Do People Still Care About the Academy Awards?
I don’t think I’ve watched the entirety of an Academy Awards broadcast since 1995. If I need to remind you, it’s the year that Forrest Gump beat out Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption for best picture, and Ed Wood wasn’t even nominated. I was a big Pulp Fiction fan so I pretty much wrote the Oscars off after that.
In retrospect, 1995 actually had a good field of nominees. Forrest Gump, although its special effects have become dated, still holds up as a crowd-pleasing tour-de-force for Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks. Pulp Fiction, to me, hasn’t actually aged as well when taken out of its mid-90’s milieu, although it is still the more important of two films due to its far-reaching influence. If I had to put a vote in today it would be for The Shawshank Redemption. I think it holds up the best of all the nominees from that year (although Robert Redford’s Quiz Show is a damn fine movie as well) and in the long run has the biggest and most diverse fan base of the films, but hindsight’s 20/20 on that one.
After 1995 I started looking into the Academy Awards a little closer and found that, lo and behold, the Oscars are a sham. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for the uninitiated, is the body that votes for the Academy Awards. So who makes up this Academy? The long answer; people who have been nominated previously and people who are invited to join by other members. The short answer; no one really knows for sure. This is primarily because the Academy doesn’t make their full membership known to the public.
However the demographics, according to Wikipedia, break down like this; 94% white, 77% male, 86% age 50 or older, and has a median age of 62. In addition, 33% of members are previous winners or nominees of Academy Awards themselves. Ever wonder why movies like The English Patient win all the awards and then no one ever talks about them again (until just now)? How about why The Dark Knight didn’t get nominated? How did Martin Scorsese win the Oscar for The Departed but not for Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and Taxi Driver? It’s because the Academy is made up of a bunch of out of touch white males who don’t know what those Dark Knights are and think them Goodfellas use too much of the sailor language. So what the Oscars end up being is a sassed up trade show that goes on for too long and generally does not award the right films, performers, etc.
This is no secret however, so it always surprises me when I see people complaining about the awards. The day after the show this year I noticed a friend complaining that Birdman won best picture and that it wouldn’t be remembered in five years. Of course it won’t, but that’s the nature of the beast. The only best picture winners of the last 15 years that are well regarded by the public, outside of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (which was more of an award for the magnitude of the project), are The Departed and No Country for Old Men, and that’s because they were not movies made to court the awards shows.
A movie like Birdman, which I have yet to see, is generally designed for the awards shows. It’s a movie about an actor and the film industry in general. If Hollywood loves one thing more than any other it’s to pat themselves on the back and remind each other of how important their job is. I’m sure Birdman is good and I have a friend’s copy of it that I intend to watch soon, but I doubt that I will like it more than Cold in July or Guardians of the Galaxy, and it winning best picture at the Academy Awards will certainly not change my opinion of it one way or the other.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t even aware of what day the awards were occurring or what was nominated. The last time I even paid a cursory glance at them was in 2007 when Scorsese finally did win, although I did take notice at how mad people got when The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated in 2009. I was more shocked to find out Ledger actually won the supporting actor award, not because he didn’t deserve it mind you, but because of the general ignorance of the show. The Academy tends to shun things that are popular if it doesn’t meet up with their high “standards” of what a movie needs to be. Even a well made, critically acclaimed movie can get overlooked because of it’s subject matter and audience appeal. This is why The Pianist, a movie about the holocaust made by a convicted rapist and fugitive (Roman Polanski) can be nominated for best picture, but The Dark Knight, a movie about a guy in a bat-suit directed by a non-criminal (Christopher Nolan) gets passed over. I’m not saying that the Oscars need to become the People’s Choice Awards, but right now they are about as relevant as the Grammy Awards or the Golden Globes.
At the end of the day, I truly don’t care one way or the other. The Academy Awards are the worst kind of pig and pony show, one where Hollywood trots out and honors itself while talking about various political causes. As the audience dwindles every year I hope that eventually the awards become a non-televised event. Although what would the point of that be? If Hollywood demands one thing above all, it’s the need for an audience no matter how petty or small.
Until next time…