Are Awards Important if You Don’t Watch “Awards Movies”?
Recently another film critic was in the news, it seems that lately the only time that film critics get in the news is whenever they go out of their way to shine a negative light on film criticism, whether it’s calling 911 during an industry screening, or yelling vulgarities during an awards ceremony. I’m one who rarely pays attention to any of the awards shows. When I was younger, I used to always watch the MTV Movie Awards for a couple reasons. One was that it was almost always an entertaining show, and two was that the movies that were getting awarded were the movies that I was very aware of and if I hadn’t seen them, I had really wanted to see them. Now I don’t even bother with that awards show. Some time during this past year the conversation was brought up about watching all of the Academy Awards Best Pictures winners. Several people on Twitter were discussing how many they had seen, and when I counted up my tally, I had about half a dozen, and they were all also commercial blockbusters as well. So what is my point exactly? I’m not entirely sure, but there is definitely a disconnect between the general public, and most film critics, whether amateur bloggers or professional critics, and in my opinion most of the time the only difference between the two is one of the two gets a paycheck.
There are hundreds of movies released every year, if not over a thousand. From low budget direct-to-video or self distributed titles, to big budget Hollywood blockbusters released on thousands of movie screens across the world, to moderately budgeted Hollywood “independent” films released in a few theaters to film critics and cinephiles. Out of all of these thousands of films, it’s generally those movies in the third category that garner any attention from the big awards ceremonies like the Oscars or the Golden Globes, it’s a rarity when either one of those independent movies crosses over to become a mainstream hit, or when the Hollywood blockbuster is so well made that it gets the attention of the awards voters. But there is this culture that surrounds these film awards, so much so that it is rare that one of these movies comes out without the discussion of what its chances of winning this award or that award, citing different factors such as release date, directors, actors, and its release schedule. There’s even plenty of sites out there like SportsBettingDime.com that spend a lot of time predicting who will win at these awards.
At this point, you may be asking why it is that I’m writing about this, as my site mainly covers the movies in the first two categories, and aside from the Dark Knight and the Incredibles, it’s rare than any superhero movie will take home an Oscar, though of course there are the exceptions like movies based on non-superhero graphic novels such as this year’s Blue is the Warmest Color which has been greatly talked about the possibility of best foreign film, and even a slight chance at best actress (or at least it would be if it had been submitted for Oscar consideration as a commenter pointed out to me, proving how little I actually pay attention to the Oscar race). I think Christopher Nolan is the best example about how the concept of a superhero can be pared down to its core to create something more than just a skeleton plot to carry you from action setpiece to action setpiece. There can be beautiful cinematography, nuanced performances, a complex plot without being complicated, deeper meaning behind the good guy and the bad guy. How long before we see more of this? I honestly don’t know, I still think that the expansion of the superhero movie spectrum will not just bring about a vast majority of same-y, mediocre, brainless action movies, but it will also draw out something that above and beyond the rest, something that could earn itself an Academy Award for Best Picture. But looking forward to the next couple years, I don’t forsee one of those just yet. But it wouldn’t surprise me if it did happen within the next ten years or so.
What does concern me slightly is where these awards will be in that time. Every few years it seems that another award show pops up, trying to either be just like the Oscars, or be just the opposite and celebrate the popular movies rather than the critically acclaimed ones. There’s also a creeping level of either disrespect or at least disinterest, especially considering that the ratings on the televised showings of the awards ceremonies have been dropping from year to year. And there’s also that incident that I alluded to earlier which was during a much smaller awards ceremony for the New York Film Critics Circle who awarded Steve McQueen with an award for his movie 12 Years a Slave and a critic in the audience who I won’t name because he doesn’t deserve the scant publicity I might be sending his way heckled him from the audience, calling him a doorman and swearing at him. Since I do follow quite a few film bloggers, I am quite aware that 12 Years a Slave is considered one of the movies most likely to bring home this year’s Best Picture award. And yet just earlier today I listened to an entertainment podcast Hollywood Babble-On, recorded before a large audience on New Years and when they brought up the film, only a couple people in the audience of several hundred had seen it. Personally, I think it looks like a great movie, though I’m in no hurry to see it. I think that the critic in the audience is absolutely entitled to his opinion of the movie, but I also think that considering that he was somewhere intended to celebrate movies, it was uncalled for to behave in that manner. Movies are an especially subjective art form, anyone is entitled to absolutely despise Citizen Kane which is considered the greatest movie of all time by an extremely wide range of places, just as much as anyone is entitled to consider Movie 43 their favorite film of all time even though that is considered one of the worst movies in the past few years by many people. But there is a time and a place to voice that opinion.
