Luke Owen on last night’s Oscars…
If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, then Awards Season is the most loathsome as a film fan. It’s the time of year that a group of out-of-touch Hollywood professionals all gather round to lay their hand down on what they think was the best film released in the last four months, and industry experts and film lovers parade around social media giving their predictions on who and what they think will walk away with the tiny gold statue as if it actually mattered. This shameful circle jerk charade happens year after year and with each passing 365 days Awards Season becomes more of a farce.
The Oscars are the worst for it, but that’s only because the other two major American awards ceremonies have already been forgotten about. The Golden Globes showed themselves to be worthless when it was revealed they nominated Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp thriller flop The Tourist for best Musical or Comedy when it was neither because Sony bribed nominators with a free trip to Las Vegas (they had also done this previously with Burlesque), and The Razzies have become a parody of themselves by constantly voting for Adam Sandler and Kevin James movies, or just films that the Internet automatically hates like Fifty Shades of Grey in order to stay relevant. I said at the time of its release that the adaptation of the awful series of books by E.L. James could have been the second coming of Gone With the Wind and it would have been nominated for Razzies simply because of the source material. But, hey, at least The Razzies look at films from the entire year rather than just the ones pushed by the studios in the last few months.
Which brings us to The Oscars, easily the most reprehensible of the lot.
The Oscars is a sham, plain and simple. The more we learn about the voting patterns and the people behind the decision-making, the more it becomes a joke. We’ve learned over the last few years that the Academy is made up mostly of middle-aged or old white males, who have shown themselves to be out of touch. An eye witness report from January stated that a lunch was observed with Oscar Voters (all in their 70s and white) openly admitting to having not watched N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton (one of the finest pictures of last year), with one saying it was “too loud” for their tastes. Last year Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s The LEGO Movie was overlooked by The Academy for Best Animated Film because the people in charge instantly assumed it was cash-grab movie and instantly dismissed it. How can these people nominate films for awards when they don’t even bother to watch the films themselves?
And that’s not even the worst of it. The heart-punching portrayal of slavery 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars, despite two voters openly admitting to The L.A. Times that they hadn’t actually watched the movie because they thought it would ‘too upsetting’. However, they voted for it to win as they felt it ‘deserved’ to win for ‘social relevance’. So what they’re saying is that the quality of your film doesn’t matter, as long as it’s about something from history that people care about. Which begs the question why Straight Outta Compton didn’t get the nod, but that’s a different article.
So why do we care who wins and loses if the people voting openly admit that none of it actually matters? The Internet has been abuzz this morning because Leonardo DiCaprio finally won the Best Actor in a Leading Role award when he was clearly going to. Not because he gave a sterling performance in The Revenant or that he was better than Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender or Eddie Redmayne, but because it was simply his turn. He’d been nominated in 2004 for The Aviator, in 2006 for Blood Diamond and in 2013 for Wolf of Wall Street, but his performances there were overshadowed by more socially relevant showings. Jamie Foxx won in 2004 because he played Ray Charles, Forest Whitaker won in 2006 for playing Adi Amin and Matthew McConaughey won in 2013 because he played Ray Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. Despite the fact that Michael Keaton was sublime in Birdman, the award was always going to go to Eddie Redmayne for his portrayal of Stephan Hawking in The Theory of Everything. This year Leo didn’t have as much socially relevant competition save for Fassbender as Steve Jobs (no one really cares about Dalton Trumbo in 2016), and so it was finally his turn to win. His performance could have been 90 minutes of fart jokes, but it was his turn to win so he finally got that award.
Leo’s regular collaborator Martin Scorsese had a similar treatment when, after eight nominations, it was his turn to win in 2006 for The Departed – a film that is not as good as previous nominations like Goodfellas, Raging Bull or Gangs of New York. In 2009, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won Best Picture. Not because it was the best movie released that year, but because it was the final part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy so it deserved it. The list goes on and on.
Looking at the winners, every award went as predicted by most people with the exception of The Revenant getting Best Picture which – despite not having the best director, best actor, best supporting actor, best actress, best supporting actress or best editing – went to Spotlight. Now that’s not to say that Spotlight didn’t deserve the win, but it seems odd that a film who’s only other award was Best Original Screenplay could be crowned as the best movie of 2016. However the answer quite simple: Spotlight won Best Picture because no one expected it to win – which makes The Academy look like they’re at the forefront of thinking. Clever, huh?