If you recall, I recently touched upon this in my last Oscar Round.
If you’re one of those Oscar aficionados who follow the Oscar race with a passion as vigorous as one would better expect made for the Superbowl, you would probably say that yes, the Oscars are still relevant. The anticipation for the annual Oscar race may be mistaken for pure nostalgia, however. We can all agree that an annual ceremony made to honor every great film ever made is something worth having, and for a while that all worked. The best pictures of the year were easy enough to pick out and honor. But as with all ongoing traditions, biases developed. Politics ran the show and turned into a battle of position. The inner-workings of what made the Oscars the “Oscars” are, in retrospect, pretty alarming. Because of this, it’s likely that the Oscars aren’t relevant anymore; at the very least, they’re not as influential as they used to be, and that’s a fact that all of Hollywood should realize.
As I stated before, one of the worst things about the Oscars is that they are built off of film biases and stereotypes. These things are zoned in by studios looking for their yearly films’ entry within the award race. Usually drawling, limited release, controversial and inaccessible, you’ll find one of these films within the Oscar race more commonly labeled as “arthouse.” (Black Swan, The Silence of the Lambs) There’s the onslaught of period pieces about American politics- or more commonly the Academy’s mistress, British politics. This more often than naught capture the Best Picture and Best Actor/Actress spots (Colin Firth, Helen Mirren). People say “so what? That’s the Oscars for you.” That’s precisely my point. There should be none of this typecasting when it comes to the nominees. With period pieces, if it’s about the Holocaust or directed by Steven Spielberg (a rather redundant statement) it will also get nominated. I’ll try to say this sensitively, but as Rod Stewart said in 2006, a vast majority of Hollywood is Jewish. Of course, I wouldn’t want anyone to misconstrue me blaming the fact that The Reader received a Best Picture and Best Director nomination over The Dark Knight is due to Jewish sentimentality, but a lot of us do wonder. The Reader nearly bombed with critics, although their understandable sentimentality towards Kate Winslet ultimately saved that. The Academy was so sorry that the definitive superhero film was snubbed, but that just doesn’t cut it. We know that The Dark Knight wasn’t going to get nominated because it’s a big budget comic book film, but why is it that we accept that? Because the Academy is so full of prestige and distinction that they’re simply above choosing one of the best pictures of the year as a nominee for Best Picture of the Year? I’m sure to them, it all makes sense. Because one they pull out their pens to fill out their ballots, it’s all a big measuring contest. And I’m not talking about their film reels, either.
These biases develop and we just let them. Because they’re the Oscars. Harry Potter has never received a Best Picture nomination because it’s a children’s film. But if you stamped Martin Scorsese’s name over the title, than it’s not just ta children’s film anymore, is it? Then you get Hugo, which suddenly deems it a “masterpiece.” If Harry Potter had been directed by Steven Spielberg as planned, they would’ve ignored everything else and adorned it with a Best Picture nomination. Never mind that it became the definitive film of its genre and went on to be the most successful series of all time. So long as they have Spielberg. If James Cameron hadn’t directed Avatar, I’m willing to bet they would’ve ignored all of its money and snubbed it, too. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close got nominated. Tell me, if Stephen Daldry, who has received a Best Director nomination for every single film he’s done before this, hadn’t directed the film, would it have been elevated to Best Picture status? Either you fit solely into these Academy molded stereotypes, or you are part of the Academy’s fraternity. We also see that Southern films get nominated a lot. Forrest Gump, Driving Miss Daisy, and now, The Help. A study recently released by Hypable shows that the “Academy demographic is skewed to older, white males.” Jewish undertones in Extremely Loud may also credit to this. Sorry to dribble on with this bit, but this is what should anger people the most. If a movie’s one of the Best Pictures of the Year, it should be acknowledged as such. There is no consideration for the general public. For a film to be considered, it must maneuver the Academy’s ways. Be limited release. Be non-controversial. Drive, the critical favorite, couldn’t be nominated. Because it was way too violent. It just wasn’t Jewish enough. Wasn’t made by anyone in the fraternity. So, it’ll be snubbed. When you get down to this, you realize the Academy’s not about recognizing the Best Picture of the Year. It’s about celebrating about what makes up their mold.
