Friday, 13 January 2012

Oscar Voters are People Too

Today at 5:00 pm the first half of Oscar season comes to an end. Voters who don’t get their ballots to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in the green envelope by the time aforementioned wouldn’t have any impact on the race. This means that everything that happens between this afternoon and the nominations day on Tuesday the 24th has no bearings on the outcome of the nominations.
And, aaaah, Oscar nominations. Simultaneously the bane and the highlight of any cinephiles existence. An excellent barometer for adjudging the year’s best, or the deluded views of a group of old cruds depending on who you talk to. It’s often difficult to neatly divide oneself, as a cinema enthusiasts, from the machinations of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They are impossibly ubiquitous. Their placement in comparison to other film awards mark them as the last “important” one, cumulatively making them seem to be the most important one. They’re dedicated to honouring the excellence of professionals in the film industry, so that would explain why people expect to choose the “best” and that would also explain why so many take umbrage when they don’t choose what is “excellent”. And stemming from that we launch into a definitive kerfuffle…for what is excellence?

It’s as good a time as any to remember that the members who make up the Academy are persons from each of the disciplines represented with actors notoriously taking up around 22% of the total. So, when people accuse them of being self-congratulatory as if it’s meant to be an insult, they’re not wrong – thespians are voting for their peers, so it’s probably self-congratulatory. And, it’s here that the fallout occurs because peers of the contenders are not liable to vote the same as objective (and I use the words quite aware of the irony it portends) critics. And, who’s to say either is wrong? If we wanted the choice of the critics wouldn’t we just tune in for the slew of critics’ awards that run all the way through the last two months of the year and into January? If we’re heading into an awards’ ceremony made up of Academy members who like what they like (critics be damned) why complain?

Well, why not? We’ve all complained about the times that Oscar got it “wrong” because we want our favourites to win everywhere, and it’s human nature. If Meryl wins every laurel but a single critics’ award, the Meryl lover would more than like be incensed that she didn’t win it even if the gamut ranges from the Feminist Critics, to the Black Critics to the Gay Critics (made up bodies, but you get my idea) all critics who I’d assume have different agenda and different tastes. And, it isn’t any searing brilliance on my part to point out that different people have different tastes, film critics and bloggers always tip their hats when their peers differ on top ten lists, but we’re less likely to tip our hats at the AMPAS. We’re more likely to take it off and hurl it at them. And, I’m guessing is because unlike the AMPAS the average critic doesn’t send off his top ten list and “best of” citations with a red carpet and months of anticipation. Neither does the average critic invite campaigns for their undying love and so on and on. Fair enough.

But, does the AMPAS owe us a validation of our choices? They can’t please everyone, and unless they’re being held on duress and being forced to vote for some nominees (we never really know how far Weinstein will go) aren’t they making the right choice if they’re making the choice they think is right? We give our fellow peers a smile when they disagree with us and argue playfully. Why can’t we do the same for the Academy? They’re not a lean-mean-cinema destroying machine…or maybe they are. But they’re made of members, and those members are people too. Who are we to tell them what they love is wrong?
(Am I encouraging no criticism of their choices? How could I? C'est impossible! Just proceed with reticence, is all.)


Runs Like A Gay said...

Really good post, Andrew.

As you say we all to often forget the 5000 ish members of the Academy are just saying what they think is best and their individual preferences are just as legitimate as any critic or blogger.

It is, in many ways, our own fault for elevating the importance of Oscar which makes the perceived injustice when they disagree so much more. After all who remembers what film Ebert said was the best in 2005, yet we all know that Crash won the Best film Oscar beating the perceived favourite Brokeback Mountain and my (un-nominated) favourite History of Violence.

P.S. just looked up Eberts historic best of lists and wouldn't you know it he chose Crash at number one too.

Nick Prigge said...

Lovely and fair post.

Don't you wish sometimes you could truly see what's going on inside the Academy voter's mind? Is he/she paying attention to the inevitable Oscar "storylines" that emerge or are they voting for what they truly believe is "best"?

I would like to believe, as you state so eloquently, whether I agree with them or not, that it's the latter.