I’ve loved movies since I was old enough to understand what they are. Movies were a part of my life before reading, drawing, comic books, music, teaching, running, and all the other things I enjoy in my life. You’d think watching the Oscars would be obligatory for a movie fan like me. But I didn’t watch the show last night, haven’t watched it for years, and probably never will again.
Some of my reasons are very simple. First, I don’t have cable and can’t get local channels. Second, and more importantly, I have a real issue with the “Best” designation. The Oscars, like most any other awards dealing with the arts, are subjective. There’s really no objective way to determine what film, performance, etc. is the “best” in any given year. I think most of us know and understand that.
The problem becomes more pronounced when you realize that many good (and sometimes great) films aren’t even nominated. Many of these are small, independent films that never got much backing or exposure. But what many people don’t understand is that many other good (and again, possibly great) films never even found a distributor. You may see lists of them on the Internet, but these are films you’ve probably never heard of unless you go to a lot of film festivals. I haven’t been to that many new film festivals, but I have seen good movies at those events that never saw wide (or possibly any) distribution beyond the festival circuit.
Next, if we limit ourselves to only the films that are nominated (which is quite a limitation), it seems that too many other factors that have nothing to do with the films themselves always creep in and make the results questionable. I’m not even talking about how votes are lobbied for, or even the nomination process itself (which, as we have seen many times, is enormously problematic in its representation and diversity). I’m talking about people receiving awards for work they’ve done previously that got overlooked because it was someone else’s year, or because that person had been sick or was suffering or had passed away. (Now please, I mean no disrespect to anyone who has won an Oscar posthumously. Many of those awards are deserving, but if we’re honest, we know that may not always be the case.)
The right actor at the wrong time presents lots of problems. Paul Newman was nominated seven times before he won a Best Actor Oscar in 1987 for The Color of Money, which was far from his best role. Newman had stopped going to the ceremony for years previously, but he gave an acceptance speech that year via satellite. He didn’t look too jazzed about it and I expected him to give the Academy the finger, but he didn’t.
Geraldine Page was nominated eight times before she finally won a Best Actress Oscar in 1986 for The Trip to Bountiful. Unfortunately she didn’t get to enjoy her victory for very long; she passed away the next year.
It hasn’t happened often, but I’ve always admired those who have won an Oscar but refused it, such as Marlon Brando and George C. Scott. (Google them for more information; it’s worth it.) “Thanks, but no thanks,” gets the point across more than any acceptance speech ever could.
Do a Google search and see just how many fine actors, directors, cinematographers, etc. never won Oscars. And some of the ones who have are more than a bit questionable. I won’t name names, but watch some of the Oscar-winning performances throughout history and judge for yourself. Again, this is all subjective.
You can find lots of “Who Should Have Won” posts and websites, but the best book I’ve seen on the subject is Danny Peary’s Alternate Oscars. Peary goes into extraordinary detail and talks about each year’s films (up through 1991). Anything by Peary is worth reading, but for those new to his work, this is perhaps the best place to start.
Don’t think that I’m hating on those who win. Many Oscar winners are deserving and I don’t mean to take anything away from those who take home the trophy. But when the awards are given out, I usually seek out the films that didn’t win first, as well as those that never got nominated for various reasons.
I’m not just picking on the Oscars. What happens there happens with pretty much any large-scale awards: Oscars, Grammys, various book awards, comics and graphic novel awards, you name it. The point is I don’t need an awards show to tell me what I’m going to like. Neither do you. We can disagree on what was the “best” movie of the year. We can even disagree on whether a movie was any good or not. All of that is fine. But remember that awards are both of the moment and fickle. What really matters is whether a film, book, comics, etc. speaks to you. If it does, embrace it. Celebrate it. Tell others about it. If it doesn’t? Well, there are too many good films, books, comics, etc. to dwell on the negative. Enjoy life. Enjoy the films you enjoy.