Back in my youth, I remember the Academy Awards being a thing of joy, of beauty and romance, tears of joy, tears of pain and fond, funny and sometimes touching acceptance speeches. The winners were deserving of the accolades bestowed upon them by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself, the award having been conceived to reward talent and to push the industry forward to strive for greater things, to push the boundaries and to dare to go bigger, better and further.
These days, awards are given for spurious reasons such as the popularity of an artist, the amount of hype preceding a release and, seemingly, by wetting a finger and holding it in the air to see which way the tide of favour is blowing this week.
But doesn’t all this pomp and procession tell the world all that’s good in cinema and galvanize them into embracing the magic of cinema? Well, yes – if you’re American. Quite why the television networks of the world foist this US-centric show-and-tell on us is beyond me.
I have no truck with America (except the whole ‘World Series’ nonsense) but the fact is that the Oscars no longer represent the be all and end all of cinema. The US does indeed make some wonderful movies but they are far from being a cinematic island. Pick a country – any country – and there will be cinema oozing out all over the place. However, these countries may only submit one film per year each, meaning that the majority will never get the oxygen of publicity afforded to so many mediocre US offerings. I’d rather the Academy weren’t so condescending about ‘Best Foreign Film’ as the winner can rarely be thus.
Aside from the lack of non-US talent it is, ironically, the US talent that irks me. I use the word ‘talent’ in the loosest possible sense, too. I refer, of course to the usual suspects. Here’s how it runs down usually: Pre-awards build-up suggests unlikely contenders when the info has almost certainly already been leaked and said film hasn’t a hope in hell. Someone whom people with even a modicum of musical taste will never have heard of plugs his/her/their latest crappy tune, something contrivedly wacky and/or unexpected happens, giving the internet a chance to explode in a huge hysterical wave of “oh no you di’un!”, haplessly plugging whatever product is being placed by the greedy corporate snake oil salesmen who insist on cheapening everything with their bling. The people expected to walk off with awards do so (except, of course, Leo) and the attendees retire to their parties, posing oh-so-casually for ‘that’ shot in the revealing dress. It’s sickeningly formulaic and yet the product-buying public suck it up like it’s a fairy tale.
If I have to hear one more time about how Cate Blanchett was so (insert adjective here) I’ll be sick. Or how so-and-so rocked the place with his dramatic and edgy acceptance speech (he’s an actor, it’s his job) and yet again, how the film-going public simper and fawn over a film they’ve never seen and likely never will when the Academy announce, yet again, that they’re giving an award to another piece of pointless fluff from the meandering, self-masturbatory mind of Woody Allen, simply because he likely has photos of an Academy big cheese doing odd things to a goat.
Any – any – organization that could give Titanic (1996) an amazingly disproportionate 11 Oscars are entirely and deeply suspicious and should not be trusted in issues of judgement. I tire of the habit of giving a star an Oscar because the Academy realize he/she hasn’t had one yet and think they’d better do some justice before actor drops dead and embarrasses them. I don’t have to name any names. If you’ve seen any of the ceremonies or read the results in the past few years, you’ll know.
Of course, there are many, many people – some of whom have Oscars – that don’t subscribe to the charade any more than they have to contractually and many more talented behind-the-scenes guys and gals doing a stand-up job bringing us the films we love to watch who will never be officially recognized in their whole career.
We, the film-going public know who you are. We read the credits and we know the names. We love what you do and we want you to keep doing it. Please keep doing it for us but don’t be swayed by shiny objects. The hard work and dedication of such people doesn’t deserve to be tainted and have the gloss rubbed off it by an event that makes the Superbowl half-time show look shabby and under-produced. Let’s have a real awards ceremony, where everyone is involved and where the winners are decided by those who buy the DVDs and go to the movies. Until then, I’m out.