As the statuettes line up like a golden terracotta army preparing to wage war on the soul of cinema it can only mean on thing: the Academy Awards; the annual celebration of sycophancy and mutual endorsement that is awards season, where directors angling for silverware cynically release films that fit a very narrow definition of good in the month prior to the ceremony.
I don’t know what’s worse about the Oscars, the fact that it’s the film equivalent of giving an OBE to a millionaire footballer or the fact it signifies the beginning of a season of cinema with about as much creativity as Shia LaBeouf, as all the films that never have any hope of winning anything are released well outside the reach of the Academy’s goldfish memory. I can only assume the members of the Academy don’t watch films most of the year round, then late December remember that the awards are looming and quickly rush to the cinemas. That’s why films that are released outside the awards window, like, say, Mud or A Hijacking, don’t get nominated.
Actors, directors and producers have their rewards. They’re richer than most of our wildest dreams, they receive adoration from millions of people with nothing better to do, and get to do a job that many would kill for. People raking in seven or eight figure salaries shouldn’t be praised for doing their job well, they should be reprimanded when they screw up. The Razzies have the right idea.What about the makeup people and sound editors? They have Oscars too. Ok, name an Oscar winning sound editor. Point proven.
Like an incestuous aristocracy, the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood elite is self servingly kept in the family to increase the esteem they collectively enjoy from the little people. This is obvious by the way the big ceremonies tend to be dominated by a handful of films, all up for multiple awards. This year there are three films up for nine or ten awards each. Is it really possible that of all the films released over the course of a year, three films can be the best in nine or more categories? No.
The awards are skewed in favour of the films the Academy wants to promote, that have been released at the right time, and have had the right kind of “buzz” created around them. To win, the makers of a film have to take the right people out to dinner and campaign properly around Hollywood. It’s about as good-a way of finding the best films as Eurovision is of finding the best song. And if it’s true that one film really can have the best director, writer, actors, sound editors, makeup artists, special effects and music, they should probably be sharing the talent around not hogging all the best people.
Meryl Streep is great, don’t get me wrong, but has she really done one of the best five movie performances in the world in eighteen separate years? Probably not. Hundreds, if not thousands, of films are made every year. More likely that the Academy looks at her films because of her reputation, caused, in part, by their own history of rewarding her.
The fact that the sound or acting in a film is the most obvious doesn’t make it the best. Hundreds of people are expertly portraying characters, writing music, editing and doing special effects in a way that most people won’t even notice. Is the film where you come out thinking “the music in that was great” the best? Or is the soundtrack written by a composer who knows how to hold back and not let it impose on the story better?
So don’t pay attention to the Oscars this year. Don’t concern yourself with who is winning and who they’re wearing. Instead of fawning over those false idols of high society, why not watch a film? Maybe something that never got nominated. You never know, you might just be pleasantly surprised.