I have a sort of thing -- I don't know what to call it -- Compulsion? Addiction? Quirk? I don't know. Anyway, the thing is that I have a sort of obsession with the Oscars. I study the Oscars the way some people study baseball or Star Trek or science. Yeah, I recognize and embrace my nerdiness where this is concerned. I embrace the fact that I can recite Best Picture winners going back at least 20 years. Seriously. On top of that, going back at least 20 years, I have seen every Best Picture winner PRIOR to it winning Best Picture. I'm on a streak. Sometimes I gamble and just make sure I see the "sure bet," which is why I sat through the third Lord of the Rings movie despite the fact that I really hate those sorts of fantasy films. Sometimes, I get freakin' lucky, like when I watched Crash on DVD literally an hour before the ceremony started, a night when I was sure my streak was about to end because I had NOT seen Brokeback Mountain during the two weeks it was here in town.
The problem is that it's getting harder and harder for me to make sure that my streak stays alive, a fact of which I was reminded in reading this article in the New York Times. The article talks about the seemingly snail-like pace that the major contenders are taking in getting out into theatres. I live in a very small market, so the chances of me actually getting to see something like The Wrestler or Slumdog Millionaire before nominations come out are pretty much zero. Heck, the chances of me seeing them even after nominations come out aren't much better. It's been four years since I've "run the board" of Best Picture nominees -- seeing all five prior to the ceremony. Of course, it's gotten a little more challenging for me since my Januarys are often consumed with speech and finding the two or three hours to hide out in a theatre and enjoy a good film is pretty tough. And my task is made harder by the studios' refusal to share the goods with the rest of America.
Now, I'm not one of those anti-urban whiners who rails against urban elitism. I love cities. If I could find a job just like the one I have right now, I'd move to a city in a heartbeat if only to enjoy the cultural opportunities those cities provide. What I have a problem with, though, is this attitude that culture ONLY exists in cities. Cities like New York, Chicago, LA, Boston, and such may gave more cultural opportunities, but that doesn't mean that smaller towns don't crave such opportunities. In smaller towns, films are often the only real culture available or are a more affordable culture. I'm fortunate in that my town offers quite a bit of culture considering the size -- a symphony, theatre, art gallery, et cetera. When I go to see these "city" films, the theater is often quite full of people like myself who want an intelligent couple of hours of film rather than explosions, slapstick, and talking dogs. Many people I know will often drive an hour to Peoria or the Quad Cities to track down quality films -- something I rarely have time to do particularly considering that the weather can often make such trips a challenge this time of year as well. The fact remains that there are people who want these movies, who crave these movies, who will spend money to go see these movies. It's time for the studios to recognize the market that exists in the rest of the country and start giving us our damn movies!