The Oscars are entirely overrated ... and yet underrated (It's complicated)

There’s a lot of pop culture to sort through week after week. Times staff writer Chris Barton offers his take on what’s up and what’s down in music, movies, television and just about anything else out there that’s worth considering.


The Oscars: Living in some parts of Los Angeles we have a skewed view — what, doesn't your town treat these things like the Super Bowl, complete with TVs in every restaurant? But you have to respect Oscar's standing as maybe the only modern construct allowing this many people to complain about what is ultimately a judgment of art. Predictably bloated and overly pleased with itself they may be, but the Oscars provide hours of meaningless debate fodder. (Be sure to list your own favorite films and performances for the full effect.)

Steve Carell in 'The Big Short': This is hardly the year to lament the unjustified snub of another white male on the Oscars' nominations list (Michael B. Jordan, F. Gary Gray and Idris Elba are just a few of those already recognized as glaring omissions this year). But the versatile Carell was a standout in a strong ensemble as the cranky but whipsmart hedge fund investor who amid so much greed stands as a lone voice of ultimately empty outrage in a film that, much like the real financial market, is perilously short on protagonists.


The Oscars: While Hollywood struggles to reconcile an industry that systematically fails to reflect the diverse stories and voices of real life, there's comfort in knowing the #OscarsSoWhite controversy may be the start of an accelerated slide into irrelevance. Streaming threatens to reshape the industry entirely and, judging by the Oscars' declining ratings, many wouldn't watch what's long been an overblown valentine to the industry's inflated sense of importance if it weren't for the possibility of Chris Rock saying something meaningful.

'The Danish Girl': The worst kind of trolling-for-Oscars picture that practically swells from the screen in its attempt to tastefully reflect The Way We Live Now, this story of a 1920s transgender painter was mercifully nominated in only the design and acting categories, including the deserving supporting actress favorite, Alicia Vikander. But don't let that persuade you to see a film that for all its accolades remains a sleepy and ultimately superficial story that culminates with an attempted uplifting note that's so absurdly executed it seems better suited to parody.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 28, 2016, in the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Underrated Overrated" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe