In the winter of 2012, I was a lowly graduate student studying arts journalism at Syracuse University.
Now what does an arts journalism degree mean, exactly?
Well, you could say that I spent a year of my life studying the intricacies of film and television analyses, learning how to construct thoughtful critiques and cultivating a base of knowledge that I could use to extrapolate endlessly and sometimes even concisely on the place each medium occupied in both the national discourse and the public consciousness.
My mother usually just tells people that I’m a podiatrist.
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Anyway, it was 2012 and I was watching the Oscars the same way that people who want to be in the linoleum business attend the International Surface Event in Las Vegas every year.
Usually I’m not really an awards show kind of guy. I figure if you’ve seen one tux you’ve seen them all. To alleviate some of the tedium in between trophies I started goofing around on Facebook and came across a post made by a friend.
This person, another graduate student, is a sharp writer and a thoughtful critic — but man was she underwhelmed by “Moneyball,” the 2011 sports drama about general manager Billy Beane’s unconventional attempts to reform the Oakland Athletics.
The comment, which was too lewd to reprint here, basically expressed my friend’s distaste at the praise lavished upon the film by one of the ceremony’s presenters. It was after all, as she put it, “a baseball movie.”
I like “Moneyball” a lot. It has a strong cast led by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, a sharp script courtesy of Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, and it’s generally agreed that director Bennett Miller knows his craft. Plus, I even welled up a little bit during the final scene.
But none of that is why I was upset.
On Sunday, the 73rd Golden Globe Awards will air on NBC, preceding the announcement of this year’s Oscar nominees on Thursday by a matter of days.
I readily confess to being more than a little behind on many of the season’s top contenders.
“Spotlight.” “Room.” “The Revenant.” All of them probably deserve a place high on my to-do list, but as I said many-a-time to my third grade teacher, let’s focus on the part of the assignment that I did complete.
I would love to see actor Mark Rylance take home a prize for his ability to be incredibly charismatic while doing almost absolutely nothing during his supporting turn in Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies.”
It would be nice if “The Martian” hadn’t been shoehorned among the comedies, so that I could say with a clear conscience that the Melissa McCarthy-starrer “Spy” was my undisputed favorite of the bunch.
Why Sylvester Stallone received the only Golden Globes nod for “Creed” I will never know. Director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan crafted what might just be the most deeply felt underdog story since the original “Rocky” won Best Picture at the 1977 Oscars.
And it was a “boxing movie.”
When we throw around words like “best” it’s easy to forget that all of this stuff is subjective. I don’t know what you go to the movies for — maybe it’s drama, maybe it’s romance, maybe it’s popcorn.
Imposing any kind of a value system on art seems limiting, a rigid profile of what a quality story should look, sound or feel like.
My advice? Treat this week’s list of nominees as a highly vetted list of recommendations. Circle the ones that sound interesting and get busy.
There’s no accounting for taste.