Awarded Value?

AcademyAwardLet me start off by saying that I am fully aware that in discussing the Academy Awards and other accolades in late May, I am being anything but timely. But the nature of these ramblings is that they are spawned by any random thought that strikes me, and perhaps the discussion may be helped by not running the risk of being derailed by any frustration over snubs.

What got me thinking about the Oscars, and awards in general, was checking out info on a few films on my watchlist and finding that they had been Best Picture nominees. I had put them on my watchlist due to having heard high praise for them, so it didn’t really come as a surprise, but it was nevertheless news to me. (The films in question, if it matters, were His Girl Friday and The Ox-Bow Incident). This got me to thinking. There are certainly Oscar-nominated films on my watchlist, but only in a few cases were films there specifically for that reason. And then I got to thinking that, as somebody who tries to be informed on movies, I really ought to be sufficiently informed on these films to have an opinion on what should and shouldn’t have won.

Which means I need to add the whole lot of them to my watchlist, minus those I’ve seen already.

I seem to have a knack for giving myself projects with long, indefinite completion dates. After 85 years of the Oscars, there are 503 Best Picture nominees — 506 if one counts the first year’s Award for Unique and Artistic Production, which I think one should as it was meant to be an award of equal prestige. I’ve seen 62, a little less than an eighth of them. My watchlist is growing by 444 titles (well, minus those already present). It’s a little bit daunting, but it does come with the benefit that any time I complete all of a year’s Best Picture nominees, I’ll be able to make a blog post ranking them with respect to each other. I already know a couple years where I disagree with the Academy’s choices.

Of course, I also know that it will take me a while to complete any year (except possibly 1994, where I’m just one film away), especially since I’m not going to go organizing a marathon of them or anything. Some will even be impossible, as there are a few films from early on that are currently lost — or as close as makes no difference (a film with one copy in the UCLA vault hardly seems accessible to me). But I’ll be paying at least a bit of attention to them when making my viewing choices, in amongst all the other stuff.

But something else I know is that there will occasionally be films that, if they weren’t nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, I would be very unlikely to check out. Which — 500 words into the essay — brings me to my point, and a question for the readers: How much importance do we put on the various movie awards, and why?

For me, the importance of the Oscars, and the value I assign to a film receiving a nomination or win, is down to a couple things. First is that this is a prestigious award and one that’s long established. It’s a bit circular — “it’s important because it’s important” — but movie fans by and large will agree that, whether we agree with the choices or not, the Oscars are kind of a big deal. And part of that is because, even when we think something doesn’t deserve to win, it’s not really easy to get there. There are hundreds of films released every year. Plenty of them are good films. Only a handful can conceivably make it to the nomination stage. There’s a degree of elitism in that only Academy members — a select group of people from different roles in film making — can vote on the Awards. But that elitism, although it sometimes causes a disconnect with the public, does have an advantage to it: it’s not as easily swayed. Even if I don’t agree with a choice, I respect it a bit more when it’s people who know what they’re talking about, as opposed to a bunch of high schoolers who have time to repeatedly click on a Yahoo poll.

That said, a personal recommendation always carries more immediate weight for me. It is, after all, a question of my entertainment.

Of course, not all awards are created equal. I’m adding the Best Picture Oscar nominees to my watchlist, but I’m not doing the same with most of other Oscars. Maybe Best Animated Feature, because it’s a category that interests me (and is also mercifully smaller). But I don’t expect I’ll be squaring off against all the Best Supporting Actor nominations; I have a feeling that by the time I saw all the films for a given year, I’ll have trouble remembering that detail. It’s easier to keep track of “Best Picture”. I don’t really picture myself making quite a point out of adding films from other awards shows either. Maybe it’s just me, but the Golden Globes always seemed like a bit of an also ran; I like the split on drama/comedy in Best Picture, but it still seems as though if the Globes disagree with the Oscars, it’s the Oscars that everybody listens to. And with other awards, well, nobody’s even paying attention anyway. I could go through the Saturn Awards for Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy film, and maybe I’ll do that just for my own sake, but I don’t know that anybody would be interested in reading my opinion on what they got right and wrong.

