Monday, 2 March 2015

The Utter Car Crash that is The Academy Awards

by Charlie Albuery

So the Oscars were a disaster again this year. Surprised? I’m not.

The Oscars: self-absorbed
I genuinely don’t understand how the Oscars remain the most popular film awards show in the world. They’ve formed some kind of bizarre, unquestioned monopoly they don’t deserve. Everyone seems to understand that the Oscars are terrible now, but act as though it is some sort of awkward rebellious phase as they round their eighty-seventh year. What no-one seems to notice is: they’ve never made sense. They say the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing humanity that he didn’t exist; well I think the way he’s hurt us most was convincing us the Academy Awards were ever a worthwhile exercise to begin with.

The Oscars are so inescapable, in fact, that there are months of the year referred to as ‘Oscar season’ by the film media and dozens of movies per year produced and labelled simply as ‘Oscar bait’, films existing almost exclusively to WIN THESE STUPID PRIZES WHICH ARE AWARDED SEEMINGLY AT RANDOM - but only to films simplistically designed to appeal to the Academy’s arbitrary checklist, one they seem to have stuck to for decades.

So I’m aware I haven’t provided a lot of solid reasoning as to why the whole situation bothers me so much. I’ll try to demonstrate with Best Actor and Actress winners over the last few years why the Oscars rate only movies that play to their bizarrely specific preferences rather than actually good movies. So here’s the checklist:

1    Young and/or healthy actor playing character mentally or physically disabled or in serious, old-before-their-time life crises
2    Traditionally attractive actor portraying traditionally unattractive character
3    Portraying a real life currently significant and/or historical figure
4    Actor on way back from career break or ‘losing track’ into a seriously angst-ridden role
5    An actor passed up for Oscars in previous years but doesn’t necessarily deserve to be awarded this year

Literally do as many of these things as humanly possible and you’re almost guaranteed a best actor/actress Oscar, regardless of quality of performance. Here’s a list of recent winners for reference:

Eddie Redmayne – Stephen Hawking 2014 (1, 2, 3)
Mathew McConaughey – Ron Woodroof 2013 (1, 4)
Daniel Day-Lewis – Abraham Lincoln 2012 (3, 5)
Jean Dujardin – George Valentin 2011 (In all fairness this one was outside of the norm and a phenomenal performance, but notably the exception rather than the rule)
Colin Firth – King George VI 2010 (1, 3, 5)

Julianne Moore – Alice Howland 2014 (1, 5)
Cate Blanchette – Jasmine Francis 2013 (1, 4, 5)
Jennifer Lawrence – Tiffany Maxwell 2012
Meryl Streep – Margaret Thatcher 2011 (1, 2, 3, 5)
Natalie Portman – Nina Sayers 2010 (1, 4)

I hope that’s shown exactly how the Oscars award a very specific kind of film, with very little time for any outliers - and this type has changed very little over time. The Oscars, with the Academy’s overly-conservative standpoint and unwillingness to change and evolve with the times, are beginning to fall far behind the film industry. All of this criticism is without even addressing the relatively well-balanced criticisms of racism on the part of the Academy and the horrific pacing of the awards-night itself.

Unfortunately, the Oscars are beginning to frighteningly resemble the creepy overly-opinionated uncle at every family Christmas. They hold biases that just aren’t acceptable anymore, they refuse to get with the times and ultimately, their time has been and gone.It’s time to stop forgiving them their flaws because they’ve simply existed for a long time and insist they either come up to date and be more progressive. Or, otherwise, simply stop putting so much effort into pandering for them.

I can’t say I’m expecting much, but here’s hoping the furore surrounding the Oscars 2014 will make the Academy see sense and we’ll have a worthwhile show come next year…. Fingers crossed.

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