As the season of The Oscars approaches, we are once again reminded of the yearly furor that accompanies the ceremony. Over 30 million people sit in their homes across the world watching 24 awards being given in a theatre hall where 3000 people are sitting. What puzzles me about The Oscars is not so much the monumental scale of the event, but its religious following amongst film students at Sussex.
The Oscars are, after all, a promotion tool of the Hollywood industry. They are made for and by the people who profit from those very films, and their purpose is to increase revenue for the dominating American movie industry. With films being produced and consumed as commodities in the neoliberal capitalist society which we live in, the Oscars provide reassurance when viewers choose to consume a certain movie, rather than engaging in another kind of pleasure-seeking activity. The promotion of expectation and mystery around what film will win which award, a consumerist incentive builds up in the hearts of viewers. The nominated movies are consumed eagerly by people formulating their own theories about the awards. This is usually done while looking away from the tools of the Industry that drive their consumption habits, and their main goal: profit.
Mind you, I am not arguing that the mechanisms through which the Oscars influence film consumption somehow detract from ‘the true art of cinema’. Movies can be made will all sorts of intents, for different audiences and to be consumed in different contexts. However, cinema is an art form as well as a commodity. Academia is the space where films should be analysed with care and attention to their subtleties, the context of their production, the intertextuality of the references present in them and the meanings that those create. The validation of cinema through economical mechanisms falls short of the complexity of this medium. Amazing films are created all throughout the world, some with minuscule budgets, some with a lot of money put into them. A lot of them are made in cinematic languages that fall outside of the Hollywood commercial film, and will not be appreciated by Oscar committees who operate under the premise of easy consumption and profit.