The Academy Awards
Are A Joke
Today’s Corporate Hipsters Will Hit The Red Carpet Sunday Night But Will The Best Films Really Be Honored?
Replicas of Academy awards. Image by Antoine Taveneaux and used under the terms of a Creative Commons License.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
Feb. 23, 2012 — Almost every single minute of an award show is a grandstanding, made-for-television love-fest that draws millions of adoring fans around the world.
And it's all a joke.
This is especially true for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Awards. The "academy" — really just a bunch of Hollywood folks — base decisions off criteria like superficial eccentricity and perceived coolness.
Since the 1950s, the Academy Awards have been nothing but public forums for those corporate hipster types that care less about art and more about their bank accounts and whether they are cool AND popular.
Movies like The Artist (which is a perfectly decent film) won the Academy award before Jean Dujardin ever uttered a line on film. The movie garnered nominations the moment its creators thought "Hey, let's make a silent film."
It's like a band releasing its album on cassette or a six-piece Indie outfit from Portland with a lead singer in a headdress "ironically" covering Ke$ha.
It has to be different and strange and totally hip or else the Academy will give it the cold shoulder.
In other words, the whole thing is a popularity contest and therefore monumentally stupid.
I mean, Martin Scorsese — of Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas — had to wait until 2007 to win an Oscar. And while The Departed is an awesome film that deserved every award it picked up, the Academy probably chose it and Scorsese because the movie was a loosely adapted version of the Japanese film Infernal Affairs.
No longer can a film garner award show support just for being a quality work of art. No, now filmmakers and actors and actresses and everyone else involved have to jump through a slew of hoops just to get a nomination. All so the blowhards at the Academy can feel like they are still a part of something artsy and not something driven purely by greed and the almighty dollar.
Here are a few deserving pictures from 2011 that the Academy overlooked.
Nominations: Sound Editing
Nominations It Should Have Received: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
My Take: Drive has great sound. From the car chases to the violence, the film's sound plays a huge role in its success. However, sound is not the film's only great success. The movie is one of the best of the year. From the acting to the script to the way it all comes together, it blew me out of the water the first time I saw it. Specifically, Ryan Gosling does more acting with just his face in this movie than I have seen many actors do with their entire bodies and vocabulary in quite a long time. Drive may not be a silent film, per se, but Gosling's character speaks rarely, letting his expressions and actions do the talking. It is a powerful performance. And the elevator scene is positively breathtaking. Additionally, the way the screenplay incorporates the setting of Los Angeles is both moving and poignant. The city is not just a place where the action happens; it is a character intertwined in and affected by the actions of the other people on screen.
Kill the Irishman
Nominations It Should Have Received: Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role
My Take: Director Jonathan Hensleigh successfully captured the gritty and entertaining feel that made gangster classics like Goodfellas and Casino so enthralling. Hensleigh successfully coordinates the fine line between criminal worship and criticism. He shows the good sides of Irish union boss Denny Green while still showing the very real, and very violent, means by which he gained his power. The film does not represent Green as either side, the cops or his faithful, would want. Rather, it shows the very real and layered story behind Green's life. And none of that would have been possible without the gutsy performance by Ray Stevenson. Stevenson embodies Green and meets my most important criteria for any acting award: he makes the audience forget that they are watching a movie by completely becoming the character that he portrays.
Nominations It Should Have Received: Best Director, Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
My Take: Critics of Super 8 say that the film has been done before. It is another Spielberg film (Spielberg has a producing credit) for a new generation. But is that such a bad thing? J.J. Abrams took an archetype that Hollywood is afraid of and made a true charmer for a new generation of kids. Hollywood is afraid that films like E.T. and The Goonies could not succeed nowadays because they rely on heart. Sure, they have some great special effects, but the real success of those films lies in the way that they connect to the childhood condition and make a commentary on the turmoil and adventure that is growing up. Not only is Abrams' screenplay wonderful, but also he directed a group of young child actors that gave outstanding performances. Each of the kids in the cast performed well beyond their years and made the screenplay come to life and reach its full potential, and Abrams direction should receive some credit for that.
Nominations It Should Have Received: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role
My Take: Some people might think that an Irish film does not deserve to be included in the Foreign Language category. Those people haven't seen The Guard. The quintessential Irish buddy cop film shows the Emerald Isle in all of its glory, and director John Michael McDonagh makes a point of highlighting the more unique characteristics of Ireland. Whether through inside Irish jokes or the natives who choose not to speak English, McDonagh uses the FBI agent out of water theme to show how special, funny and interesting Ireland can be. Brendon Gleeson makes all of the jokes and Irish humor work through his portrayal of the dry policeman Boyle. He is positively hilarious, crude, disgusting and heartwarming at the same time. It is truly a unique and entertaining experience.
Sadly, the Academy will not recognize any of these films this weekend. I take that back. Drive could win the award for Best Sound Editing. Not to cheapen the contributions of those involved, but it is not exactly the award that every filmmaker dreams of.
These films are not silent or in 3D or extraordinary in any way. Except for the fact that they are wonderful examples of quality film-making. They deserve recognition. Maybe they should not win the awards, but they at least deserve the honor of a nomination.
Maybe next time the people behind these films will have the common sense to include some sort of shtick in their movies so that the Academy will feel the need to nominate them for an award. Or maybe we should treat award shows like the hipsters that they are by openly ignoring them and making fun of them behind their backs.
Wayne Schutsky lives in Phoenix, Ariz. Follow him @ThemanofLetters.