Public radio podcaster Brendan Francis Newnam, named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Big Food Thinkers Under 40,” shared one of his big thoughts on Weekend Marketplace last Friday: The only way to make the presentation of the animated shorts Oscar category tolerable is to bet money on it.

Newnam, who hosts the Dinner Party Download, a radio show about arts and culture, explained to the host of Marketplace:

“My co-host, Rico Gagliano, is a very strong believer in betting pools. I resisted, but now I agree with him because you need something on the line when you get to that part of Oscar where they’re talking about the best sound mixing, the best animated short. You know, look, it’s hard enough to even to see the main features so to stay invested during those portions of the party it’s worth it to have money, money, money.”

Brendan Francis Newnam.
Brendan Francis Newnam.

Before his offhand dismissal of the craft categories at the Academy Award, Newnam complains about the portentousness of the Oscars. “These are overpaid people who don’t even fully represent our country…so a lot of the fun is making fun of the people,” he said. “These are kind of the like the Greek gods, the Roman gods…we like to watch them mess up and make mistakes, so it’s okay to be goofy and mock them.”

Of course, the people who are the antithesis of Greek or Roman gods are animation artists, make-up and costume designers, visual effects artists, set designers, and other craftspeople. These people toil anonymously behind the scenes for years, often decades, and the majority of the Academy Awards are dedicated to these craftspeople. The Oscars are one of the few moments that they receive widespread public acknowledgement for their contributions to the massively popular art form they help create.

To recap: Newnam, whose job amazingly is to understand arts and culture, not only doesn’t make any attempt to understand film artists, but he thinks that the best way to appreciate their artistic achievement is to
a.) bet on the work they create, and
b.) mock the artists, for good measure.

Big thinker, indeed.

(Photo, top: Ljupco Smokovski/

Amid Amidi

Amid Amidi is Cartoon Brew's Publisher and Editor-at-large.

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