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Winners and losers: Weighing the need for film awards

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Some have argued in recent years that award shows, like the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the Emmys do not honor the best work of the year, while others believe that the shows are meant to entertain; they’re less about the films, more about the spectacle. While there’s nothing wrong with entertaining, there is a bit of skepticism regarding if the awards even mean anything, and if they are being given to the most deserved candidates. Should award shows be given the boot, or is there more to them than meets the eye?

The three biggest award shows of the year are the Golden Globes, the Primetime Emmys, and the Academy Awards, the Oscars for short, and while each focuses on their own respective field, they do share quite a bit in common. Mainly they feature a large amount of spectacle, whether it be through musical numbers, extended monologues, or slideshows, there’s certainly more going on in award shows than actually awarding people.

“I think the key thing about awards is understanding the point of them: to entertain…there’s a lot of pomp about whether they mean anything, and I don’t think they do,” Josh Oakley, local film critic and writer said.

There’s a huge truth to this statement, and it’s one that many people use to argue against the shows. Some films win awards they deserve, while others are thrown under the bus; some people get angry, while others are overjoyed at the winners.

The films, and their viewing, often become a competition rather than something to be appreciated, negating the fact that they are works of art and making them possible awards contenders. In 2012, Joaquin Phoenix said in an interview with Vanity Fair “it’s total, utter bullshit…it’s subjective…pitting people against each other…” when he talked about not campaigning for an Oscar.

Spike Lee has issued similar qualms, stating “There are many times in history where the best work does not get awarded. And I’m not even talking about my own work. That’s why [the Oscars] don’t matter.” Both are fair points, and as of late have been a visible problem. Every time a film is released there is an uproar on social media regarding what movies are Best Picture contenders. It becomes less about seeing them as movies, and more about seeing them as a film they’re going to be rooting for at the Oscars. It can feel like award shows aren’t awarding the films or shows for being great, but rather awarding simply to entertain.

However, there are many people that do watch award shows specifically for this idea of spectacle, or because it’s simply a tradition or a nostalgic principle. For others, it’s a way of discovering films one might not have thought of watching in the first place. “I…think it’s difficult to [rip] on something that makes regular, non-cinephiles pay attention to generally good or great films,” Oakley said. Award shows have proven themselves to make viewers go out and see films that have won, and almost act as another, bigger advertisement for them.

“As cynical as I am about parts of the awards system, I don’t think that my parents would have seen [a film like] ‘12 Years A Slave’ without it,” Oakley said.

Awards culture has become something of a staple too. Oscar parties are prevalent in our society, while talk of awards has become a sort of naturalistic banter between friends once films are released and nominated. If anything, they’re something viewed as not terribly serious, and instead entertaining, something to watch with other people and to enjoy.

Award shows can be looked at as something to frown upon, or as something to enjoy. These shows have their issues, but also their strengths amongst those who watch them for entertainment. In the end, the view on award shows is purely subjective.

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Winners and losers: Weighing the need for film awards