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Friday, March 31, 2023

We will take a bit of an esoteric approach today, instead of launching into a commentary on the Oscar picks. We’re sure the events of the Oscars are plastered all across social media. There’s a lot we could talk about: the political overtones of the night, the

now infamous mix-up that occurred at the end of the evening, etc. But we’re not going to do it.

We’re going to take a step back and talk about art. After all, cinema is art, and it is necessary sometimes to reflect upon that.

“What is art?” is a question that is posed frequently, usually in juxtaposition to some piece of modern art, usually something the average person claims their 5-year-old could do. We’re not going to focus on only the typical visual art of paintings and sculptures. We are going to consider literature, film, music, dance, performance, theater, design and architecture — all facets of art. We will clarify right now that there is no answer to this question. Perhaps that goes against the nature of an editorial, where we try to convince you of an argument. But think of it as us convincing you there is no conclusion.

The simplest definition of art is something aesthetically pleasing. “Aesthetically pleasing” is a nice blanket statement — not everyone is pleased by the same aesthetics, but an aesthetic may be pleasing to anyone. Saying something is aesthetically pleasing is not saying it is simply conventionally beautiful. Even within the definition of conventionally beautiful, there are variations and facets. Sure, we could argue that a pretty landscape is aesthetically pleasing to most, but you might be particularly compelled by seascapes, while your friend is drawn to pieces with bright flowers. Additionally, although aesthetically pleasing may seem to simply cover just visuals, one must remember there are aesthetics that can appeal beyond sight. You can appreciate the heavy bass part of a song or perhaps the more melodious strings.

This is a solid definition; it is one way to look at art.

Where, then, does literature — and to some extent theater and film — fall in? One can point out the aesthetically pleasing aspects of lm and theater, and although literature may evoke some sense of aestheticism through its form or imagery, compared to a painting or a symphony, it may not be as obvious.

Perhaps another definition of art is to convey emotion. In this aspect, literature shines. Stripped of music, of artwork, literature somehow makes you feel for what is essentially ink on a page. Film and theater use aspects of aesthetic in order to convey emotion. Of course, paintings, sculptures and music can also fall in this category — although you might not be emotionally compelled by a Thomas Kinkade landscape or Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” you could definitely argue for something like Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Judith Slaying Holofernes” or Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

In short, art can be beautiful. Art can appeal to our emotions. Art can do both. But is one more valid than the other?

To take this back to the Oscars, we’d like to pose a question. Surely, things like costume design, cinematography and production design reward the aesthetics of the art of cinema. What of the emotional aspects? For that, we’d say the screen- play, obviously, but also the acting categories, as they take the emotion on the page and convey it to the screen. Where does this leave best picture and best director though?

It’s that balance — what do we value more, perhaps, at different times of our own lives, at different times of humanity? It’s a question with no set answer, except for a pause for one’s own reflection.

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