Warrior Words: I'd (really) like to thank the academy

I admit it: I’m an award show junkie, and an unashamed Oscar aficionado at that. The following flashback to a 2009 13-hour family road trip to South Carolina should be evidence enough of my infatuation:

Me (clutching the latest edition of the World Almanac): Hey! Hey, Mom! Dad! Who won Best Actor in 1965?!

Mom: I don’t know.

Me: Lee Marvin! Obviously.

Dad: Remind me why we decided to have a second child?

Fun fact: That last part is not made up!

In any case, I continue to foster an unhealthy obsession with the Academy Awards and other major award shows. I would be remiss to not admit that I’ve been following this year’s Oscar derby since last June. (Yes, there do exist such things as online Oscar leaderboards, message boards, handicapping odds, awards scorecards, and news updates. I type this with only the slightest twinge of shame.) And after award season ends in early March, I typically lapse into a peculiar depression characterized by my YouTubing acceptance speeches and crying over bowls of Velveeta macaroni and cheese, as I glumly realize that I’ll have to endure a spring and summer of vapid, big-budget blockbusters before the release of artsier fare.

But let me be clear: I’m not about the glamour or pageantry of that annual Sunday eventide. I don’t give a darn about “who” the glowing nominees are wearing on the Red Carpet, and I really don’t care how Ryan Seacrest thinks it looks, either. Even the politics of this season irk me; the notion of award campaigning — those full-page ads brimming with desperate critical blurbs, the countless dinner parties all aimed to coax various academies and guilds into voting one way or another — it’s more sickening than the budget of the Oscars ceremony itself. (Have you heard what guests receive in their “gift bags”? I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with “highland staycation.”)

When it comes to the Oscars, for me, it’s all about the mudita.

In Buddhism, mudita refers to a particularly vivid type of joy that derives from reveling in another’s good fortune. It’s no surprise that we don’t have a word for this in the Western world. But each year, the Oscars telecast allows me to renew a welcome sense of unabashed mudita.

Who doesn’t like seeing people win things? When did we all get so jaded? It may seem counterintuitive, given Hollywood’s cutthroat culture and stereotypical sliminess, but only the Oscars and similar award shows can banish my northeastern United States holier-than-thou lump of coal for a heart, and replace it with a genuine and pure nugget of Oscar-gold mudita.

Say what you will about the Oscars! Say it’s the product of underhanded Weinstein mudslinging! Say it’s a reflection of the lost connection between critically successful films and their mindless, mainstream counterparts! Say it’s dumb drivel; say it’s gratuitous glitz! Say it’s just liberal Hollywood bigwigs giving each other golden statuettes just because they paid X amount of dollars and “believed in” the “gritty indie that could.” Say it! Because that’s what it is. But it’s also a magical mudita machine, and that’s why I’ll always tune in.

I won’t be seeing you on March 2nd.

(P.S. I’ll admit to being somewhat of a hypocrite — I’ve only seen a smattering of this year’s nominated films. I am, however, rooting for wins for American Hustle, Frozen, and Prisoners. Just my two cents.)

Nicholas Dehn is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with five classmates.