The Academy Awards used to be one of the biggest annual events on television, but up until last year, its TV ratings kept going down. Though some people are clearly heavily into the whole thing by throwing “Oscar parties” and betting on who will win what, most people won’t even bother to watch the whole show. Some people argued that this was because the movies that America cared about weren’t usually nominated. This year’s show, with its ten best picture nominees, will either prove or refute that theory.
In years past, however, a major portion of the audience just tuned in to see what everyone was wearing. The Oscars were more than just the source to see the most famous people in Hollywood celebrating the best movies of the past year; it was also a major pop culture event. It was big news in 1973, when Marlon Brando refused his “Best Actor in a Leading Role” award and chose Sacheen Littlefeather to make a speech in his place. In 1985, Sally Field drew laughs because she said, “You like me! Right now, you like me!” during her “Best Actress” acceptance speech, and in 1998, everyone talked about how Roberto Benigni climbed up on the seats on his way to accept the “Best Foreign Language Film” award. However, in today’s 24-hour news cycle, instant YouTube world, nobody misses anything big. There are multiple entertainment news shows on air that will tell you about everything that happened and many websites, PopMatters included, that will list who won what.
That’s why I won’t be watching the Oscars, even though most of the broadcast networks have bought into the hype, with only CBS offering anything new. They’ll be showing an episode of The Amazing Race based around the sites in Germany where the Beatles got their start. If you’re lucky enough to have cable, there’s a few former Oscar winning movies on, including The Dark Knight on Cinemax, Goodfellas on AMC, and Saving Private Ryan on TNT. Alternately, you could have a DVD marathon of your favorite movies and avoid all of the commercials while you’re at it. After all, you’re not missing anything.