Andy Smith: Do Oscar critics like movies?
The man on the bus is quick to interrupt light chatter between two ladies when it turns to award season.
"The Oscars? Just a bunch of overpaid jerks patting themselves on the back."
No one reacts - partly because it's not clear whether he's just responding to a thespian-friendly voice in his head, but mostly because we've all heard that same argument.
In recent years, the anti-Hollywood sentiment has grown. In a time when the Regular Joe is underpaid or just jobless, the red carpet is still rolled out and the glamorous gowns adorn the thousands of gossip sites that haunt your newsfeed.
And although I have a certain admiration and even passive agreement to the counter-culture (and hey, man, I recycle, too), I have to put a dramatic foot down when it comes to the Academy Awards. They are - insert audible and beautifully timed gasp here - important.
Why? Well, because you love movies, friend. And if you don't, you've stopped reading this by now and returned to something not fun like yard work. For the rest of you: Hear me out.
Sure, I understand the absurdity of the sheer number of zeros across the checks of mainstream actors and athletes. But Hollywood is a billion-dollar machine, based mostly upon the volunteered exchange of money for escapist fiction and emotional, life-mirroring journeys.
It seems fitting that a ceremony to recognize the greatest of the exaggerated, fairytale world of Hollywood would be chock-full of glitz and sequins. Even if you don't care "who Emma Stone is wearing tonight," consider the relevance of the award itself.
At its core, moviemaking is an art, and there's a certain justice to seeing the best of any form get its due. It's a tradition, one that goes back to the days when film was taking its baby steps across the floor. And it's also a tradition for many who grew up in deep admiration for those behind the magic, and they, too, held back tears as an actress thanked her family, friends, agents, peers and local barista in that moment of triumph.
It's a love letter to cinema, one whose public image has evolved to being about the actor more than the acting. The culprit for that development is debatable, but the aforementioned gossip sites have done little to preserve the work that drives fame in entertainment.
It's seems odd for anyone who loves films to hate the Academy Awards and curse the self-serving entertainers. We live in a time in which altruism actually seems to be at an all-time high in Hollywood, regardless of continued greed that many associate with it.
More than ever, actors and actresses are filtering money to those in need stateside and beyond, advocating for those without a voice on Capitol Hill, and giving back to the educational institutions that produced them. And some just want you to buy their cologne.
But that doesn't really matter. To again see the Oscars in its deserving light, we need to look at the work. We need to recognize it's not something just anyone can do. Mostly, we just need to appreciate that noting their feats pushes us to better ourselves. Cynicism seldom progresses a culture, and to ignore the impact of film will push it further toward mass-producing drivel and the soulless station many are already trying to assign it.
So if you love movies, grab some popcorn and appreciate those who make it possible for you to see new worlds, reflect on our own history and see Tom Cruise blow stuff up. It's important, even if it is just a bit dramatic.
Contact writer Andy Smith at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4834.