Patrick Goldstein's Big Picture column, "Beware of blog," criticizing the Internet's growing community of Academy Awards prognosticators, generated a spirited response from the blogosphere. The Envelope invited responses from the bloggers mentioned in Goldstein's column.
"I am the main content provider of Oscarwatch.com and am, according to Goldstein, among the many putrid "dingbat" voices out there ruining his love of cinema. To quote Hannibal, 'Oh, Clarisse, your problem is youreally need to get more fun out of life.'"
"I began Oscarwatch when I had just given birth to my daughter. There I was, a single mother, with no income to speak of, during the dot.com explosion (before it dotbombed). I had an idea for a website where readers could gather and discuss and analyze the Oscar race. It began with a very small audience, mostly people who lived in the far corners of the world. Year by year, its audience grew and eventually it became known to publicists in town. The screeners started flooding in, so did the screening invites and suddenly, unbeknownst to me, I was in the system. It wasn't long after that that the mainstream media began writing mostly scathing articles about how we (by now there were dozens of Oscar sites) didn't matter and were to be written off because, after all, we don't actually SEE the films we predict to win.
"I can't speak to anyone else's intentions, but I am running a site for people who are interested in predicting the Oscars, people who love and love to hate the Oscars. This was borne out of our collective love of cinema. I have made a point over the years not to predict on the front page outcomes for movies that haven't been seen or reviewed. You won't see 'Munich' on there, even though it is clearly favored to win, because no one has seen it yet. Did Goldstein bother, at all, to note this fact? No, he simply chose to lump me in with everyone else, despite my best efforts NOT to do this.
"But his real misstep was in missing the big picture (er, so to speak). Perhaps if he ran a site like mine he would get hundreds of letters every year from fans all over the world who love a movie, or a director or an actor. Many of them are fans of the Oscars themselves and will write me whenever I get a factoid wrong. It's for them (and for myself) that I continue to do all this work -- not to be a player, not for the mythical ad revenue, not to be an affront to the Times, not even at the end of the day to be right -- but for the love and fun of it.
"My aim with Oscarwatch was never to reduce this love of cinema to a horse race. I wanted to analyze the race and try to solve a riddle that has plagued me for years: why do certain films win ('How Green Was My Valley') while others do not ('Citizen Kane')? And I set off on a course to find out why. To date, I still don't know. And I would never claim to know.
"From my perspective, Goldstein has gotten it wrong. These websites do well because people love movies and they love the Oscars. They can participate in websites like mine, and In Contention, in ways they never could withnewspapers or magazines -- we are accessible to them. Speculation about the Oscars has existed as long as there have been Oscars to speculate about. Really, it's no different from the rampant blogging about the Fitzgeraldinvestigation, if a little (ok a LOT) more trivial. But unlike the impenetrable façade of broadcast news, newsprint or glossies, readers and editors can all prognosticate together in the forums.
"What I don't understand is why the mainstream press appears to be so threatened by bloggers (even though Goldstein claims not to be). And, specifically, how can Goldstein question why we obsess about the Oscar racewhen he writes a yearly Oscar column? Are we really that different?
"I don't even consider myself a blogger. I run an Oscar buzz website. I have been trying only to build something out of nothing. I work extremely hard year after year for not a lot of payback. I do not make a lot of money doing this. But to me, I am doing honest work. It's a labor of love for films, film history and how the Oscars shape it. It's unfortunate, and very depressing in the final analysis, that others feel it necessary to take me, and others like me, down. After all, isn't it a bit like Jamba Juice coming down hard on the lemonade stand down the block?"
"It's evident why David Poland would be miffed at Patrick Goldstein's just-up column about Oscar bloggers ("Making Oscars a mule race"), but I'm not going to squawk about Goldstein calling me "the Lewis Black of Oscar bloggers."
"Plus he compounded whatever impact my anti-Memoirs of a Geisha views may have on the local populace by imprinting my words on wads of actual lumber-mill paper, which, for some people over the age of 45 or so, carries a certain legitmacy that cyber copy lacks.
