The Oscars, handicapped

Is anyone else relishing the prospect of a disastrous Oscar telecast tonight? For a long time, the Oscars have lived within a self-aggrandizing self-contradiction, in which “best” is unofficially hedged up and down with considerations of commercial success and a kind of Oscar-approved moral grandiosity, to the point that nobody thinks the “best” films and performances are actually the best and the whole conversation deteriorates into horse-picking that is implicitly cynical and also besotted with both the celeb-spectacle and the presumption of the awards’ cultural importance. I.e. the awards wouldn’t be so worthy of the emphasis placed upon them if it wasn’t pretended that they award true merit, but if they really did award true merit, they wouldn’t take up the cultural space that they do. So now, a bunch of Oscar-worthy┬« mediocre films have been slotted into the major categories, films that seem to have been produced with a kind of Oscar marketing synergy in mind from the beginning. In other words, the Oscars routinely reward films that openly game the Oscar logic, and this is now coming back to haunt them. It gives us the prospect of an Oscar show that is fatuous and boring precisely because it is so thoroughly self-referential. It could only redeem itself if, all night long, the presenters are peering between air quotes as they read from the teleprompter.