Pop-Culture Connoisseur is an entertainment column. Here you will find reviews, recommendations, and my take on some of the latest happenings in the world of books, music, TV, and film.
As the daughter of a life-long movie buff, I have come to look forward to awards season every year, especially since starting my journalism classes back in 2009 and developing a greater appreciation for the creative process that goes into media production. I consider the Academy Awards (a.k.a. “The Oscars”) the pinnacle of the awards season, and just last week this year’s nominees were officially announced.
Unfortunately, as is the case almost every year, I haven’t seen even half of the films that have been nominated for awards. I have a feeling this is the case for a lot of people, at least once we venture outside of the standard categories of “Best Picture,” “Actor/Actress,” “Music (Original Score),” etc. and into the land of “Foreign Language Film,” “Animated Short,” and “Short Film.” I feel accomplished if I’ve seen even one of the nominees in a “Documentary” category. This feeling of cinematic illiteracy led me to wonder how Oscar nominees actually get chosen in the first place. I had always imagined they were chosen by a small, elite group of bigwig executives sitting together in a closed room. That isn’t exactly the case.
Nominees are voted on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is a professional honor society for members of the film industry, not the fancy governing body that I had assumed. Membership is by invitation only, but I was surprised to find that AMPAS members include the very actors, directors, producers, and technicians that are hoping to be nominated for the awards. To qualify for nomination, the film must meet certain requirements. Nominees are selected for each category by their peers – film editors nominate film editors, and directors nominate directors – but everyone gets to vote for the category of “Best Picture.” Members can vote for five nominees in a category. Once the votes are in, the results are tabulated and nominees are announced. About a week later, final ballots are mailed to Academy members who then have two weeks to make their decisions and return their ballots. The votes are tabulated in absolute secrecy and then sealed until the moment the envelopes are opened on-stage at the awards ceremony. For the category of “Foreign Language Film,” a country is allowed to submit one film for consideration each year.
So put simply, the Oscars are awards given out for achievement in film by peers within the industry. Those who are the best at what they do choose who to recognize within their own field. That sounds like a good plan to me. After all, who else is more qualified to say what outstanding costume design is than someone who has studied and become highly skilled at costume design? As elitist as it may sound, I don’t think the general public is always qualified to decide who should be recognized for achievement in the field of entertainment. The public sometimes gets it wrong. Fans will often band together and boost the vote for someone they consider to be the ‘hottest’ actor or the nicest person. While those qualities have their place, I don’t think they should be deciding factors in all awards shows. I trust Oscars to be awarded based solely on talent to those who are best at what they do. Sometimes though, people that I feel deserve an Oscar go unrecognized, and that sucks, but I can’t have my cake and eat it too. In the end, now that I have a better understanding of it, even though I’m sure it has its own set of internal biases, I generally trust the process of the Academy, which is why in film, I feel that the Oscar really deserves the prestige with which it has been bestowed.
The Oscars will be hosted by Seth MacFarlane and air at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 24th on ABC.
Image from http://oscars.org