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The hit or miss Oscars

So the Oscars have finished again for another year. For better or worse, they are the biggest awards in cinema, and as ever drew plenty of speculation, anticipation, and glamour.

In fact this year there were numerous British hopefuls for us to root for: Rosamund Pike, Felicity Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley et al.

And of course there was actual victory, represented in Eddie Redmayne’s much-deserved win for The Theory of Everything. But was it worth all the fuss?

When the morning after this year’s ceremony dawned and it was revealed that Birdman had snatched Boyhood’s award away in its talons, the whole event seemed as pointless as ever.

The awards corridor mainly begins around September and, for the following six months, the film industry aggressively churns out Oscar-fodder to wearying effect.

It all culminates in a butt-numbingly long event with more kitsch and tacky glamour than a watch-stand in Tooting market.

So why should we care?  After all, there may be a broad spread of films nominated, but it only ever comes down to either one of two films i.e. Boyhood/Birdman, 12 Years a Slave/Gravity, The King’s Speech/The Social Network etc.

We shouldn’t even be surprised at this either, given how it’s flagged up repeatedly in the weeks prior to the event due to all the other major awards such as the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, WGAs, and SAGs.

Even though the Academy expanded the Best Picture category in 2010, the benefit seems pointless as the race quickly narrows down to one of two winners.

Then we had this year in particular. Now I liked Birdman, but what does a film have to do to win an Oscar if not Boyhood? The director, Richard Linklater (who also had Best Director snatched out of his hands) spent twelve years making the film – in which time, might I add, he also made eight other films.

I’m aware this is a subjective opinion, but it is also worth noting that three of the past four Best Picture winners have been films about the film industry: Birdman, Argo, and The Artist.

Thus, what’s become characteristic of the Oscars is not the spectacle and competition, but the heavy sense of disappointment that is present before the event even begins.  This usually starts with the snubs made in the nominations process.

For example, where was David Oyelowo’s Best Actor nomination for his performance as Martin Luther King in Selma? All the film was given was a tokenistic Best Picture nomination and a win for Best Song.

If the Oscars want to be taken seriously, then they’re failing.

Oh, and this is without mentioning how a 2012 study found that Oscar voters were 94% white, 77% male, and 54% over 60; while last year two Academy voters admitted to voting for films they hadn’t even seen.

The sinister politics of the Oscars came to the fore last week too when Mo’Nique, who won Best Supporting Actress in 2009, revealed that because she hadn’t campaigned for her award she had been “black-balled” for not playing the game, and has had her career suffer as a consequence.

However, there are positives one can salvage if they look hard enough. Whiplash was a low-budget debut from a 30 year-old director with no stars which managed to garner a Best Picture nomination, and wins for Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Mixing and Best Editing. But really, if you want a more honest assessment of the past year in cinema, then stick with the BAFTAs.

George Pundek

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