The Argument for the Oscars
Man, this is going to be rough. I don’t mean to ruffle feathers. Judgmental, passive-aggressive, “everyone is wrong but me!” articles aren’t the Go Nerd Yourself way. But I don’t want to play it safe either, because that would be dishonest.
I preface it that way because, for some reason, I feel like I have to hide this opinion. That I have to keep my mouth shut, but my lips are not sealed.
I love the Oscars.
But not everyone does. A lot of things are criticized, from boring dance routines to celebrities self-congratulating themselves. But let’s set aside the red carpet tabloid fodder and all that noise so we can talk about what miffs people the most: the nominations.
There’s always such a debate over who and what should be nominated, in which many feel that the popular movies should get the awards, sometimes going as far to claim the Oscars are a popularity contest, despite “snubbing” the industry’s highest grossers.
Look, I understand. A film you loved wasn’t nominated. I get it. I myself was hoping Blade Runner 2049 would snag a Best Picture nomination, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing it didn’t and I acknowledge that I didn’t see every movie last year, nowhere near, and there may very well be one that is better. It’s just a mathematical probability. (I also don’t think a film needs to change the way I see the world in order to be good nor does it need an award for me to justify the fact that I like it.)
The problem I struggle with is that while it’s easy to suggest a nomination, it’s harder to tell you why it deserves to be nominated, other than saying “it’s good.” But is “good” good enough?
There are so many movies that come out in a year that I like. Take Thor: Ragnarok, for example. It was popular, it made me feel good, which was a good thing, but it didn’t make me feel anything else. It was a fun ride, but I’d hesitate to hand it a tiny, golden statue. (Maybe a tasty, chocolate one.)
Many also feel that science fiction, horror, and comedy films are overlooked by the Academy, which in some cases, they are (Alien, for example). But to be honest, I can’t think of very many horror films or comedies I’ve seen this past year that were “Oscar-worthy,” not because they weren’t good, but because they don’t match the Oscar criteria.
Let me explain.
The Oscars categorize their awards based on the many processes of filmmaking (cinematography, score, editing, directing, etc.). These are the fields for which films are deemed (or should be deemed, at least) “Oscar-worthy.” If all you can say about a movie’s cinematography was that it was good and nothing else, then it probably shouldn’t be nominated for Best Cinematography. (Yeah, it’s true that sometimes the actual nominees don’t either.)
Each and every single one of these aspects are crucial to a film, on the level of “if this doesn’t work, it might break our movie.” This is what the Oscars celebrates, the importance of the filmmaking process. To nominate films just because doesn’t do anything to better the show, it just makes it precisely what people claim it to be, a popularity contest.
However, it is worth noting that Jaws, The Exorcist, and Star Wars are some examples of popular genre films that were nominated for Best Picture and, this year, a horror film, Get Out, has that honor, as well.
Essentially, I think we’re dealing with a difference in audiences in relation to what the Oscars represents.
Some fans are passionate about movies and enjoy how they make them feel and love the escapism they bring. However, they’re not as interested in the filmmaking process. Some of us are deeply interested in movies and not just the way they make us feel, but how they make us feel. We dissect the complexities and process of movie-making, because we want to make movies ourselves. Some people simply just want to watch movies.
And that’s a good thing, but not for their relationship with the Academy, because the Oscars aren’t an “average joe” type of show nor should they be. Honestly, sometimes the weirdest things that happen with the Academy Awards, some of the oddest nominations come from the attempt to sell the show to the general public. It just makes it seem like the Oscars are having an identity crisis. (Hey, remember when they nominated Avatar for Best Picture?)
Having said that, I love the Best Picture nominees for this year. The Post, Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Get Out, and Lady Bird? I can’t wait to see who wins!
You do you, Oscars.