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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Nobody 'deserves' an Oscar

From: Jamey MacIsaac, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Every year, as Oscar time rolls around and I get more and more vocal about my predictions, I invariably get into at least one conversation per day from someone who insists on telling me that they "Never watch the Oscars because it's all politics. The Academy never gives the awards to the movies that deserve it." To which my response is always some flavor of, "Of course it's all politics. The Oscars aren't about who deserves to win. There's no such thing as deserve. They're about who's going to win."

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People seem reluctant to admit that aesthetic judgments are (to some degree or another) relative. Now, I have no wish to wade into the philosophical mire of the Absolute vs. the Relative Nature of Aesthetics. However, I do think I can safely say that there is at least some wiggle room. Just this year we have Roger Ebert (who's a pretty smart guy) declaring Crash to be the best film of the year, and Jim Emerson (also a pretty sharp cat) claiming that the film is not even worthy of comparison to the other four nominees. Is one right and the other wrong? Does such a question even have meaning?

So I would like to say to all the Oscar haters out there who are consistently upset that the "Best" movie didn't win: Such judgments are essentially meaningless. There is no "Best" film, only that film that gets the most votes for any number of reasons.

If aesthetics were absolute and therefore not dependant on personal opinion, art would be as black-and-white an issue as math. If such a thing were true, there would not even be a need for award shows. We would all just scan the year's films, say to ourselves, "That right there is the best Film of the Year" and be done with it.

Math tests don't have five different numbers nominated for "The Best Answer to 2 + 2."

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