Melanie Rothschild: Academy Awards and Art and Life

WizOzI think the Academy Awards is a funny thing. To be really honest, I think it’s nuts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the red carpet and seeing all the razzle dazzle outfits; it’s just what happens afterwards, on the inside, which leaves me scratching my head.

The decisions of the Academy magically take on a particular type of absolute truth; a type of widely-subscribed-to truth, which seems to exist in few other places. In our democracy, we have elections with winners and losers, but even the winner is ever after under constant judgment and scrutiny.

Yet it’s not at all uncommon for people to refer to the “Best Picture of the Year” as if it were some sort of absolute fact, like the law of gravity. Having an Oscar seems to shut down or discourage real discourse about movies. The winners are beyond challenge because, well, they won.

I don’t know how often people temper these perceptions of  “absolute best” with the knowledge that the Academy Awards was started in the 1920s by MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, to elevate the image of the film industry. It’s an industry which hatched a remarkable plan of giving itself public awards and the whole thing has taken on an amazing life of its own. As a marketing plan, it’s sheer brilliance!

I’ve often thought of giving annual awards to my own art. Here are some of the categories I’ve contemplated: Work of Which I’m Most Proud, Most Colorful, Most Dramatic, Best Seller, Most Inventive, Best Overall Work and on and on. If I were to make official looking ribbons, and attach them to the work, I’ve often wondered if those edicts would actually make an impact on sales. I’m guessing they would.

I love the movies and am constantly in awe of the talent of actors, both high profile as well as so many virtually unknown people. I just find that conversations that refer to Academy Award records of particular films or actors are far less interesting and satisfying than those conversations that are more specific and delve more deeply.

Many times I’ve heard people express their enthusiasm for a movie by saying something like, “It was so good, I think it’s going to win the Academy Award.” Yet I think it’s interesting to note that “The Wizard of Oz,” did not win the Academy Award for best movie, and both Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock also never received Oscars. How accurate a measure can a system be that allows this? And why do we keep referencing it as the ultimate way to laud a movie?

I think all of this is a particular kind of opportunity. I see it as a reminder to think about how we form our ideas about what’s good or what we consider “the best” both in our own work as well as more widely seen work. How we make decisions about what we like and the truths we integrate about work we revere, should be made with care. Forming our own conclusions is certainly an integral part of the pleasure in enjoying any art.

Ultimately the decision is . . . up to us.


Melanie Rothschild is a self-taught artist whose elaborate interior accessories have been sold in stores throughout the United States including Neiman-Marcus, the shops at the Smithsonian Institution, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and hundreds of others for almost two decades. Her work is shown in fine art galleries and has been licensed to Target. She considers moxie, an irreverent nature, and a respect for mistake-making to be the tools of her trade. Melanie has a master’s degree in the Study of Creativity and an undergrad degree in Anthropology. She is from and lives in Los Angeles. “Like” Melanie on Facebook today!

Click here to see more of Melanie’s artwork and a short preview of her documentary, MISTAKE.

You’ll find permission to silence your own inner (movie?) critic in Quinn McDonald’s Raw Art Journaling.

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