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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Oscar blowback: Am I a bigger idiot than Bill Maher?

The verdict is in. The readers have spoken. The Oscars were fabulous. If Bill Maher was a jerk for shamelessly spending more time blowing his own horn than touting the year's best documentaries (don't expect to see Bill in the running to host the show next year), then according to my mail and reader comments, I was totally, hopelessly, wildly wrong about the Oscars.

Oscarshowshot_5It's the great thing about the blogosphere--you get instant, unfiltered feedback. I have to admit it's wonderful to see people react with such passion about a subject, even if 90% of them would like to pelt me with Faberge eggs and douse me with leftovers from the Governors Ball. I knew things were bad when T.J. Simers, my son's favorite sports columnist (10-year-old boys seem to intuitively understand T.J.'s style of humor), bemoaned how negative my colleague Mary McNamara and I were about the Oscars, calling me a "nothing but a disturber, if you know what I mean, who writes only to get a rise out of people or sell more newspapers."

That just prompted another volley of e-mail, telling me that I must really be a nutcase if even mean old T.J. Simers couldn't stomach my Oscar bile. I suspect he was writing with his tongue firmly in cheek  since, after all, who likes getting a rise out of people more than T.J.? But for once, I think T.J.'s sly wit went over readers' heads. Still, I knew I was in trouble when my only support came from ardent conservative bloggers who were willing to praise me for bashing the Oscars, even if my politics are way over on the left wing of the spectrum.

Since you probably don't want to wade through all 300-plus comments, I've tried to helpfully choose--using what's left of my critical acumen--the best rip jobs:

7) You poor out of touch cynical fool. You should be given the sack!

6) I agree with everyone--you're out of your mind.

5) You are to a review what [right-wing columnist] Jonah Goldberg is to an opinion piece.

4) You're high!

3) You're all bound up, mate. You need to take some prune juice.

2) You're as bitter and hateful as the Christian nuts outside the Kodak.

1) I have a suspicion that you are gay and afraid that you will be found out if you admitted liking Hugh Jackman as Oscar host. Fess up and do not be scared to admit your true feelings.

Ah, didn't that feel good? So what is to be learned from this avalanche of enraged reader response?

Simple: The critic and the audience don't always agree. If we did, the Oscars would've gone to "Quantum of Solace," "Hancock" and "Four Christmases," which delighted audiences all around the world--making huge gobs of money in the process--but were slagged by the critics. The critic isn't paid to agree with the majority opinion. Our job is to provide context and perspective, maybe even a little illumination. Sometimes the critic is right and sometimes he's wrong--and sometimes he's wrong at the time, but turns out to be right 30 years later (which goes out to all the critics who back in 1990 lambasted the academy for the blunder of giving the best picture Oscar to "Dances With Wolves" instead of "GoodFellas").    

I'm happy to hear from readers about my missteps. If I can dish it out, I can take it. If you're a critic, your job isn't always about being completely in sync with the popular taste of the moment. I remember once running into Bob Hilburn, The Times' longtime pop music critic, after he'd written a pan of a Bon Jovi concert. "How did it feel, being surrounded by thousands of people, all wildly applauding, knowing you were going to say the show stunk?" I asked. Bob replied: "I wasn't listening to the applause. I was listening to the music."

Photo of Oscar producer Laurence Mark watching from the wings as the "Slumdog Millionaire" cast charges the stage at the Kodak Theatre by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (11)

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I find the comment that "Quantum of Solace" delighted audiences around the world highly debatable, as though that was in any way responsible for the 'huge gobs of money' it took at the world box office. Bond has had an in-built audience since 1962 and people trot out every time they see the 007 and gun logo on a teaser poster touting another episode in the franchise. Not until they left the cinema would a lot of them (and there were a lot of them)have felt that they had been 'treated' to possibly the worst James Bond film ever made! Bond can be lots of different things to lots of different people, but he should never be boring! QoS was not only as bad a Bond film as I've seen since the very stupid 'Die Another Day' in 2002, but probably one of the worst films I remember seeing in a very long time. A more truncated cipher-like piece of 'entertainment' I could not imagine. Also the most forgettable James Bond film ever made, and one which I have no desire to watch ever again.

