Monday, February 11, 2013

L'art pour l'art

The Grammys amuse me. For the most part the Grammys don't reward talent or artistic merit, but instead throw trophies at artists who sell the most records. I would have thought gold and platinum record plaques were the reward for that achievement, but what do I know?

And yet the Oscars still maintain some semblance of rewarding art. Every once in a while a Titanic or Gladiator wins, but statistically the Academy rewards films that actually have something to say. You may not like what it said, but at the very least it was said in an engaging way.

The Oscars are not without controversy, but if the Oscars were run the same way as the Grammys the best film of the year category would be down to The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, Skyfall, The Hobbit, and Twilight.

Go ahead, amuse me. Explain to me why any one of those films deserves recognition for its artistic merit over something like Life of Pi, Argo, Lincoln, Beasts of the Southern Wild, or Zero Dark Thirty.

I want to state that of the top grossing films I listed I saw all but one (you can go ahead and guess which one… that’s right; Skyfall. screw you, James Bland!) and I liked all of them. Some I liked more than others, but none of them were artistic masterpieces. None of them deserve to be recognized for more than their box office take has done already. I may not have loved Beasts of the Southern Wild, but it’s a compelling film. It’s a risky film. It’s a film that has heart and soul and it engages you. How engaged were you watching The Avengers? You knew the outcome before it started. It’s a fun and flashy movie. I really liked it, I’d love to see it again, but it didn't make me feel anything I didn't bring into the theater with me.

The money made by pop art is its recognition. The Coca-Cola polar bears are cute, so is the Santa they put out at Christmas. Maybe it makes you buy a Coke instead of Pepsi. Good for Coke. Nice work. But it’s not a painting by Monet. It doesn't move you or compel you to do anything more than just purchase the product it’s selling. That’s what Taylor Swift’s music is. That’s what Skyfall is. It’s a product designed to sell itself. And if you enjoy it, fantastic. That’s what it was designed to do. Give you a little joy in exchange for a cash fee.

Recognize that. Accept that. And accept that true art, which is art for art’s sake, should be promoted and recognized in a society that has so often endeared itself to the commercial over the spiritual.

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