The awards season has always been one of the most intriguing and exciting parts of the year for me. Ever since I was a fan of movies, I was always a fan of the Academy Awards. I’m not exactly sure why. It might be the idea of rewarding the best films of the year. It might be the whole red carpet-glitz factor. But as I’ve gotten older and my tastes in film has matured, I see the award season as a recognition of the best of the best. These are the films that are worth paying the ever-so-high admission. The movie theater experience is a lost art form, mainly putting the blame in the changing atmosphere of our society, and the necessary change studios must also follow to meet the demands of the majority. But the Oscars, it’s a tribute to those who are still willing to make movies as an art. To make movies to inspire. To make movies to enthuse. Entertainment will always follow suit, but art is everlasting.
But as this will be almost my 15th year following the Oscars wholeheartedly, reading, tweeting, researching and watching, the race has changed immensely. Neglecting the work on screen, but rather the work on campaigns. You can’t win an Oscar anymore just off of merit. You must promote, interview, advertise and even ruin other films and their potential to get ahead. There’s a small group of actors, directors and producers that hate this systematic election-like process for an award, including the likes of Sean Penn, Woody Allen, Joaquin Phoenix and Terrence Malick, and considering I’ve seen more dirty politics for an industry that should never align itself with the game of politics, they have every reason to be ashamed and disobedient.
I’m not going to lie. I have my own personal choices for rewarding films. No individual roots for them all, and no individual ever feels completely satisfied throughout the whole process as film is as much subjective as it is art. And that’s the beauty of art. We all can have our own interpretations, feelings and understandings on certain films, and for anyone that feels it is necessary to ignore and shun other opinions on the matter, is at the very least, ruining the purpose of art.
Don’t get met wrong, the possibility of winning an Academy Award is gratifying, career changing and even life changing, especially when you can understand that this is someone’s career. Not some hobby most average goers assume these industry workers are a part of. This is their job. This is what puts the food on the table. Not everyone makes $10-20 million per movie. To think that is being extremely ignorant. As an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker, the idea of being being recognized by a nomination, more less a WIN, it’s incredibly dream-like and would be the Mt. Everest of any accomplishment. But at the same time, anyone’s career is not defined by awards or recognition. It’s defined by satisfaction, the satisfaction of one’s own work and their ability to achieve greatness for others.
The race of 2013 has been like a child realizing that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Granted I’m 24 years old, but nonetheless, I’ve always put the Academy at a level of recognizing the best of the best, regardless of manipulation or unproductive mindsets. Even if you feel like it’s not your favorite, you reward the film considering it is an achievement. It should never be about what film I liked the most at a present time, but it’s should always be what film deserves the be rewarded as the Best Picture of that certain year focusing on achievement and accolade.
But when this is realized, you can see the evidence that is stacked up against the Academy for year, YEARS, ignoring the greats of this industry and rewarding the trending. Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick has never won an Oscar for Best Director (Kubrick has never won one in general), Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Saving Private Ryan, The Social Network, North By Northwest, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Almost Famous, Roger Deakins, etc. In any career or organization, making a couple mistakes is not defiant of your legacy. But when you constantly make these sorts of arrogant denials throughout your existence, one must start, at least, question your ability at the sole responsibility you claim. It’s fine if the Academy doesn’t proclaim itself as the be all, end all of awards. It’s fine if they consider it just an opinion. But of course it doesn’t.
The most important thing to understand about this whole Oscar season is that if your favorite film doesn’t win Best Picture, it doesn’t mean anything. That’s why Oscar films, in general, are not studio financed films. If the Oscars had such a strong impact that reflected the feelings of the entire nation, then these are the kinds of films Paramount, Warners, Dreamworks and such would always go after. But they’re not. If you want to find a Best Picture candidate, you need to go to Sundance, TIFF or Cannes because that’s where you’re going to find them. To their credit, however, this year’s Best Picture nominees have made more money than almost any other year. Almost six films have grossed over $100 million domestically, which is a great reflection of the power of the audience, and the need for more engaging, thought-provoking and qualified films.
But let us remember, these films were popular before the nominations came out. Those audiences didn’t pay the price of admission because they were going to be nominated for an Oscar. They came because they felt the film was worth the admission. That it wasn’t this measly piece of entertainment, but a journey that could enrich for those two hours or so.
I don’t get paid to do this. This isn’t my job. But as much as I’ve followed this Oscar season, it has made me apathetic, realizing that it’s not worth all the work when the industry disappoints constantly. I see Argo as grade A entertainment, but nothing more than that. When I see films like Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild, those are films that are true achievements. And those are not my four favorite films out of the nine. But I watch them, regardless of my opinions, and see, wow, that is an achievement. They’re pushing the boundaries from story telling, character development, visual effects or the entire art form as a whole. And the nominations are great. I was surprised that the Academy voted for Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin, two underdogs that overcame Bigelow and Affleck.
And to be fair, the Academy has not shared their opinions or thoughts just yet. This year, we have no clue what’s going to happen. All the precursors and guilds scream Argo, but until those exact four letters are spoken for the last envelope of the evening, I still have hope that history will remain. This year has been wild, but the race has been consistently dirty.
*I’ll be doing a Oscar preview for different categories every day up until the big day on Sunday night, where I’ll release my long list of picks.