...for the first time in more than 25 years I wasn't writing about them, blogging live or sitting in a chat room during the show. So I didn't.
I will pause for a moment for comments along the lines of "What an idiot," "A real film critic would have watched," "You must not care about movies," etc. (But make them to yourself, because I'm going to delete them if I remember to check for them below.)
Three things kept me from watching. First, the ceremony is no longer the exciting climax to a contest; it's a coronation. I checked the complete list of winners, and there were absolutely no surprises. Well, one: "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall" tied for sound editing. Woo-hoo! Or maybe you could count Ang Lee beating Steven Spielberg for best director, although they were always neck and neck, and it was obvious that "Lincoln" never registered with awards voters. They were both surrogates for Ben Affleck, anyhow.
Second, I might see an awards show if I thought I'd learn something about the industry. If I watch the Grammys, I hear a lot of music that's new to me (if not to most other viewers). But I've seen every Oscar winner and virtually all the nominees, except for foreign movies and documentaries that will never play here, and I can look those up online.
Third, the Oscars celebrate mediocrity and tradition, not innovation. "Brave" was a perfectly decent, by-the-numbers, empowering-a-tweenager movie that Disney has distributed almost since the advent of sound. But if had been released by anyone other than Pixar, voters would have left it alone. The costumes for "Anna Karenina" were lovely, but this is the 30th time in the last 33 years that a film set more than half a century ago has won that award, mainly because it so beautifully copies designs from its period. (The others were two fantasies, "Alice in Wonderland" and "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," and "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.")
A friend whose opinion I respect later e-mailed me: "Oscars were not bad but not great. Rotten Tomatoes probably would have it tracking at about 53%." Heck, the novel I read, the music I listened to and the cat I kept petting rated a lot higher than that.