What's the point of the Oscars?
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Last night in Los Angeles, the shimmering city of cinema, HollywoodÊ¼s brightest stars aligned for the 87th Academy Awards. Birdman was presented with the Best Picture accolade, whilst Eddie Reymayne and Julianne Moore were deemed Best Actor and Best Actress respectively. But Ê»bestÊ¼ according to who? Winning an Oscar is widely considered the pinnacle of show business achievement. However, no-one questions the authority from which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestows awards on the cinema industry. In fact, the calendar year is punctuated by such awards ceremonies and prizes, which reverberate throughout the arts industry. Forget traditional holidays – if gossip columns are anything to go by, a more relevant approach would be to begin the year with the Golden Globes, see the months through via the Brit Awards and the Mercury Music Prize amongst others, and finish with the Turner Prize in December. Despite their ubiquity, I canÊ¼t help but find these occasions a little bit silly. They attempt to make definitive conclusions about something as flexible as art, neatly boxing someone elseÊ¼s creativity into a particular mould. And just who exactly makes these decisions? When reading the reviews published in magazines and newspapers, itÊ¼s always clear that the opinions discussed come from a particular person, whose interpretation of the subject in question is equally particular. Awards, by contrast, are handed down to us from some mysterious authority, whose supposed infinite knowledge permits him or her the privilege to determine something as subjective as quality. Really, this power is false. In the context of the Oscars, has each voting member of the Academy seen every film to have come out in a particular year? Surely this is necessary for anyone whose job it is to determine the Ê»bestÊ¼. An examination of the Academy AwardsÊ¼ Best Picture category demonstrates some of the politics and problems of any prize giving system. In 2010, The KingÊ¼s Speech won Best Picture, beating Black Swan and Toy Story 3. The Academy chose a stuttering future king over a psycho ballerina and a living toy cowboy. It seems bizarre to compare films made with totally disparate aims, intended for equally disparate audience demographics. Between 5 and 10 films are nominated for the prize each year, but itÊ¼s clear from the outset that there are some total no hopers. Notably, comedy and science fiction remain unpopular with the Academy, who instead prefer more historical or noble subject matter. This demonstrates how biased the process really is. Further, some films are simply too unconventional to even be acknowledged. Paul Thomas AndersonÊ¼s recent adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice was praised by critics. But as Ian Nathan writing for Empire puts it, the film is Ê»way too eccentric to land awardsÊ¼.
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