I've seen every Best Picture winner, even the ones not available on DVD. I've seen them on late night tv, cable, vhs, dvd, etc. Whatever format, whatever time, I've made sure over the years that I saw each one. And with few exceptions, I've seen just about all of the nominees. Oh, and as a point of useless trivia, I can name the Best Picture winners, in order of course, in less than a minute. It was a lot easier when I was a kid and there were thirty or so less but I can still reel them off in just under sixty seconds. Why? I'm obsessed that's why.
When I was but a tyke I started reading the encyclopedias my parents had and when I came to the "Motion Picture" entry I found my true love. But what really drew me in was the last part of the entry where they listed the Oscar winners through the years. Being a normal kid I was enthralled with Star Wars and was fascinated to see Alec Guinness, Obi-Wan Kenobi, listed in the Oscar winners for some movie called The Bridge on the River Kwai. I knew I had to see it. And that's when it started. That's when the obsession with seeing all the Oscar winners started.
Are the Best Picture winners the best movies of all time or even their respective years? No, of course not. But before the days of A.F.I lists and movie magazine top 100 polls the Oscars provided a template for a young cinephile to start seeing some of the most talked about and celebrated films in Hollywood history. Seeing all of them gave one then, and still does, a fairly good starting point for the Hollywood essentials, whether or not they're great being beside the point. The winners like Wings, All Quiet on the Western Front, It Happened One Night, Gone With The Wind, Rebecca, Casablanca, The Lost Weekend, The Best Years of Our Lives, All About Eve, An American in Paris, etc give one a good starting point for seeing some real classics.
And then there are the losing nominees. Endless discussions about The Thin Man, Grand Illusion, Wuthering Heights, Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons right up through recent years gets people, and definitely young cinephiles, discussing the true merit and artistic achievement of film and what should or shouldn't be considered the best.
All of these things make the Oscars worthwhile in my book because they bring the year, and the discussion of film, to a culminating point that wouldn't exist without them. But the real reason, the big reason, the overriding reason I love the Oscars and value their existence is the effect they have on the studios. Folks, if it wasn't for the Oscars there would be nothing but summer blockbusters all year long. Don't get me wrong, I love blockbusters but I want some more adult fare every now and then too and the studios are all about two things: Who makes the most money and who has the most prestige. Without the Oscars they wouldn't make distribution deals with independent productions, foreign productions and finance smaller more intimate dramas. You think Brokeback Mountain got backed because the studios thought they'd make a fortune? Hell no! It was backed because they wanted nominations and awards and prestige.
So all hail Oscar! It fires the flame of young cinephiles, fuels the existing flame for film fans everywhere and provides a necessary quality check for the studios. I wouldn't get rid of them for an instant. I'm glad they're here.