For years, one of the ways of defining cinematic achievement has been through awards and their ceremonies, most iconically, The Oscars. The first Oscars awards show was held in 1929, in the early beginnings of the film industry’s Hollywood boom.
This year, the 2021 Oscars will undoubtedly look different due to the ongoing pandemic and the halt in much of the film production world. However, it will mark the 93rd year of the award show’s run.
Although the tradition of awards shows is a long-standing one, many have questioned the relevance today. The Academy Awards have found themselves in the middle of debates and social movements, including the #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo movements, particularly as corruption within the industry was brought to light in recent years.
The process of nominating a film, actor, filmmaker or aspect of production (such as sound, editing, etc.) involves collecting ballots from members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who are all filmmakers or other film professionals who cast votes based on films from that year.
If a candidate or film that is eligible for an award receives a number of votes above the predetermined “magic number” of votes needed to qualify, that candidate or film receives a spot as a nominee.
One major difficulty that presents itself with any awards show, but particularly is prevalent in The Oscars is the fact that film — like all other forms of art — is largely subjective.
Placing labels on works of art and saying one is “the best” when compared with others is limiting and can foster close-mindedness within any industry.
The debates sparked among film viewers and critics surrounding nominations and awards from The Academy demonstrate that everyone has a different idea of what qualifies a work of art — in this case, — film, as better than other works of art.
In the case of The Oscars, a consuming and high-profile awards show and process, oftentimes, the films chosen do not necessarily reflect an accurate representation of what many may feel are the best films of the year.
According to an article by Alissa Wilkinson from Vox, “The awards are an expensive (an Oscar campaign can cost upward of $10 million) and grueling exercise; they suck up all the conversation around movies for a good six months of the year; and they tend to reflect not the best movies of the year but the movie-est movies.”
As spectacle and “larger-than-life” cinema begin to infiltrate the world of film, smaller but just as thought-provoking and impactful films, filmmakers and actors/actresses might get pushed to the side.
In a 2018 article from the LA Times, writer Jeffrey Fleishman acknowledged the blindspots The Academy often has when choosing what films qualify for the awards.
“The Oscars live in a tricky no-man’s land between the real and the imagined. They aspire to be topical but are careful — some would say timid — in what they choose as a cause and how they offend, especially amid our nation’s acrimony and divisions.”
Taking all these factors into consideration, it is important for people to recognize that while The Oscars remains a prominent and distinguished awards program, they should not be the end-all-be-all for what constitutes a good film or what qualifies someone as the best actor or actress.