How to Win an Oscar

by Alex King

         Last night were the Oscars, the time of year we Americans huddle round our television sets to find out which movies we should’ve been telling people we liked over the past year. Most articles appearing this week will offer some opinion about the winners, giving every journalist and blogger a chance to force their unasked for opinion on merciless readers. These articles will be boring and pretentious.
         This article is about something completely different, however. When people go to modern art museums, it is common for some clever man to jab a finger at abstract art and say, “Why, I could’ve made that!” Similarly, when watching the Oscars last night, it is common for someone to think, “If Happy Feet can win an Oscar, then surely I can make a film that can win an Oscar too.” The desire is there, but many people do not know how to go about winning an Oscar, and film school is expensive and filled with the annoying air of about to be crushed dreams. Thus, everything there is to winning an Oscar is included in this guide.

1) Release a Movie in a Particularly Bad Year for Movies
          This is probably the most important step. It’s no good releasing your film in a year with great movies. If your best competition is a comedy and three films no one outside of turtleneck-wearing-indie- circles even saw, even something like the The Departed can win. But how can you tell if it’s been a bad year for movies? Simply use the following easy litmus test: Has a movie like Dreamgirls received 8 Oscar nominations? If the answer is yes, then you’re in luck! If all your competitors are lackluster movies starring aging teen heartthrobs, you’ll be sure to sweep the competition, because there won’t be any. Go for a shitty year where people spend more time watching Gray’s Anatomy than going to see movies. Do not release your film the same year as Gladiator, because that movie was fucking awesome.

2) Do Poorly at the Box-office
          Nothing says ‘Oscar-worthy’ more to the Academy than a poor box-office showing. The Last King of Scotland is the sort of depressing movie about how much it sucks to be in Africa (an important quality described in step 5) that no American audience wants to see. It includes all the wrong elements to appeal to Americans: depressingness, morality, and Africa. However, the people that make up the Academy aren’t regular Americans; they ooze sophistication and detest any movie that people actually like. So to win their favor, make sure no one sees your film. Letters from Iwo Jima may be a great movie about marines, killing japanese or… letter writing (I’m guessing from the title), but I sure as hell didn’t see it. Neither did you. Neither did most people. This means it can get nominated for best picture.

3)(Documentary only) Be as Political and Biased as Humanly Possible
          The documentary category is meant for those noble movies that eschew slant and spin in favor of cold hard facts. Documentaries are meant to inform, to educate, but never to pander or deceive. Honest and objective, documentaries are the oasis of truth and non-fiction in an increasingly lie-filled world. Or, to summarize, way lame and boring, which is why documentaries never win best documentary. It is much better to present a movie that is in fact politically charged and as far-leaning to a side of the political spectrum as possible, fronted by an impossibly obnoxious and/or impossibly boring democrat like Michael Moore or Al Gore. Though this category has been dominated by whiny leftists, don’t let that deter you if your politics swing to the right. Industry experts expect the next string of best documentary winners to be extremely Republican, such the (still in postproduction) 2007 favorite An Inconvenient Menace, which is about the growing problem of gays, terrorists and poor people, based on George W. Bush’s famous powerpoint presentation.
         Alternate Strategy: A documentary about penguins.

4) Compete in a Stupid Category
          If you’re not gunning for best picture, this is a great way to go. Sure there isn’t as much glamour in getting the “Achievement in Costume Design” award, but hey, an Oscar is an Oscar. You can always just pry off the panel off of it and say you got it for Best Director. People often talk about when a film “sweeps” the Oscars, i.e. winning all the major categories of Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and so on. Why not be the first film to “sweep” the minor categories, taking in the Achievement in Sound Editing, Achievement in Sound Mixing, Achievement in Makeup, and Achievement in Art Direction? No one even knows what Art Direction is.

5) Make People Feel Guilty
          Lastly, make a movie that makes everyone feel bad when they see it. Most people go to the movies to watch happy, escapist scenes on the silver screen to forget the horrible drudgery of their everyday lives. But we don’t want a movie that must people will go to see (covered above), we want some self righteous morality play that will make everyone who sees it cry and want to talk about injustice or some crap like that. You can make people feel bad about a lot of things, but people feel worse about racism than they do gay people (which is why Crash beat Brokeback Mountain), but they still feel pretty bad about both. Therefore, the best movie ever would have to be about the plight of impoverished black gay midgets.

          That about covers the biggest tips. With these ideas in mind, you too can win best picture, actor or art direction. With your Oscar in hand (you should make sure to carry it with you, at all times), you can join the hallowed halls of Oscar-dom, and revel in your production company emblazoning “BEST PICTURE!!!” all over the dvd release. Ah, sweet success.

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