Let 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?