Graham Rye
Editor & Publisher
007 MAGAZINE
The World's Foremost James Bond Resource
www.007magazine.co.uk

I'd say you were tied with Bill Maher, not only in the 'idiot' category but also in the 'total jerk' field. A post like this only further cements your irrelevancy. Your condescension apparently knows no bounds. The viewers don't agree with me because they're idiots who think Four Christmases was wonderful?

You're still deluded. Clearly you don't think that those who saw the Wrestler, Reader or Visitor (i.e. the artsy types) were the ones writing in to lambast you for your out-of-touch review, but you would be as mistaken in that assumption as you were in your critique of the Oscars.

I think two posts in a row shows that you don't have any context or perspective. As for illumination, I don't think you could find the light switch in the dark place you live.

By all means, continue to be patronizing and dismissive to your readers -- nothing sells subscriptions (especially at a dying organization like the Times) like complete asshattery!

I find the comment that "Quantum of Solace" delighted audiences around the world highly debatable, as though that was in any way responsible for the 'huge gobs of money' it took at the world box office. Bond has had an in-built audience since 1962 and people trot out every time they see the 007 and gun logo on a teaser poster touting another episode in the franchise. Not until they left the cinema would a lot of them (and there were a lot of them)have felt that they had been 'treated' to possibly the worst James Bond film ever made! Bond can be lots of different things to lots of different people, but he should never be boring! QoS was not only as bad a Bond film as I've seen since the very stupid 'Die Another Day' in 2002, but probably one of the worst films I remember seeing in a very long time. A more truncated cipher-like piece of 'entertainment' I could not imagine. Also the most forgettable James Bond film ever made, and one which I have no desire to watch ever again.

Graham Rye
Editor & Publisher
007 MAGAZINE
The World's Foremost James Bond Resource
www.007magazine.co.uk

Amen Tina! The Oscars were fun with some touching moments sprinkled throughout (original screenplay, supporting actress..). What more is the show supposed to be? Patrick what would your ideal oscar broadcast be? alas... critics do not create, they bring down. To say that everyone who enjoyed the show must have because their tastes are limited to crap blockbuster movies like hancock and four christmases is ridiculous. bitter, bitter, bitter..

you weren't wrong -
the show was awful.
from not being able to properly see the people on screen during the 'in memoriam' to bill maher being a gasbag to the treacly 'it takes a village' style presentation of the acting awards. just terrible. people are sheep and easily entertained, so i am not surprised they disagree with you.

the show wasn't the worst ever, but the air of self-importance still reigns supreme and that's sad. they made some strides, but they are still 15 years behind the times.

I thought the Oscar show was dreadful, dreadful. So, like you, I'm at a complete loss. Was I watching a different show? Top hats and canes in 2009?? No clips? Lots of very sincere talking heads. And more talking heads. And peopled LIKED it? Wow.

I do think critics in general are way too harsh on the Oscar ceremony each year, good or bad. Seems like nothing the producers do is good enough ... often, the critics are right, but I think somehow the critical bar for this one night is preposterously high.

Still, Maher shouldn't have made it all about himself, and enough with the song and dance numbers!

Patrick, you finally get it, don't you? The Oscars are not brain surgery, they are a celebration of the art of film, even though that art sometimes has a clown nose on it! Hugh Jackman did a wonderful job, the production numbers were spectacular, and even though the acting categories were long, the mostly heartfelt words by each former winner put the work each nominee did in true perspective. I hope the Academy keeps the best of each new innovation, which was the theme of "putting it together"...that really worked. I hope next time you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you remember the joy on the audiences faces when Hugh finished his
opening number. They knew they were in for a good time, and we all got it!

Well, I did NOT like this year's Oscar ceremony much at all. The musical numbers were too many, and the awkward, cloying presentation of the best actor awards was awful.
Hopefully, the Academy will not repeat that.

Patrick - I thought you were refreshingly spot-on about the Oscars. As big a self-important flatulent waste of time that there could be. So, I think you're good. But, hey, I'm just a "wingnut" and a "hater".

 
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