This year I decided that I was going to avoid most “worst of 2013” lists, as there is too much negativity in this world and if you think it’s a bad movie, there’s no need to spend extra time giving that movie any extra thought or publicity. I’ll still read and write movie reviews for horrible movies that are extremely negative because that’s probably the best place for that opinion to go, and many others like myself are going off of a list of movies where the goal is to watch and review everything on the list, regardless of what their feelings on it end up being. Aside from the Razzies, there aren’t any big awards out there celebrating the worst movies, and honestly the last time I looked at the Razzies’ site it felt like the level of humor wasn’t much better than most of the comedies they were awarding. So this year, I probably won’t be watching the Oscars, I likely won’t be watching the movie that wins Best Picture this year unless by some stretch it ends up being Saving Mr. Banks which I have already seen and is the only movie I’ve seen that even has a chance of being nominated besides Frozen which is almost a lock for Best Animated Movie. But I don’t have any problems with the idea of the Oscars, celebrating the year’s best movies, it’s not always the way I would do it, but I’m glad that it is being done. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.
Posted on January 9, 2014, in Blogs and tagged awards, Blog, film, movies, oscars. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.
I don’t think they are important regardless 😀
Well there’s that too
Blue is the Warmest Color wasn’t submitted for Oscar consideration. 😀 I absolutely agree with your last sentence – before the ‘until next time’ that is, and I’m going to use you as an example and stray from Worst Of lists, too because indee, there’s enoug negativity in the world. Great post, Bubbawheat 😉
I did not know that, though now that you mention it, I haven’t actually heard any talk about Blue in terms of Oscars, just in general. And what, are you saying you disagree with “until next time”? 🙂
Great post Bubbawheat. For me Award Shows are nothing more then 2 hour ad spots for movies. They are used to help promote titles that were not widely seen by the general public. I agree that movies are subjective art forms, and for me I love reading about movies being nominated. I just dont care too much about who wins. I like that award shows try to celebrate movies but could do with out hearing about losers and winners
Even with the sagging ratings, there is still an awards boost for the winners after the Oscars are announce, so it does tend to feel like a movie commercial in the short run, even though it doesn’t always have a lasting impact in the long run, it’s a little too short sighted as often the movies that stand the test of time aren’t the award winners.
As somebody who does watch “awards movies” — and in fact I’m about to go into them big time next month — I can still understand how they might not seem important to somebody who doesn’t. When I was in my twenties, especially, I tended to scoff a bit at the Oscars for being “snooty”, and I particularly disliked the way the nominees were frequently films that were barely available to the general public ahead of the awards. A few things have changed my mind over the years.
The first is that the Oscars were moved back some. I think this year they’re on March 2nd; they used to be in early January. It’s now a lot easier for the general public to see these films, so it’s less “The critics are raving about these unknowns” and more “The critics got to see them earlier”, which is true of almost any film. Second, as I watch more of these films, the more it becomes clear that in most cases, these really are good films. There may be occasional exceptions (particularly with the Globes), but as a rule if something got nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe, it’s pretty solid. People may not seek out Network or Sunset Blvd. or In the Heat of the Night, but if they do, I expect more people will enjoy them than won’t.
The third thing is… despite the Oscars’ reputation for picking only the arthouse films, it’s not really the case. There are definitely some of those in there, but there have always been a lot of “popular” films as well, including genre films (westerns had much the same reputation in the 1930s and 1940s as action films today, but the Oscars have their share of western nominations.) Just a small sampling of popular films that are Oscar nominees includes The Adventures of Robin Hood, High Noon, The Wizard of Oz, Miracle on 34th Street, Dr. Strangelove, Mary Poppins, The French Connection, American Graffiti, Rocky, E.T., Pulp Fiction, Gladiator, LOTR, Up and Django Unchained. There are many more. Some of them were only nominated — but then, many of the most arthousy films didn’t win either. And some of the popular films have won. And I expect there will be popular films among this Thursday’s announcement as well; Gravity seems like a likely bet.
As to the importance of what wins and what doesn’t… I’ll admit I view that more as trivia. I can point to instances where I disagree with the Academy decision, definitely. But with a few possible exceptions, if something gets a Best Picture nomination, it’s a good film. So when the Oscars nominate something I’ve barely heard of, I don’t think “the Oscars are out of touch” so much as I think “Huh, maybe I should check that out.”
I know there’s also the fact that they’ve bumped up the number of nominees for Best Picture, I think another point is that quite often the awards winner, while still a good movie, doesn’t stand the test of time as much as other nominees or even those that didn’t get a nod.
Sometimes, perhaps. I think I’d have to see more of the winners to say how often that really comes up, though. Earliest winner I’ve seen is All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), and that holds up pretty well. (How Green Was My Valley and Citizen Kane, while a commonly-cited example, is more due to politics at the time than actual merit. That’s a valid complaint, but it’s a different complaint, and one that I don’t think plays the same way today.)
But even so, it’s hard to hold the Oscars too accountable for being unable to predict what people will think decades later.
Can’t stand award shows. Typically I look at the award winning movies as the ones to avoid… unless I personally know someone who I trust and who enjoyed it.
I wouldn’t go that far about it. I generally just don’t pay much attention to it one way or another, it’s more of a trivia thing from my point of view, and like you, I pay more attention to people’s recommendations than awards.