I love movies. I love seeing incredible movies get the recognition that they deserve. I get giddy when the nominations for the Oscars come out early in the morning and even more excited when my favorite movies get recognized on the list.
But you know what I don’t love? At the end of the day, they don’t really matter.
There are some award shows that have more gravitas than others. Everyone knows that the Oscars are more “important” than the Golden Globes. Grammys are the most prestigious in the music scene and the People’s Choice are a big joke.
I want to concentrate on the Oscars since they are what I am the most passionate about.
Once you back away from the extravagance of the Oscars, you can begin to see how silly they are. What you will see are hundreds of millionaires gathering together with the most expensive dresses and suits with borrowed jewelry worth thousands to pat each other on the backs in the form of golden statues in front of the audience who gives them their money and fame.
What I like about the Oscars is that when someone actually deserves to win, in my opinion, they have cemented their place in history. Have I agreed with the Best Pictures in the last few years? Nope. But when Christoph won his second Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for “Django Unchained,” I was ecstatic. Not because others said he deserved it, but because it’s because I thought he deserved it over the likes of Tommy Lee Jones and Alan Arkin.
I also love success stories. When Jennifer Hudson won Best Supporting Actress for “Dreamgirls,” only having the history of “American Idol” behind her and despite being perceived as overweight, everyone cheered. She became America’s sweetheart for the powerful performance. Hudson hasn’t done much since then, sadly, but it is one of few success stories to come out of the Oscars.
Many believe that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and their awards are most objective, but that is far from the truth. What happens behind the scenes isn’t too systematic and controlled either.
Three-time nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix, who was nominated last year for his role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” said “I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t believe in it… It’s totally subjective. Pitting people against each other … It’s the stupidest thing in the whole world.”
There are plenty of backroom manipulations and wooing from studios to voters that make the voting less legitimate. I’m looking at you Harvey Weinstein.
Speaking of the politics behind the scenes, let’s talk about Sean Penn’s portrayal of real-life politician Harvey Milk in “Milk” versus Mickey Rourke’s role as the fictional down-and-out wrestler Randy Robinson in “The Wrestler.” Penn won that night even when Rourke was highly favored to win. What it came down to, in the Academy’s mind, was the film’s content. “Milk” was about gay rights and this was the time where California’s Proposition 8 was a hot issue. The political mindset of the voters overcame a better performance at the end of the day.
Culturally prestigious movies, directors and actors are largely ignored on awards night. Luckily, they are recognized as great later in history. For instance, “Shawshank Redemption,” which is famous for being the top rated movie on IMDB.com by its users, never got an award in the 1995 show. It got seven nominations but didn’t grab one. The competition was stout, though, having to go against “Pulp Fiction” and “Forrest Gump,” which won. Arguably, the movies that lost have more historical relevance in cinema than the movie that did win.
Another instance of greatness unrecognized is director Alfred Hitchcock. He has made some of the most critically acclaimed movies in the history of the medium. From “Psycho” to “North by Northwest” to “Rear Window” to “Vertigo,” Hitchcock proved his place as the most skilled director, yet no wins.
Even “Citizen Kane,” a movie that is highly agreed upon as the best movie ever made, got snubbed. John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley” won instead. Now, how many people have ever heard of that one?
One major victory for a lesser-known movie that triumphed over the much mainstream happened in the 82nd Academy Awards. James Cameron’s “Avatar” which is the highest grossing movie of all time was up against his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow’s, “The Hurt Locker.”
This instance worked opposite of “Citizen Kane.” The reputation of “Avatar,” being the huge technological masterpiece it was, lost against a smaller but more artistic endeavor. “Avatar” will hold a place in the history books, no doubt. But “The Hurt Locker” win will forever restore at least some faith in the merits of the Awards.
The Oscars are largely self-serving for the industry and its players. It’s mostly a marketing gimmick that is used to sell more Blu-Rays and advertising for its broadcast. In the way of being the single authoritative voice of what is “best of the year,” it has failed on many occasions.
Many of you on the night of March 2nd will be rooting for Leonardo DiCaprio to snag his first statue, although Matthew McConaughey deserves it more, in my opinion. Come on, did you see “Dallas Buyers Club?” Maybe some of you will if McConaughey wins it. But even if Leo doesn’t walk away with it in hand, it will not diminish his legacy of performances. He will continue to get work only because he is that high of a caliber actor, regardless of the gold.