So, for now, I’m just in the process of adding Best Picture to my watchlist. But my question to the audience remains open: How much importance do you put on awards, and why?

About Morgan R. Lewis

Fan of movies and other media
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11 Responses to Awarded Value?

  1. The Oscars dont necessarily always equate to “The Best Film”. Obviously they completely ignore movies that they feel aren’t artistic enough, so great popcorn movies go unrecognized, and of course, occasionally they flub it.

    But 99% of the time an Oscar means its a really GOOD film. That’s enough for me to give a movie a shot…

    • Definitely a dearth of popcorn flicks in the Best Picture race… Gladiator counts, I feel, and obviously Return of the King — but I still feel that was a “for the whole trilogy” award and only because they felt obligated to.

      But yes, 99% of the time, it means a very good film. Thus the massive addition to my watchlist.

  2. ckckred says:

    I think the Oscars don’t honor merit but more often award something conventional. They typically ignore some of the more daring films of the year and go for routine dramas. Still I do pay much attention to them and despite my complaints they often to award some good films. I look forward to your project.

    • Thanks, CK. I think there’s some validity to the argument that they do get to be a bit conventional at times… certainly there’s a “type” that seems more likely to get an award than not. Though I do have to say that sometimes films are daring but not actually all that good, so I can’t harp on them too hard for ignoring the more daring films, at least, not unless I’m hearing from a lot of corners that one is really good.

  3. Spikor says:

    If I could somehow find a way to give less weight to the Oscars–or awards in general–than I already do, it would probably require first inventing cold fusion, or a Warp Core, maybe layering five black holes over top of one another in a single space-time ripple…

    I don’t knock those that are interested in them, and I certainly wouldn’t turn any away if someone were to hand me one, but I really, really, really don’t care about them. I like a wide range of movies, from all types, genres, etc… and sometimes Oscar (or other awards) noms & winners get caught in the net, but most of them don’t. So I stopped caring about them a long time ago.

    • It is hard to be interested if it seems like your personal favorites are never on the nomination list. No question about that. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason they expanded the BP nomination list to a (potential) 10 a few years ago… just so that they could say “See? We do acknowledge those others as being good movies too.”

  4. Garrett says:

    Personally, I think the Oscars in particular dismiss a lot of great films that are unique or unconventional. Nonetheless, I think that the Academy usually nominates some very good movies, even if the best ones are sometimes snubbed. I don’t consider the Oscars to be a definitive showcase of the year’s best films, but I make a point of seeing all of the Best Picture nominees that I can.

    • A fairly balanced view, and one I think most of us movie bloggers can go along with. After all, so many of us pick our own “best movie of the year”, which we would hardly do if we thought the Academy always got it right.

      Any particularly notable snubs that you can recall?

      • Garrett says:

        That’s a great point.

        The first major snubs that come to mind: Citizen Kane losing to How Green Was the Valley, Raging Bull losing to Ordinary People, and Saving Private Ryan/The Thin Red Line losing to Shakespeare in Love. Also, the Oscars tend to give American films much more attention as no foriegn language film has ever won Best Picture and only nine have been nominated.

        • I’ll admit that when talking snubs, I was thinking of those that went unnominated entirely, but you’ve chosen some great examples of when the Oscars have gone with a selection that may not have been the “right” one. Kane/Valley being the most obvious, of course; granted, that was essentially a deliberate one, as Kane was the recipient of a backlash from Hearst and his cronies.

          It’s also true that there’s more of a focus on American films (or rather, just English-speaking in general). I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing, though… it’s an awards ceremony that’s essentially based in the U.S., after all, and made for an American audience. It gets enough backlash as it is from BP nominees that aren’t seen by a lot of the movie going public… an increase in foreign language BP nominees could just make that worse (I remember some grousing about Amour this past year).

  5. Pingback: Re-Ranking the Oscars: 2003 Best Animated Feature | Morgan on Media

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