I am a recovered Oscarholic. For years and years, I used to obsess over the Academy Awards. I memorized every winner of the three major categories — picture, actress and actor — and I knew most of the supporting actor and director and writers too.* I saw every single Oscar-winning movie between Casablanca (1944) and Chicago (2003). Leading into the Oscars, every year, I would be sure to see every nominated movie (back when there were five) and most of the nominated performances.
*I’ve lost much of this knowledge, fortunately, but even now I find that if someone brings up an actor’s name, say Jack Lemmon, my mind will immediately think: “Save The Tiger, 1974” — his only Best Actor victory. Then I will also remember that he won a supporting actor award for Mister Roberts in, I think, 1956 (yep). And then I will think about his performance in Glengarry Glen Ross, which had Al Pacino (Best Actor for “Scent of Woman”) and Kevin Spacey (Best Actor for “American Beauty” and best supporting for “Usual Suspects”) and Ed Harris (no Oscars, but should have won for “Truman Show” in 1999 over James Coburn) and Alan Arkin (who I know won more recently for “Little Miss Sunshine,” but I don’t remember the year). In other words, I can’t get quite get it out of my head.
Why was I so into the Oscars? It’s a family thing, I suppose. When I was growing up, I had pretty distinct relationships with my father and mother. With my Dad, it was sports. With my Mom, it was movies. As a result, I could get pretty obsessive about both sport and movies. I’ve written before how Oscar Night at our house is a national holiday — bigger than just about any other holiday — going back decades we would have our Oscar pools (I think we had them long before they became popular) and we would have special snacks and the kids were allowed to stay up late. We would sit around the television, critique every part of the show, mock Oscar winners’ interminable thank you speeches and gripe about the winners. These nights highlighted my childhood.
I’m pretty sure things began to change for me right when the third Lord of The Rings won best picture (2004). I never saw the third Lord of the Rings. I almost certainly never will, unless I lose a bet or something. I’m sure it’s amazing and brilliant and breathtaking, but I tried to watch the first Lord of the Rings and got lost five minutes in and never caught up at all. My feeling is, if you fail Spanish I, there’s really no point is taking Spanish III.
It wasn’t just the Lord of the Rings. We also have two young daughters, which means we see a lot of animated movies (more on this in a minute) and just twice a year my wife Margo and I will go to a real movie. This year, our real movies were Lincoln and Wedding Crashers. No, wait, Wedding Crashers was a while ago, wasn’t it? OK, fine, maybe we just go out to see one real movie a year, this time it was Lincoln.
And, beyond family and Lord of the Rings, I have to admit: I changed. Movies stopped meaning as much to me. It would be easy to say that it is because movies changed, but I know the truth is I changed. I used to feel this compulsion to see every “good” movie — I wanted to be challenged by movies, I wanted to be threatened by movies, I was willing to endure deep depression or heavy disappointment for the sake of seeing great movies. I was even willing to sit through “The English Patient.”
Now? Well, now I have a new outlook — I call it my “Hotel Rwanda” outlook. We bought the DVD for Hotel Rwanda several years ago and said we would watch it some night when the mood was right. We have not seen it yet. Who am I kidding? We will never see it. My mood is NEVER right to watch Hotel Rwanda. I know it’s a great movie. I know Don Cheadle is great in it — and Don Cheadle is one of my favorite actors. I know it’s intense and important and ultimately moving. And when a free night comes up, I see Hotel Rwanda on the shelf and say, “That’s a really good movie, we should watch it, but you know, I’m just not in the mood to see that tonight. Let’s watch Date Night.”
I’m not proud of this shift. But — as Bengals owner Mike Brown once said when a negotiation went awry — “it’s unfortunate but it’s the fact.” I think I care less about the Oscars because I care less about movies. Maybe it will come around again, I don’t know. This year, for the first time in my life, I was traveling on Academy Awards night and so did not watch a single moment of the Oscars. I saw only two of the nominated movies, a career low. I spent no more than five minutes researching the Oscars before turning in my picks for the family pool.
And; wouldn’t you know it? I got 19 of 24 categories right. That might have been a career best for me. But here was the thing: I lost to my mother, who got 20 out of 24 right. You know WHY she got 20 out of 24 right?
Mom picked Brave to win best animated movie. I picked Wreck-It Ralph. And Brave won.
And Wreck-Ir Ralph should have won. I may not see real movies often anymore. I may be the last one to see the biggest movies (note to self: See Avatar). But I sit through pretty much EVERY animated movie at least once, usually two or three times. I’ve seen Brave twice and Wreck-It Ralph three times.
And Wreck-It Ralph is better. I’m not saying I think it’s better the way I think Peanut M&Ms are better than regular M&Ms. I’m saying it’s better the way Lou Gehrig’s .340 lifetime batting average is better than Tony Gwynn’s lifetime .338 batting average. It’s just BETTER. I mean no offense to the geniuses at Pixar, who make amazing movies, I’m just saying that Wreck-It Ralph was funnier, smarter, more touching and it had a better story. I’m saying our girls liked it a lot more than Brave. I’m saying we adults liked it a lot more than Brave. I’m saying it’s a better movie on every single level. Brave was fine. Wreck-It Ralph was better.
I’m definitely not saying this because if Wreck-It Ralph would have won, I would have won the family Oscar pool.