I think I may have mislead you before. Because really, it’s not all about who’s on the Academy’s friend list on Facebook (although, ironically, not David Fincher, who even though brilliantly directed The Social Network he has yet to win an Oscar). It’s about politics. The Academy’s pretty much split into Republicans and Democrats, or in Academy terms, Scott Rudin and Henry Weinstein. Rudin and Weinstein have a long-standing war raging over the Oscars. The Social Network and The King’s Speech Battle Royale was helmed by the two, Rudin producing Network and Weinstein producing Speech. From this match-up alone, you can see who holds the power here. The Weinstein Company has ruled the Oscars for ages, this year producing frontrunner The Artist. Rudin also got some of the sentiment withExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Moneyball getting Best Picture nominations, even though neither one of them is going to win. Again: the fact that Extremely Loud got a nomination is just proof of the combined powers of Rudin and Daldry. Because if it didn’t getnominated, then that’d make for one awkward college reunion. While we’re sure that Henry Weinstein is God of the Oscars, that’s not the point here. The point here is that there should be no show runners. If Weinstein hadn’t produced The Artist, it would’ve gotten nada and lost among a sea of early year festival films, no matter how good. But seeing the name Weinstein just gives a chance for Academy members, (excuse me if my euphuism is wearing thin) to whip out their rulers. Why does power matter here? Why should it matter? What’s sickening to me is that politics even has a place in the arts. That the favorites get first pick. Does it make sense for us to just accept this? This is a reason the Oscars aren’t relevant. Because it’s not about the Best Picture of the Year anymore.
Surprisingly, it’s not only the actors who are snubbed that aren’t happy. It’s the nominees and the winners. Why? Think about it this way: would you want one role to define you? To define your career? I find this fact unappealing. Sure, it’s great to think that you’d pull an awards sweep, scoring award after award after award. The SAG, the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and then the Oscar. This one actually isn’t at entire fault to the Oscars. But basically, the Oscar just copies one show after the other, leaving other notable actors and actresses in the dust. Christopher Plummer is going to get the Oscar when basically, it’s just a thinly veiled lifetime achievement award. But where is Andy Serkis’ Oscar? If he pulled an award sweep, would it have opened the eyes of Academy members? Would they have suddenly been able to thinkthat a performance is better than it is just because their fellow award ceremonies say so? For actors, they don’t want one role to define them. Because by the next year, even if they shell out a better performance than the last, the Oscars will have felt that their obligation was fulfilled by already giving the person the award. We’ve seen Tom Hanks win back to back, but there’d be worse bets than placing money that it’s the last time it’s going to happen. For example, Colin Firth didn’t win the award for A Single Man, so they made up for it with The King’s Speech the next year. Sure, he grandly portrayed ol’ Henry in Speech, but a majority of people agree he was better in A Single Man. Just because he won the award for Speech, that’s suddenly his “best” role, when that’s not necessarily it. Someone else just gave a better performance the year before, and he gave the best role the year after. As well as annoying circuit sweeps, an Oscar sometimes wrongly defines an actor’s career. A similar scenario occurs with the Best Picture nominees. Just because a film wins Best Picture one year doesn’t mean it’s better than a nominee from another year. If a film wins, then it’s going to get more universal cred than just a nominee- but this doesn’t necessarily mean anything. For example, even though The Artist is probably going to win this year, I think we can agree that even though The Social Network or Inception (maybe that’s just me) didn’t win, they’re far superior to Artist. There Will Be Blood didn’t beatNo Country for Old Men, but Blood is still far better than The King’s Speech.
This also brings up the sub-issue that just because a film doesn’t win Best Picture, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t. For example, E.T. didn’t win Best Picture, but it’s still a classic, and when it comes to long-term endurance, Gandhi, which won in the same year, doesn’t hold a candle to that. The Sting beat out The Exorcist, but does anyone else really remember Robert Redford today, in comparison to the horror genre’s definitive film? The Academy has no respect for history-making films in this sense. Even if you don’t consider this at the Academy’s fault, it shows that the Oscars aren’t relevant because due to vote splits and voter taste, wrong films get chosen. This brings up another point of mine: more often occurring in the case of acting categories, there are snubs due to vote splits. Why didn’t Ryan Gosling get a nomination this year? He was on fire with three critically acclaimed roles, Drive, The Ides of March, and Crazy Stupid Love. Surely there must have been notice for him this year (or with the Academy’s disdain for anything the audience likes, maybe not), but those votes were split between favor between the films and no percentage could compete for the number of votes in the slots for other actors. As for the Michael Fassbender snub, let’s just try not to think too much about that one.
