn’t be important, and we wouldn’t care about fixing it. Being illogical is far better, because at some point Sunday night someone will hear their name called, and in that moment what they experience will transcend all the problems that preceded it.
And we get to share it with them. I just can’t be cynical about that.