I always thought that it was unanimous opinion that The Oscars are meaningless; that more often than not, they miss the mark. Recently, however, I’ve been hearing a number of people saying that “the Oscars normally get things right” or “that movie nominated for best picture was good.” Best picture nominations shouldn’t be good, though — they should be fantastic. The Oscars should be the ten greatest achievements in film released that year. This is an admittedly difficult piece to write for two reasons: 1. because these arguments could be seen as critiques for any award show, and 2. because it’s really hard to not just sit here and complain about my favorite movies, actors, and filmmakers that haven’t been nominated or won. Because of that, I’d like to preface this article by saying that this could be seen as a critique on award shows in general at times, and I will only bring up snubs if it seems to be general opinion.
My first complaint with the academy is that they do things that don’t make any sense, and I’ll use the 2015 show as an example. You can nominate up to 10 films for best picture. The academy nominated 8. Now, if they only believed that there were 8 films worthy of the nomination I would have no problem with that at all, but that’s not the case. The academy nominated Foxcatcher for 5 awards, including Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Original Screenplay, Director, and Makeup & Hairstyling, but no nomination for best picture. If you like the movie well enough that it you nominate it for 5 awards, and you have the spot for another film in the best picture category, why wouldn’t you put it on there? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Perhaps the filmmakers behind Foxcatcher aren’t in “the club” yet. Which brings me to my next point.
Yes, the academy has a club. One of its most obvious members is Meryl Streep. Now I’m not trying to discredit Meryl Streep as an actress at all, because she’s absolutely fantastic. All I’m saying is the academy is at the point where they will nominate her even if she’s just fine and, like I said earlier, The Oscars shouldn’t be for “just fine” filmmaking. Streep received a best actress nod for her work in Into the Woods (2014). I personally saw the movie and didn’t even take note of her performance. Upon reading reviews of the movie, no one else really seemed to either, but somehow she ended up with the nomination anyway. If you aren’t in the club you might as well not even bother. Jake Gyllenhaal received nothing but praise after his memorizing role in Nightcrawler (2014). It seemed to be unanimous opinion that he completely transformed himself and put on the best performance of not only the year, but his life, yet he received no nomination. He might get in the club one day, but unfortunately for him, the academy has yet to see him as worthy. I know all of my examples have been from the 2014 show, but that’s just for relevance. I can almost guarantee that if you just google “Oscar Snub” you will find at least one result that has you scratching your head.
There’s also some very odd trends the academy seems to follow when giving out awards. For example, its been blatantly clear that they favor movies based on true stories. In recent years we’ve had 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The King’s Speech, and although it might be a bit of a stretch last year we had Birdman. For Best Actress awards they seem to have a bias towards women who play a role where their sex is a major part of their story. For example, out of the 88 best actress awards 13 have gone to a woman playing a prostitute. Men seem to get more nominations when playing someone with some kind of a mental disability. Since 1988, 14 of 27 best actor winners have had a mental or physical barrier that would interfere with daily life. Just like with best picture the acting awards are more likely to go to actors and actresses playing a real person. Also if you’re an actor going for an Oscar you might as well forget it unless you’re over the age of 40. In 2002 Adrian Brody won for The Pianist when he was 27, making him the youngest winner ever, the only winner in his 20’s, and one of only 32 best actors that have been under 40. The average age of a best actor winner is 43.7. It’s the opposite for best actress. There has only been one best actress win in her 50’s, 5 in her 60’s, one in her 70’s and one in her 80’s. Now this might seem like odd nitpicking, but I feel like these trends show that the academy is looking for certain things as opposed to better filmmaking.
Now that I’ve listed more than enough problems, the real question is how can this be fixed? I’ve heard many people say that fans should vote online for all of the categories. I don’t think that’ll work for two reasons: 1. because there’s already award shows for that and 2. it should be left up to people who really know film and not just the general public. I know that might sound incredibly pretentious, but it’s true. If the general public can vote, you’ll have the most popular films winning awards, not the greatest achievements in film.
My first suggestion to make things better is to add diversity to the academy. 94% of the Academy members are white, 77% are male, and 54% are over 60, while 25% are in their 50’s. I think including people from different cultures, and just varying personal experiences in general, might help open the minds of the academy. Perhaps some young up-and-coming filmmakers would create a new perspective in the Academy’s mind. Another thought is to get some filmmakers from other countries. This might help put an emphasis on foreign films, because I feel like the Academy doesn’t give foreign films nearly enough love.
Another suggestion that would help the Academy would be to move back the date of the actual show. As of right now, the Oscars take place in February. Perhaps giving the Academy more time to see the movies they want to vote for would be a good idea. They might watch the movies more than once, then. It’s not uncommon at all to see a movie once, like it, and then see it again with a lessened fondness for it. Pushing back the show might also help voters discover smaller movies that they might not have heard of if they had to vote right around the new year. I know this is more unlikely idea because the longer they wait to do the show, the less viewers would care, but I really do think it would help.
The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t really matter what happens in this award show, or any other award show, for that matter. I know it means a lot to the filmmakers and the actors and actresses, but if a you think a movie is great, that’s all that matters. Time has shown us that not winning Oscars won’t stop movies from being classics. Citizen Kane (1941) is often considered the greatest and most influential American film ever made, and it didn’t win “best picture.” It’s all just opinion, and no one is stopping you from loving what you love.
This article is from our February issue. Check it out here!