It’s been several weeks since the actor and comedian Patton Oswalt (you may remember him from his star turn as “Toast A Bun Manager” in 2009’s Observe and Report) outraged his tens of thousands of Twitter followers with the following suggestion:
The reaction from Oswalt’s apparently overwhelmingly left wing and seemingly humorless fans was swift and merciless. By proposing laughter, Oswalt—a (white straight cis male, don’t you know?)—was “victim blaming.” His tweet was “problematic.”
Since the contretemps, Oswalt has been desperately attempting to get back in the good graces of his former fans. But like Mitt Romney maladroitly referring to himself as a “severe conservative,” Oswalt is rather obvious in his cloying attempts to ingratiate himself with “the base.”
He mocks Ted Cruz—so edgy! He refers to Dinesh D’Souza with an obscenity—daring stuff! And in an interview with New York Magazine published Monday, the comedian takes up the latest cause celebre of the online Left: Selma. In the interview, Oswalt laments that the acclaimed film was supposedly snubbed by Oscar voters. The movie, after all, “only” garnered Best Picture and Best Original Song nominations.
“The thing about Selma that bothers me: It's just logic,” he sighs. “It goes beyond race. So it’s a best movie nominee, and yet none of the performances, none of the writing, none of the directing, none of the cinematography—none of them did an Oscar-worthy job, but the movie is Oscar-worthy. That doesn’t make sense.”
But of course, it absolutely does make sense: movies can be more (or less!) than the sum of their parts. Titanic, for example, was a fine film (I’ll admit it), but nobody would suggest it was particularly well written, or that Leonardo DiCaprio gave a particularly remarkable a performance. (The opposite can also true: Steve Carrell's Oscar-nominated performance in Foxcatcher was one of 2014’s most impressive, but the movie, while good, was not one of the year’s best and was not nominated.) That a movie was one of the year’s finest does not imply that the performances in it were as well.
But more pertinently, there are eight films nominated for Best Picture, while there are only five nominees in the acting, writing, directing, and cinematography categories. Contra Oswalt’s musings, it actually makes perfect logical sense that a film might be nominated for Best Picture but not for Best Actor. Indeed, it’s a logical certainty that this will happen.
An actor (and film buff) himself, Oswalt is no doubt aware of all this. His musings are simply boob bait for the uninformed and the quick to be outraged. Or to put it another way, Patton is pandering. That’s a bad enough look for a politician. But for a comedian? Nothing short of fatal.