Monday, March 6, 2006

On unpopular art.

So I had a co-worker tell me that the combined revenue from this year's "Best Picture" Academy Award nominees didn't equal "Madagascar," an animated movie release a few years ago (maybe sooner - I forget).

"I guess they don't know what America wants to see," she told me.


I told her that popularity doesn't necessarily make for good art. If that were the case, Britney would be as lauded as the Beatles. As much as I loved the "Spider-Man" movies, I don't think they deserved "Best Picture" nominations - I liked them for what they were: silly, thoughtless summer popcorn movies. Sure, they were "art." And they made a lot of money.

But "Best Picture"?

There are a few "Best Pictures" that did make a bucketload of money. "Braveheart." "Forest Gump." "Titanic." Those were huge movies, and they deserved every award given to them.

To say that "Crash" or "Capote" don't deserve nominations because relatively few people saw them - well, that's silly.

People may not read Will Shakespeare after they graduate high school, but they would still concede he's a great writer. Five hundred years later we're still reading his stuff.

Danielle Steele? Stephen King? Good writers, sure. But centuries-spanning writers? Probably not.

So by my co-worker's reasoning, ol' Bill shouldn't get the credit he gets. Who curls up on a rainy afternoon and reads Shakespeare?

Well, I've thought about it. And so "nobody" turns into "somebody," even if it's just one person.

Good art spans times, generations, philosophies, nations. The racism behind "Crash" can be felt in every country on Earth. The explosions in "Fantastic Four" appeal to a certain people.

But boy - "Fantastic Four" is what "America wants to see," right?

I was taught to beware of sweeping generalities like that. Sure, a majority of Americans saw the summer's action movies. But I wouldn't dare say "everyone" saw them.

Often, great art goes unrecognized in its own time.

The same could be said about this year's nominees. Except they were recognized.

I guess the Oscars aren't enough for some folks.

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