When the Oscars were first created, they were meant to simply stand as an annual even to award the Best Pictures of the Year, also honoring cinema in general, basically a chance to revisit the greatest movies of all time (a definition, to them, gradually becoming thinner) once a year. Dually, it was meant to serve as an introduction of lesser-known great films to audiences. But is it any longer necessary in the information age? With the invention of the internet, the world was enabled with a superhighway of information. Reviewers and critics served as the medium for movies. Doesn’t it make more sense to take the word of reviewers you’ve learned share your own opinions, as opposed to an elite group of people whose identities you don’t know? The reason we don’t hear about these films is because studios keep them under wraps until the end of the year during limited release. While we’re mulling over this area, it’s safe to say that while these films make virtually no money in theatrical release, after the Oscars, they make a big video release hit. Just look at the comments on Amazon these days about Oscar nominated flicks, usually one star reviews from those with low attention spans not accustomed to arthouse. Getting back to my point, the statute the Oscars originated from is completely beaten with the internet.
An excerpt of some negative reviews of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life from Amazon:
As I stated before, I think that award ceremonies that precede the Academy Awards have too much influence over the voting. Is it simply because these committees are all too like-minded? Or is it because they are composed of some of the same voters? The Screen Actors Guild and Academy Awards are both composed of Hollywood actors and actresses, so does that determine why The Help always seems to be in the pool? Different award committees should have a diverse set of people so that every great film or film maker has an equal chance in the end, their own argument. Because really, does the fact that Kenneth Branagh sticks around for My Week with Marilyn make it more memorable than Alan Rickman’s powerful mutter of “always?” Please, whenever you think of the fairness of the Academy Awards, just remember that one word. Always. For those Potterphiles morally offended by the snub, never let that feeling go away.
Snubs hurt too much to deal with them. For the film makers who dedicate their efforts to making a film, not getting recognition by the Academy is like a slap in the face, especially with unworthy film makers deemed there by politics (see above). Andy Serkis has admitted his discouragement by his lack of acknowledgement of the late. Steven Spielberg hasn’t been getting much love for War Horse, severely lacking of a Best Director nomination, or even for The Adventures of Tintin, not included in the Best Animated Feature category due to disdain for motion-capture animation (again, see Andy Serkis). No one doubts Rooney Mara’s finesse in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but why didn’t Naoomi Rapace get a nomination for doing the role first? Why can’t David Fincher seem to win an award that he deserved not once, but thrice? Alfred Hitchcock, who directed Psycho, and Vertigo never even received an Oscar. And that’s when you remember that The Blind Side, The Reader, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close all have Best Picture nominations, pulled only by the strings of Oscar voters, who are pulled by the strings of dirty politics and influence. They ignored what the audience thinks is best– and really, isn’t thatwhat the Oscars are supposed to be about? In my opinion, a perfect system would be an amalgamation of the different influences of the film making community. 50% of the vote would go to reviewers and critics that are CHOSEN by the public. 20% would go to Oscar voters, 10% to Actors and Film Makers, 10% to Small Bloggers, and 10% Public Vote. This way everyone would get a say of what is the Best Picture of the Year and there could be no complaints. If people get together and make this happen, we could have a new, fairer Oscars, designed for a new generation. Not that I’m recommending it, but it wouldn’t be completely rash to start an Oscar Boycott this year. Because really, you can just watch all of the cool stuff online and find out the winners dually, also getting to avoid two hours of drawl and people patting themselves on the back.
Until this dream could happen, we will be dominated by the politically run Oscars, and by my reasoning, one that is no longer relevant to the medium. The likes of David Heyman, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, and The Muppets are all owed apologies, but for now, it looks like all they’ll have to feel better with is their billions of dollars and devoted fans from across the planet. Not that any of that matters, though. Not if the ever prestigious Academy Awards says so.