I started this blog in March last year, so just missed out on all the discussion that naturally revolves around the annual ritual of film industry awards ceremonies. Most prominent among these is of course the Hollywood-centric Academy Awards, but there are plenty of others that also naturally want to look back at this time of year — for example, the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the New York Film Critics’ Circle Awards, the list goes on almost interminably. Just to be clear right upfront, it is everyone’s right to enjoy and even be inspired by awards ceremonies should they wish; what I’ve written below is merely my own (grumpy) opinion.
It’s important for people in the industry to show support for one another, and to reward the achievements that they feel strongly about. It never hurts to get a bit of approval for work that you’re proud of. It’s just that as a viewer, none of this really means much to me. If I were the sort of person who generally loved the kinds of films that scoop the big awards in Hollywood (or indeed anywhere outside the big arty festivals like Cannes and Venice), then maybe I would, but by this point in my life I’ve found plenty of more meaningful sources for discovering great films. It’s a great time for everyone in the industry to show off to one another, but invariably they pick the wrong film to win. I might for example affect some surprise that Argo won over Zero Dark Thirty (or, to throw out a prediction, when American Hustle wins over 12 Years a Slave), but I’d be being disingenuous. The qualities that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (those people who award the Oscars®™) are looking for in a film are not generally ones that mean much to me, but each of us can make our own decisions with regards to that.
What this leaves me with as a spectator is a whole lot of self-congratulatory back-slapping and attendant sentimentality and mawkishness, and it’s all dreadfully dull on the whole. There’s a reason why the fashion gets more column inches than the awards, and I’ve increasingly found that I’m also happier scanning the red carpet photos not to mention the animated GIFs of, say, Jennifer Lawrence saying something funny, than persevering with the actual ceremonies. AMPAS, in particular, always parrots some astronomically ridiculous figure for the number of people who watch their awards, but I don’t even begin to believe it (not least because it’s so damned difficult to watch the thing live, certainly in the UK, without the right subscription to the right set of channels).
So, these ceremonies — whatever peculiar tediousness and unctuous platitudes may afflict them — are all very well. What bugs me about this time of year (though it seems to crop up fairly regularly all year round), is when someone enjoys a film, or a contribution to that film (particularly an actor’s performance), and considers it good, the terms of their approval are immediately framed as hoping it ‘gets the nod’ or is honoured at such-and-such a ceremony. Maybe it does, most often it doesn’t, but either way it always comes across to me as at best a back-handed compliment, given the way awards are distributed. I have no wish to deny the happiness of any given actor, director, cinematographer, editor, hair and makeup person, etc. etc., but how their industry rewards them is of vanishingly small interest to me. We can all think of examples where any given ceremony has made egregious oversights. There are so many examples over the past century, that to list them would be a tiresome and indeed impossible feat. Some of the best conversations to come out of this season are around who was overlooked, because at least that opens up the discussion to a wider range of achievement than that narrowly selected.
So instead, I prefer not to care about who wins the actual awards and have been trying, as the years go by, to wean myself off it. I will always enjoy the spectacle that accompanies it all, and I will continue to enjoy seeing attractive famous people looking attractive and being famous, for all the most superficial reasons. But I don’t much care if they win the award everyone had hoped for them. The greatest reward is what is seen on the screen, and if we were to restrict our choices to just what a bunch of elderly white conservative men think is worthwhile, then what’s on the screen would be nothing worth rewarding.
Do you like awards? Do you have any favourites? Who was regrettably passed over for consideration?