A Matter of the Oscars

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There are so many arguments about the importance of awards shows like the Oscars. They\'re all about glitz and glamour. They acknowledge brilliance in filmmaking. They\'re just people in the industry giving themselves a pat on the back. Timeout London had a recent article on the very topic. Even more blogs argue the various bad choices in the course of the Oscars history.

Just Press Play posted an article on the biggest blunders in the Oscars best film categories (including some highly contentious wins like the 1941 win of How Green is My Valley over the canonical text Citizen Kane). Cracked.com posted \'5 reasons the Oscars matter even less than you thought\'; a scathing piece on the ineptness of voters, and how the Oscars are much less an authority on good films then a history of \"fuck-uppery\". And with evidence like Al Pacino losing best actor for Godfather 11, and being reconciled with a win for Scent of a Woman years later, the piece rings true. America\'s Entertainment Weekly magazine even did an Oscars \'Recall the gold\', where industry insiders revoted the winners of the four main Oscar categories in specific year. Sorry to any fans of Shakespeare in Love, but it seems Cate really did deserve the gold over Gwyneth, and so did Saving Private Ryan. But I have to admit, I just get so giddy during award season.

I fawn over all the pastels, peep toes, princess gowns and parade of celebrities on the red carpet. I watch all the nominated films and performances. I read the EW.com countdown blog. I even submit my own selections in those online polling sites. My best friend, on the other hand, thinks they\'re all bullshit. \"Why do they get to decide what the best film of the year is anyway?\" she tells me all the time. Usually I would dismiss her question. But after Avatar\'s loss to Kathryn Bigelow\'s The Hurt Locker this year at the Oscars, it really got me thinking.

Who the hell are the awards for anyway?

I didn\'t like Avatar. I already know I\'m the 0.0000001 percent of people in the world who didn\'t. My friends have reprimanded me enough. Yeah, sure, the visuals were cool, Sam Worthington is pretty hot, and the whole theme of attempts at genocide and colonialism were moving and blah, blah, blah. But it was so long, bordering predictable and boring. Regardless of my reservations, though, even I had to admit it was a cinematic masterpiece. It was innovative and technologically brilliant. It changed the entire cinema-going experience, inspiring repeat viewings. To date, it has raked in $2.7 billion worldwide, almost $9 million more than Titanic. So how could it lose to the little-movie-that-could The Hurt Locker?

All the critics agree The Hurt Locker had the strong directing, screenplay and acting that Avatar lacked. And obviously, awards shows applaud critical success rather than box office blockbusters (thank god, otherwise Transformers might feel entitled). But think about it, when you look back years from now, are you going to remember the little Iraq war drama or James Cameron\'s crowning masterpiece?

And it\'s not just the losing films. What about the films that are not even included? This year the Oscars extended the list of nominees in the best picture category to 10. It was great for animated film Up!, District 9 and feel-good flick The Blind Side. But there is still a bias towards dramas. No one really expected Up! or District 9 to actually win. Amazing films like The Hangover and Star Trek were omitted based solely on their genre. It\'s not as if anyone would give the award to a bunch of blokes bingeing on beer, even though it was well written, acted and directed. Despite the high quality of films released in 2009, many exemplary films, both critically and commercially successful, were ignored. A similar case happened last year with The Dark Knight and Christopher Nolan\'s omission from the awards. Although Heath Ledger, deservedly so, won the best supporting actor award, the voters didn\'t even look twice at the comic book adaptation - even though it was one of the, arguably, best films, and biggest grosser, of all time.

Which brings me back to my original question. Who are the awards for really? And who are the movies for? Isn\'t it the audience who matters? Aren\'t the movies for the audience? If so, then why does the Academy get it so wrong sometimes? Should we trust them on their authority? Who gives them authority anyway?  

I don\'t really know the answer. I guess it all comes down to taste. Audiences will keep watching blockbusters. The Academy is still going to award what they deem \"worthy\" films over box office success. But it\'s certainly something to think about.

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