Praise where praise is due, they do say. Praise is fine, though honours are so often divisive and arbitrary instruments applied for the wrong reasons at the wrong time. I might have applied that comment to the UK honours system, though it is equally true of entertainment awards. Nominally, you might say, the Oscar Academy, or equally the voters for the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Palmes d’Or or whichever awards it happens to be are taking a subjective view and selecting their preferences.
Or are they? If each decision was taken in isolation based on set criteria to determine which were the best in each category, you might think them justifiable. But it doesn’t work like that. X beats Y to an award one year, though many academy members feel that it was Y’s “muggins turn” to win, so the next year Y wins with what might be an inferior performance, regardless of how good the competition is. And if someone misses out for whatever reason and it’s obvious the academy has made a howler, there are always the “lifetime achievement awards” of the kind Chaplin was awarded after his disgraceful lifetime exclusion, arguably for political reasons. And so it goes on….
To illustrate the principle, ask yourself this:
- How often do ugly actors who can really act get the gong in preference to the beautiful who just stand there looking beautiful? Sure, F Murray Abraham in Amadeus, Geoffrey Rush for Shine and Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote, but not too many more.
- How many times are the best films and actors in low budget movies without the financial fire power that the the Studios throw at the marketing hype? Every now and again, but not often.
- How often do great foreign language movies get awards over the American equivalents? Well Marillon Cottillard for her astonishing performance in La Vie En Rose, but that was almost unique!
- And how often do losers say that the real prize is to get nominated…
You might ask the true purpose of such award ceremonies. Well obviously, it’s an evening of ego-massaging for the big dicks, a chance for the ladies to show off the most expensive designer dresses and jewellery, for the dumbest speeches you ever heard, and just occasionally for a truly outstanding feat of acting or technical excellence to be rewarded. It’s much more a fashion statement than ever a reward for outstanding performance, technical awards notwithstanding…. and, more to the point, a televised sales pitch for the DVD market.
Frankly I would prefer a small, modest movie that delivers excellence humbly and doesn’t feel the need to shout about it. Hope you enjoy this year’s ceremony. Think I won’t be watching!
PS. To be cynical but statistically accurate, how to win an Oscar by choosing the right role!