Back when I was a kid, and wanted to make movies for a living, and worshipped at the Holy Altar of Spielberg, I cared about the Oscars. I'd anticipate, I'd predict, I'd make popcorn, and I'd watch, and I'd freak out if a film I loved didn't get recognized as I felt it should.
Then I quit. It might've been when Fargo lost Best Picture to The English Patient. Or when Titanic won over... well, anything. I just gradually stopped caring as I realized that instead of recognizing the best films, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences used the Oscars to manipulate popular appeal and kowtow to marketing departments.
Since, I've only cared about two Oscar-related things: Letterman's Uma/Oprah routine, and the Oscar for Original Screenplay.
Look at this list of Original Screenplay winners: Last year—Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Year before that: Lost in Translation. Further back: Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Good Will Hunting, Fargo, American Beauty, Almost Famous. The best movies of their respective years? Not necessarily. But they're way more interesting than most of the Best Picture winners, a list that includes the likes of Forrest Gump, Titanic, Gladiator, Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, A Beautiful Mind (?), and Driving Miss Daisy (!?). Somehow, the Original Screenplay category has remained a haven for innovative films—in a ceremony that's become more about pomp and circumstance, the Original Screenplay award is arguably the one thing about the Oscars that retains some meaning.
This year's nominees: Crash, Match Point, The Squid and the Whale, Syriana, and Good Night, and Good Luck. I won't be watching the Oscars this Sunday, but Monday morning, I will check to see who snagged Original Screenplay. And as opposed to my younger self—who totally lost his shit in '94 when Forrest Gump won Best Picture over Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, and The Shawshank Redemption—I hereby promise only a slight shaking of the head when The Squid and the Whale doesn't win. ERIK HENRIKSEN