Every year, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences presents their awards for the previous year's films. Awarding filmmakers for directing, cinematography, acting, special effects and many others, it has continued a tradition started in 1929.
Throughout its history it has seen criticisms for lack of diversity in its membership pool, refusing to nominate large budget films for awards outside of technical merit, and oftentimes awarding “Oscar bait” films.
The full history of Oscar bait is a tricky and controversial one among film lovers. Many claim that the reasoning behind awarding lesser-known, small release films is to bring attention and award the smaller movies that would otherwise be overlooked by the public.
Others, like me, believe studios market their films as Oscar contenders to try to bring unearned gravitas to their films. The most recent winner of Best Picture is Green Book. Last year was the The Shape Of Water, which was a break from the norm, as high-concept films hardly receive attention from the Academy. Moonlight, Spotlight, and The Artist, have all won within the last ten years.
But it’s hard pressed to find people who still remember these films in any way outside of them being Oscar winners (side note: I even had to Bing them to recall them [side side note: yeah, I use Bing]).
Yes, these films do have a high quality to them, but I’m not putting that in question. What I am questioning is how films such as these win, but people remember other films as the best of their respective years. The argument against that is if movies were awarded based on what the general public liked, we would end up with winners like The Avengers and Star Wars every year.
While I agree that popular blockbusters would get more attention and awards, I do think it would cause more interest in the awards and it’s a more accurate depiction of the cultural zeitgeist at the time. People remember the The Avengers from 2012, not Argo.
I would also argue that the Marvel Studios team-up film did more for the film world than Ben Affleck’s thriller loosely based on real events. Both great films, but one changed how we watch movies and how studios make film series.
I would say that we should have two best picture winners, which the Academy did have early on. One for high production films, and one for art films. I do think this would cause people not to respect these movies as equal candidates, but there is a inherent flaw in trying to compare Slumdog Millionaire with The Dark Knight.
Two categories would allow the Academy to show respect to the high budget films that require months and months of hard labour, and the art films which take months to truly think about and reflect on.
The Oscars often have trouble pulling the viewers they want. I do think if they made it a celebration of all films released that year, more would look forward to it. As it stands, Oscar winners hardly last a few weeks past their awards and will become part of another list of films people only remember as trivia.
Written by Blake Preston