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Marshall Fine Headshot

Why the Oscars Are Irrelevant

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Some people have greeted this week's selection of James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts for next February's Oscar broadcast as a harbinger of doom.

Yeah, right -- like this annual ritual wasn't already one of the walking dead.

Because, at this point, the Academy Awards are largely irrelevant. This just proves it.

Last year around this time, I lamented that, by this time of year, I was already sick of hearing about the Oscar race. I'd been hearing about it since the Toronto Film Festival in early September, with Oscar pundits hawking their various contenders as though they were soothsayers plumbing the entrails of a chicken to find ... the TRUTH! Ye gods.

But I realized this week that while, to the studios and people in the most establishment reaches of the business, the Oscars still matter as a marketing tool, that's all they are anymore. Marketing. They have very little to do with movie history or with celebrating or honoring the best.

Rather, they're merely about confirming what we already know. By the time the Oscars rumble into view, we already know who will win -- all speculation and ginned-up imaginary conflicts to the contrary.

At this point -- for a long time, really -- the Oscars have really been about ancillary income: advertising revenue from not just the Oscar show but all the subsidiary bushwah that goes with it, from all the various punditry to the Barbara Walters specials to the craven red-carpet pre-Oscar silliness.

And that's what the selection of Franco and Hathaway embodied this week. Last year, the desperation move was adding five nominees to the best picture category; 10 nominees meant that, theoretically, more people would have a rooting interest in who won, which would supposedly lead to a larger TV audience. (Oops -- wrong. They gave it to The Hurt Locker, the best film but one of the least-seen of the nominees.)

This year, the flop-sweat move is adding hot young movie stars as the hosts, apparently in an effort to attract that demographic to watch the Oscar show. Which means an even blander show than usual -- because even when they've got someone like Billy Crystal or Steve Martin hosting, they're rarely on enough to jolt the lumbering behemoth of a show back to life.


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