Sunday, 22 February 2015
The Oscars are a Sham
Well, it's Oscar season, something most people with connections to film consider to be a big deal. It's that time of year when the best movies are rounded up and given Awards that purport to offer some sort of prestige. Normally I would be excited about this time of year, but right now I'm not so sure. I don't even know if I should bother to watch the Oscars this year, it's not like I'm going to be like the results whatever they may be. From what I've seen, I'm hardly the only one dissatisfied with the Academy's decisions this year. They have made some good calls in the past, such as with The Hurt Locker, but not always. I personally wanted True Grit to win back in 2011 and was disappointed when it failed to win a single solitary award. The dissatisfaction is not even confined to this year: there are still people who have not forgiven the Academy for giving Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love instead of Saving Private Ryan.
Last year there were some good movies that have been nominated, but I'm not sure how many I would go as far as to consider worthy of Best Picture. I liked Boyhood, the one most people seem to agree has the best odds of winning. I thought it was a very well-done and compelling film and even if you don't like it, the fact that the director was able to stay committed to shooting it over 12 years while still finding time for other projects on the side is impressive. I still don't know if I would call it Oscar-worthy. The same goes for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Now if it were up to me, Interstellar and Under the Skin would have both made that list.
You ever notice how some genres tend to be more likely to gain Oscars than others. The Best Picture award is given almost exclusively to dramas (exceptions like It Happened One Night and Annie Hall notwithstanding), and even then there are signs of obvious biases on the part of the Academy. historical films seem to have the best reception based on the success of movies like Lawrence of Arabia, 12 Years a Slave and The King's Speech, with The Imitation Game following suit. Epics and romances also seem to have very good odds, but that's about it.
There's a few genres that seem to be completely ignored at the Oscars. Along with comedy, science fiction is almost completely ignored, and in the rare event that a science fiction film is nominated it almost never wins. Gravity achieved a partial victory last year, managing to win Best Director, but it was far more deserving of Best Picture than 12 Years a Slave. Horror films occasionally manage to win an Oscar for a really good performance, but usually don't get anything more than Best Editing, Best Sound mixing, or related awards.
The Oscars also seem to fail to consider action movies for anything above editing or sound mixing, with the only exception I'm aware of being The Towering Inferno. Really? Was 1974 just a really bad year for movies. Sure, it was a big deal because of all the pyrotechnics that took way too long to actually appear but how desperate was the Academy to even consider giving the Best Picture award to a movie as boring as The Towering Inferno that completely fails to deliver on any of the exciting action and suspense that it promises?
It becomes obvious very quickly that the Academy is very genre-biased just looking at their track record. Most of the time comedies are off-limits, as is anything that could be seen as a "genre" picture that snobbish upper-class men refuse to be seen watching. Historical films, epics, romances, and the occasional war movie seem to have the best odds of winning at the Academy Awards, while they refuse to allow science fiction and action movies the dignity of being nominated. Even the few science fiction movies to be nominated for Best Picture such as A Clockwork Orange, Avatar, District 9, Inception, and Gravity have never managed to win. Even 2001: A Space Odyssey, which remains one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time, was not even nominated for Best Picture and lost Best Director to Oliver? Really? Admittedly it deserved that Best Visual effects award, but that was also the only Oscar that Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest directors of all time, ever received.
Last year Interstellar and Under the Skin were among the best films released, but they have not even been nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, or any of the Best Actor categories (come on, Scarlett Johansson's performance in Under the Skin was Oscar-worthy). Most people seem to be sure that Boyhood is going to win, the same way everybody seemed so sure about 12 Years a Slave last year even though Gravity was a far more impressive film. Some of the last few Best Picture Winners really have not been all that deserving of the title.
Argo wasn't that bad a movie, but that doesn't mean it was worthy of Best Picture. It was an enjoyable blockbuster but there were far better movies released that same year like Zero Dark Thirty. I suspect the only reason it failed to win was because Kathryn Bigelow had already won for The Hurt Locker, but that's not the point. The award is specifically called "Best Picture" and should be given to the best film there, regardless of genre or who may have won previously. Life of Pi and Les Misérables were also far more impressive films than Argo. What kind of thought process goes into these decisions? The same could be said in 2007, when the winner was The Departed which if you ask me was an overly-convoluted mess with too many characters that was virtually impossible to follow (with hindsight, it could have benefited from more gender diversity as well).
Now this year we have Boyhood, an impressive film but not one I would say should win Best Picture, as the most likely choice for this year's Academy Awards. To be fair, none of the choices I would say are really worthy to be on the list. American Sniper shouldn't even be there seeing as it didn't come out in 2014, but since it premiered in Los Angeles near the end of December it technically qualifies. The Grand Budapest Hotel was great but seeing as it was a comedy the odds are very much against it. From what I saw of The Imitation Game it seemed promising but I'm also not sure it was worthy of Best Picture. Really, nothing on the list strikes me as being worthy of Best Picture.
All of a sudden, the Oscars don't really seem to be worth it anymore. There is a purported sense of class that comes with getting Oscar recognition, but it really means nothing. The obvious biases on the part of the Academy make it clear that they have no interest in actually giving Awards to the best movies, otherwise they would be more open to looking at other genres. Instead they just want to give the Awards to the movies they want to be seen watching, regardless of the actual quality of the movie itself, as was the case for The Departed. I don't even know if I should bother watching the Oscars tonight, because I know that whatever happens I'm not going to like the results.