Suppose they gave an Academy Awards show and nobody came? If an Oscar falls in the forest and nobody is there to see it, does it really fall? What if all this hoopla for the past eighty-one years was all just shameless self-promotion?
There are so many existential quandaries surrounding this year's Oscar celebration. But there is little that could keep this gala occasion from taking place. In eighty years, the ceremony has taken place, and has been delayed only three times during that stretch: In 1938, floods in the Los Angeles area put the show off for a week. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. moved the big night back two days, out of respect, and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan held things up for twenty-four hours until everyone was sure he would be fine. Other than that, the show has gone on. And on. And on.
Wars have been fought and won. Wars have been fought and lost. The crash of the stock market in October 1929 couldn't dampen the spirits of the Hollywood crowd for the next year, though that may have had something to do with the number of awards handed out being reduced from twelve to just seven.
But cost-cutting measures have never been at the heart and soul of this enterprise. Throughout the Great Depression, movies and their stars continued to shine bright and bring hope to dark times. American films continue to be one of our greatest exports. All those limousines, gowns, tuxedos and jewels have become an integral part of our American Life. It is, after all, what we do.
This year is the first in my adult life that I can not claim to have any particular interest in the ceremony because I have not made the effort to see any of the nominated films. I feel a little like Bill Murray, in his old Saturday Night Live bit, predicting the Oscar winners based primarily on whims and rumors: "Best Supporting Actor and Actress? Who cares?" Truth is, I still do. I'll watch all three to twelve hours of coverage, and even make a stab at filling out my own "official" Oscar ballot. Like the Super Bowl, I'm not sure I can claim to have a favorite, but I'll be on the couch. Because that's what we do.