St. Olaf Sentiments: February 27, 2015

Oscars 2015, or The Unexpected Virtue of Gambling

I love the Academy Awards. Not because I really care that much about who wins; I know which movies were my favorite this year and I don’t require validation from some mysterious, shadowy conglomerate of film elites.

I also don’t really care about the show itself. Let’s be honest, as a televised event, The Oscars are rather long and boring. As you might expect, about half of the broadcast is commercials. But unlike other major televised events, such as the Super Bowl, they’re not even enjoyable ads.

Companies that advertise during the Oscars should feel an obligation to create entertaining, or at the very least mildly tolerable, commercials. These people are watching the Academy Awards; haven’t they suffered enough?

However, good TV commercials are a rarity, so I can give the Oscars a pass on that front. But even the show’s content, delivered at a snail’s pace between commercial breaks, is in no way enjoyable nor entertaining. Every year, the award presenters give the same inane speeches on the importance of each category. Are all of them really that essential? I’m just saying, one sound category is enough.

Then there’s the “entertainment” between awards. There’s no reason for it to be there. Yes, people enjoy the one upbeat Best Song nominee, but everything else is either boring or cringeworthy. The Academy could just announce the awards and say goodnight. No one would notice any difference except for a decline in their desire to blind and deafen themselves.

I’ve never understood why every year there are a million articles online about how awful that year’s host was, as if there has ever been a good host of the Academy Awards. Sure, some put in a good effort, such as last year’s Ellen DeGeneres, but there is truly no human being on earth who could ever redeem the mind-numbing blandness of that award show. The host of the Oscars is like a gardener in Chernobyl; it doesn’t matter how good they are, they will never be able to turn it into anything pleasant.

So if I don’t like the Oscars, why do I dedicatedly tune in every year? If for nothing else, it’s really just for the sport of it. It’s like a horse race; they’re all strong, worthy competitors who deserve to be there, but I don’t have any strong emotional investment in the winner. Speaking of horse racing, this leads me to my favorite Academy Award tradition: my annual Oscar betting pool prediction contest.

I participate in the betting guessing as well, which is probably a conflict of interest since I also run the pool , but it’s just a friendly wager, so no one causes a fuss.

I love this tradition because guessing Oscar winners is my secret talent. I consistently get around 70 percent of my picks correct. This year was no different. 17 out of my 24 predictions came out on top. Some of my misses are understandable: I mean, no one saw Whiplash’s Best Editing win coming. Some of them were tight races: I figured Michael Keaton would pull through after Birdman’s Director’s Guild momentum, but sadly no.

Despite my powerful guesswork, I unfortunately only came in second place this year. Some punk made a few lucky guesses on the tight races. I was not dismayed, however, as I won every single one of my other, private, friendly Oscar bets. So overall, I had a net profit of $20 worth of strong moral character.

The moral of this story is that while the Academy Awards are an inherently lifeless and hollow piece of network programming, they can become the highlight of your year with the one tool that can make any event a festive treat: gambling.

mayo1@stolaf.edu

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