"I have to say that I agree with Poland in his dispute with Goldstein over which acronym applies in the matter of a deminishing media enterprise. Goldstein describes himself and the L.A. Times as representatives of MSM (i.e., mainstream media) while Poland refers to the same as OM (i.e., old media). Either way, the notion that you need to hold finger-smudging newsprint in your hands in order to read something of consequence is totally out the window as far as the under-35s are concerned.
"'Studio publicists say they cater to [Oscar] bloggers because their top executives react hysterically to every little slight they see on the web,' Goldstein noted at one point. I can testify about the reverse end of this. I've just been disinvited to two events I've RSVP'd to -- in one instance because I've run negative postings about a certain big-studio feature, and in another instance because I used some initiative to get myself into an Academy-members screening of an upcoming film. I think it can be said without any particular prejudice that some people really love sloshing around in their emotional bathwater, even when it doesn't serve their strategic interests."
Read his response here.
"To an extent, I think Mr. Goldstein has a point. The world of Oscar prognostication can be seen as a bizzare one, especially for those who are on the outside looking in.
"But at the same time his column completely undermines the amount of time and effort bloggers and other sites put into their awards show coverage. We are not vicious, superficial internet nerds. Yes, we sometimes try to see films through the eyes of a voting Academy member, but to say that Oscar statistics, facts and trends are the only things we care about is both false and entirely unfair. It's only a small part of the game.
"I don't get paid for what I write. I do this simply because I am a movie lover at heart. It is the film, not the awards, that drives me to play such an active role in the internet community. Without that drive, my words would serve no purpose. "
Russ ColomboAnd the Oscar Goes To...
As an online Oscar-watcher for five years running now, I have found great satisfaction in sharing my love of cinema with the visitors of my website, where I actively track and observe trends in the Oscar race, in addition to posting reviews and exchanging ideas. Following the Oscars has opened my eyes (and assuredly countless others) to a wide variety of films, and made my appreciation of the art form grow and blossom into a undying love affair with motion pictures.
Certainly, the prognostication business can appear heartless and deeply cynical; the passion for cinema most of us online bloggers share can become obscured by the superficial desire to handicap the trends and behavioral patterns of a voting body of just under 6000 people. But the point is, the vast majority of us are in it for the love of cinema, often with the hope of discovering along with the Academy members those precious few films every year worthy of being included in the history books. With the growing popularity of blogging and message boards and the like, the disparate Oscarwatching crowds have become transformed into an intelligent, thoughtful community. While some might just see a bunch of "know-it-all" online talking heads debating the probability of a certain actor's Oscar nomination, there is also often a surprising wealth of challenging and well-written film analysis to be found.
Through our shared romance with the shiny golden man comes not soulless Oscar chatter but a deep respect for the film medium. Our elaborate and seemingly endless predilection for prognostication is in many ways an attempt to understand, critique, and ultimately enjoy the flawed beauty of the Academy's annual celebration of cinema.
Jesús AlonsoCifra2's Mania
Goldstein probably is right on his view but certainly those aren't manners to tell it. The Oscar blog is a young phenomenon and some of us bloggers have been thrown into "relevance" mostly by accident, with the growing expansion and influence of the Internet catching us by surprise.
What's the most interesting fact about the blog issue? That most of us aren't related in any ways to some media that may have interest in pushing certain studio offers for the big awards (and subsequent box office and DVD sales). That makes possible having different views from the official ones...sometimes we are right on target (I myself prognosticated best director and best original screenplay nominations for "Talk to Her" almost one year in advance, right after screening it for its Spanish release). Sometimes we simply fail miserably, like myself with the perception of Isabel Coixet's "My Life Without Me" as a huge awards contender in the States (it went on to be nominated in Europe and Spain, but American reviews massacred it). Or we simply point the obvious (the 2003 race really was obvious since we all knew Hollywood's duty with Peter Jackson). Do I consider myself a prognosticator? I prefer to consider myself an analyst, arrogant as it may sound. I tend to analyze the projects, how many awards-worthy projects does a studio have, how "due" are certain people, mixing it all together and bearing in mind that the academy has to choose and "share the wealth" gives a kind of formula that I follow.
