So there it is. “The Departed” was chosen as the best motion picture of 2006, and I was, rarely, validated in my pick for the top category. At least I don't have to eat a newspaper article for breakfast.
But more truthfully, 15 of my 24 picks were wrong. Poster Chris-Brad missed only 13 of 24 (getting 11 correct).
Yet again, my taste doesn’t measure up to the Academy’s. And I’m completely at peace with that.
You see, there is a wonderful process about the Oscars, or about any public exhibition of taste-making. We, the movie-theater potatoes, pick our favorites. We make blind judgments about the ones we haven't seen. We often disagree with critics and friends. We argue. We hope. We settle into the couch on Oscar night and keep a mental tab on how we're doing. Some of our picks pan out. Most don’t. And most of us go to bed knowing we don’t have the world figured out, and realize we never will.
I have watched enough of these movies, and enough of these Oscar shows, to know that taste is undeniably personal.
My brother called me tonight, and my mother called me Friday, and told me “The Departed” was a “horrible movie” and a “terrible movie.” Sure, I loved the Scorsese flick and waxed poetic about it. My family and I disagreed, and I don’t disagree with their right to disagree with me.
I consider our points of contention as part of the party, part of the pain, and all of the reward. When we talk about movies, we learn something, albeit obliquely, about the peculiarities of each other’s way of seeing.
On a basic critical level, the movie is the industrialized world's most commonly accepted indicator of the quality of a person's taste. There is no other art form like cinema that inspires so many people to disagree so openly. For this reason alone, it’s important to pay close attention to what your friends and family think, if only to make Friday nights at the multiplex more illuminating.
The process of refining taste offers a vital connection to like and unlike minds. By debating a movie's merits, I learn just as much about film form as I do about forming opinions.
There is little point in being right in my taste. Confident assertions are essential, but there is nothing to be gained by out-arguing a perceived opponent. I talk about movies in the hope of seeing through them through different eyes. I want to know why someone says, “I believe in this.”
So for 2007, I will continue to take interest in those impassioned cellphone calls to friends or heated exchanges with my mother. I will continue to subject my taste to others' scrutiny. I will rest assured that my bizarrely hurt feelings will heal by filling my movie-going hours with more and more questions.
I'll take solace in the license to be wrong, and seek comfort in our pursuit to learn more.