Scientific Method

Sullivan: OSCAR SANITY: Kudos to the academy for ignoring the execrable "Fahrenheit 9/11" and the pornographic "Passion." Right-wing and left-wing ideologues will be disappointed. But what do they know about art?
I can think of at least three problems with this two sentence post. I don't think much of Fahrenheit 9/11 as a substantive anti-Bush argument, but it's certainly a well made film. It has artistic merit just from the way it's put together. Even if one thinks it's both a poor argument and contains many untruths, as Sullivan does, that doesn't mean it has no artistic value. I haven't seen the Passion, but I've heard it described by trusted sources as quite gruesome and challenging to the viewer. It's not clear to me that it's un-artistic or even bad art. But these are really my smaller problems, as it seems quite likely that it was a good choice not to nominate either of those for any awards, especially if you think intended truthfulness is an important quality for a documentary.

No, the real problem with the post is the implication from the last sentence that the Academy does know about art. This is not to say that the membership of the Academy don't include many excellent artists, which it does. It is instead to say that the Academy's track record has been uniformly horrible. As a small piece of evidence for this, I've conducted a brief experiment. The experiment is based on the premise that I know something about the artistic quality of movies, though I think it could be repeated by a wide range of people with similar results. I looked at a list of films made every tenth year from 1953 until 1993 without checking the Best Picture Winner for that year in advance (start date and end date picked randomly). If I hadn't seen any films I liked from a given year (1953), I moved to the nearest year where I had a strong preference. Not once did my choice accord with the academy's nor would the academy's choice likely be in my top five except for the first year listed where I just haven't seen enough to know. The Sting isn't a terrible choice for 1973 and might sneak into my top 5. I haven't seen anything from 1983 that I'd be comfortable voting for, and while Blood Simple from 1984 would be my pick, I also really like Amadeus. Since this experiment isn't showing the results I wanted I'm shutting it down. Especially since the Academy may very well have nailed 1993 (Schindler's List). It would definetly be in my top five for the year, and I'm not sure what I'd put in front of it. It just seems wrong to put Groundhog's Day ahead, plus I haven't seen Schindler's List for a long, long time.
Me Academy
1952: Singing in the Rain The Greatest Show on Earth
1963: Charade or The Great Escape My Fair Lady
1973: Mean Streets The Sting
1984: Blood Simple Amadeus

Update: It's not clear from the above that Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn't submitted for Best Documentary, so it had to stand or fall as Best Picture.