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April 1999, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Derek Kompare <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 26 Mar 1999 09:45:40 -0600
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Dear List:

After reading all the comments thus far about the Oscars on this list, I'm
struck by their uncritical redundancy, which is only seemingly exceeded by
that of AMPAS itself.  While I'm not directing these comments to any
individuals on this list, it seems like you could no doubt find similar (if
not identical) reactions to the Oscars amongst us "filmies" (for want of a
better term; I don't want to ignore those on the list who aren't academic
film scholars) *every single year* since 1927.

To wit:

"Paltrow/Cameron/Driving Miss Daisy is a travesty!" or words to that effect.

"How could they ignore Blanchett/Dench/Richardson/(insert name of
well-regarded but Oscar-snubbed British actress)?"

"The documentary division is full of it!"

and the perennial, ritually trotted-out, always shocked:

"It's clearly all about the money!"

Only the names change; the rest is all formula.  A particular genre of
criticism that surfaces when the nominees are announced in February,
percolates through conversations, e-mails, and the SCS conference, and
tails off by May, when (let's face it) the Oscars are history, and
speculation starts running on this year's crop.  Granted, this year we had
the added drama of Kazan to discuss (Yea, Nick!).  But it's generally the

I find these Oscars discussions interesting in a pleasant and familiar way.
 Like talk about the weather, they're a clear sign of spring in the air.
However, I'm wondering if we could shift (or broaden) our attention to the
function of these particular awards (aside from the obvious money, money,
and, um, money), and lists (eg, the AFI 100 and various other lists in the
last year or so) in building and legitimating particular kinds of media
texts.  What are the criteria AMPAS (and ATAS, or other awards, for that
matter) uses?  What would your criteria be?  Do we even *need* criteria and
accolades and lists?

As for this year's Oscars, I'll just contribute another perennial comment:

"Could you *believe* this year's interpretive dance number?!?"

-- DK

Derek Kompare
Department of Communication Arts
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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"There is no way out of the game of culture"
   -- Pierre Bourdieu

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