Monday, March 03, 2014

Game Culture

Sunday ended up being a workday for me, although the latter part of it I spent with the laptop in my immediate view and the Oscars playing out on the television a little farther away. Watched the whole sucker, more or less. I think the last time I did that Titanic swept the statues.

I don’t get out to see too many movies these days, not the current fare at least. I’ve been watching a few these last couple of months while we enjoy some free premium channels after initiating a new satellite setup in our new place, but we’ll let those channels go soon as we don’t spend enough time watching to justify the expense.

Of the ones highlighted last night I’d only seen Gravity, and that was on a plane (as I wrote about here a few weeks ago describing my trip home from EPT Deauville) -- hardly the ideal setting to take in the effects-laden spectacle, although I did form an appreciation of the film nonetheless. Not seeing the rest I can’t really say one way or another whether the trophies were handed out in a way that was deserving.

Found myself thinking a little about how on a certain level awards shows kind of weirdly make “games” out of pursuits and entertainments that aren’t really competitions at all. That up above is a “2014 Awards Season Scorecard” put out by Yahoo, further emphasizing the “sport” of such shows. I guess the Academy Awards are really like the playoffs, complete with favorites and underdogs, significant betting on outcomes and pools, and various kinds of scorekeeping taking place throughout the night.

I remember several months back listening to an episode of “B.S. Report” and getting a little frustrated with a lengthy discussion between host Bill Simmons and a guest regarding the acting career of Jodie Foster. It is a sports podcast (primarily), and so it shouldn’t have struck me as odd to hear the discussants pursue an analogy between Foster’s oeuvre and the career, say, of an NBA player. But after a while it felt like an unnecessarily narrow method of analysis.

Her two Academy Awards for Best Actress were likened to MVP or championship seasons. A stretch of non-remarkable roles stood for a lengthy slump. Her acting skills were questioned in the same way a player’s ability is, with an argument pursued that her apparent career highlights were more the product of fortunate casting and support (i.e., being on a strong “team”) than individual ability.

And so on. It was interesting, but seemed way too easy and ultimately not that revealing. In other words, the “sports guy” was talking about something that wasn’t sports as if it were, and finally I just wanted him instead to talk about sports again.

But that’s not to say such an approach can’t be insightful, nor that it is even wrong to make a “game” out of the act of criticism or evaluating artistic performance. It might even be inevitable, the way we tend to judge pretty much anything by making comparisons or ranking or assigning grades.

Heck, as I go to hit publish I’m already imagining giving myself a score out of 10 on this post. What would you say... 6? 7?

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