It's a bit scary how I'm unknown in my country — save from some underground culture — but receive from time to time some mail from Hollywood or have checked out how my views were — without mentioning me — shown in Variety and, oddly enough, thanks to that, in Spanish movie magazines. I, for example, don't do it professionally; it's just a hobby that I take seriously enough to provide another point of view to increase the debate. The fact that we're being taken this seriously, it's amazing and funny at the same time.
I agree with Mr. Goldstein that we may look like a bizarre phenomenon, but surely all independent media looks like that to the establishment, doesn't it?
Full disclosure: I'm not an Oscar blogger. Nor do I frequent Oscar blogs. In fact, I rarely watch the Oscars, because I'm usually washing my cat's hair that night.
Nonetheless, I'm puzzled by Goldstein's position. As he acknowledges, the blogosphere didn't invent vapid Oscar prognostication. It's true that Internet Oscar-watching goes deeper into the minutiae of the Oscar races than, say, Entertainment Tonight or People, and as such isn't necessarily of much interest to the casual Oscar fan who fills out his or her scorecard while demolishing a bowl of Tostitos during the carpet walk. But it's hard to see why it's a bad thing for Oscar fanatics to have a voice.
If I were interested in the Oscars, I'd rather read what some obsessive movie-watcher sitting in his or her underwear at home thinks of "Munich" versus "Geisha" than watch Pat O'Brien (or whoever) recite his supposed opinions from a TelePrompTer. In fact, following the trails of blogger-minutiae that Goldstein denigrates sounds like it actually might be kind of entertaining, even if it serves no Higher Calling of Cinematic Criticism. As someone who still prefers to get his serious news from Old Media sources, I might actually likewise prefer to get my silly, pointless news from silly, pointless media sources. Which makes Oscars and blogging well matched.
It's also hard to imagine that whatever influence Oscar blogs have on the actual awards even registers in comparison to the massive media campaigns levied by the Weinsteins and Kingsleys of the world. If blogs are actually having this kind of influence, well, I'd love to read a newspaper article about it.
On our website, Fametracker, we do make Oscar predictions, but not very seriously. We envision the Oscar winners being determined every year not by the voters of the so-called "academy," but by five clones of Karl Malden (who happen to be served during their discussions by a heavily muscled Samoan named Brett). The process of how anyone gets into the academy, who gets to vote in which category, and whether anyone has to meet any qualifications before they're allowed to vote each year (like, I'm so sure most of the octogenarians still hanging on in the crustier corners of the academy even saw "Million Dollar Baby" before they voted on best picture last year) suggests to us that our Oscar scenario is just as plausible as the reality (whatever that may be).
I not only don't bother following Oscar predictions from any sources, mainstream or not, until the nominations are announced — before that, what's the point? — but also think that there should be no coverage of all the stupid little bitty awards ceremonies that lead up to the Oscars. I'm sure the Arizona Film Critics Circle is made up of some really nice people, but their views on the year's best acting performances have no more merit than those of anyone else who sees a lot of movies in a year. The Golden Globes have long since been unmasked as a massive fraud (any awards that get voted on by fewer people than make up the average marching band don't deserve TV airtime). And frankly, the only reason ever to follow anyone's Oscar predictions is to make reasonably informed guesses for an Oscar pool — when there's actual cash money at stake.
Patrick Goldstein was so right about Entertainment Weekly as the continent's source of totally unfounded Oscar predictions. I don't know what they base their guesses on half the time, other than knowing vaguely which A-list stars are going to be in movies that come out in December. But ever since they named Meg Ryan as a potential best actress contender for "I.Q." (Remember that chestnut? Of course you don't), I had to give a lot less credence to their "predictions." Just because they publish on glossy paper doesn't make them any more authoritative than unpaid bloggers basing their guesses on the same non-information "EW" has — i.e., pulling random notions out of their hats.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times