Oscars Prestige Falls Flat

By Olivia Libowitz
Elm Staff Writers

The best movies of the year might not win Best Picture in the 2018 Academy Awards. In fact, they probably won’t, and will instead be beaten by “The Post.”

Oscar bait: by this point, this is a common term that many understand to be the list of silly pre-requisites movies need to be chosen for Best Picture by the Academy. The movies feature African-American struggles, they’re set in a historic time in America, they feature an LGBTQ person, they’re set in Hollywood or New York City, there’s a small orphan child who needs Tom Hanks to teach him how to be himself. The list goes on for a bit, but the common thread is that it becomes easy to create, spot, and market a Oscar-winning picture. This takes a little bit of the shock and suspense out of watching the Oscars.

The Oscars originally had 10 Best Picture nominations back in 1929 when it began. This is because its initial goal was to praise the new amazing world of films. As filmmaking became bigger and more competitive, the Best Picture category was shaved down to five films in an attempt to make it an exclusive award. The Academy would later bring it back up to 10. Unfortunately, they did this for the wrong reasons.

The prestige of the Oscars is kind of dumb. If you didn’t know, unlike the Tonys, which are voted on by a designated panel; or the Emmys, which are voted upon by those in the field of each category; or the Golden Globes, which are voted on by critics; the Academy Awards are voted on by, well, the Academy. This is the union of those involved in the motion picture industry. The rules are: you get to vote on every category, as long as you have been involved in the field within the last 10 years.

Why does this take away some of the award’s legitimacy? Because nobody in the Academy has to see or watch everything nominated. They’re voting and being tabulated with little regard as to whether the Academy members’ opinions actually bear much weight.

This means that Meryl Streep gets as good of a vote this year as David Kozma, a name you won’t know because the last thing he did was in 2008 as the digital composer: cube effects for “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.” Even members without much prestige get to vote for these awards, which the Academy then wants us, the viewers, to think are prestigious. They are not. They are an excuse for Hollywood to pat itself on the back.

I really wouldn’t be so upset about this if they didn’t get it wrong so often. Remember when “Crash” won against “Brokeback Mountain,” despite being a movie met with an almost universal shoulder shrug from audiences? Or when “The Pianist” won, even though it lacked any plot or characters? The first film won due to an aggressive marketing campaign within the Academy. In fact, the day after the ceremony, the Los Angeles Times chalked the win up to “the carefully orchestrated promotional campaign undertaken by its distributor, Lionsgate [which] appealed to the Academy’s largest voting bloc: actors.”

The second film won due to how in love it was with Hollywood and the golden age of cinema. Last year really was a toss-up between “La La Land” and “Moonlight,” which were by far the two most Oscar-baiting movies up there. That being said, “Moonlight” was admittedly a fantastic film, with Vulture news going so far as to call its win, “transformative to Oscars history.”

The main problem with the Oscar process is that it very often eliminates the chances of movies from the start. What shot do “Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards” have, having been written and directed by non-American members of the Academy? What shot does “Lady Bird” have, when historically the Oscars winners are only male-created films, excluding maybe Katheryn Bigelow, and no one else? What shot does “Get Out” have of being taken seriously, when the primarily older white Academy membership will view it as too much, a comedy, or unimportant, seeing as it’s Jordan Peele’s first film?

This year’s Academy Awards have a pretty good line-up for best picture. The issue is that in the attempts the Academy have made to try and up the prestige, intrigue, and suspense of the Best Picture nomination, they’ve almost all but eliminated those aspects. They’ve brought in five more films a year, in order to bring in thousands more viewers, knowing very well those extra five films have almost no shot in hell.

The clear lack of understanding between the Academy and viewer opinions will ultimately lead to the downfall of the Oscars. Anyway, here’s rooting for “Boss Baby” for Best Animated Picture.

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