Oscar The Grouch

12 03 2010

Some Oscars, yesterday

Around this time of year, casual acquaintances who know that I’m interested in cinema will often try to make small-talk with me about the Oscars. “So, who do you think’s going to win Best Actor?” they’ll ask, or “Will you be staying up for the ceremony?”. After the awards have been handed out, they’ll approach me to discuss the merits of the winning film, perhaps, or the stars and the movies that have missed out.

Now I’m as much a fan of idle speculation as the next man but, despite the topicality of the subject matter and despite my interest in most things film-related, I inevitably find myself struggling to think of anything to say. The fact is, I have to admit, rather sheepishly, the Oscars have never really meant that much to me, and they probably never will.

It seems that I’m far from alone in feeling this way. For most of the past decade, US television audiences for the Academy Awards have been falling year-on-year. In the Eighties and Nineties, the ceremony regularly attracted domestic audiences of more than 45 million. 49 million watched Forrest Gump win Best Picture in 1995, and in 1998 an unprecedented 57 million tuned in to see James Cameron proclaim himself “king of the world” in the wake of his Titanic success. Last year, by contrast, only 37 million watched as Slumdog Millionaire was crowned Best Picture. And even that was an improvement on 2008, when only a paltry 32 million tuned in.

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