I was a little bothered that Avatar didn't win the Oscars last night, but it took me a while to articulate why. After all, they are a private organization and should be allowed to choose who they wish. And I have no huge problem with elitism in other spheres. But it is striking to compare the winners from the 1990's to 2004 (Titanic, Bravenheart, Gladiator, etc. nearly all popular blockbusters) with the winners since 2004 which have all been much smaller limited release films.
So why should I care? I guess I care because in an era of Tivo and the Long Tail, where everyone is segmenting off into their own niches, the Oscars are one of the few pieces of mass culture that everyone shares as a focal point for water cooler discussion. 2nd in ratings only to the superbowl. And so it seems like maybe it would be useful for the Oscars to retain their relevancy to pop culture (Avatar being the highest grossing movie internationally, and tapped as deserving to win the Oscar by at least a few of the movie critics I read), or risk spinning off into own niche apart.