The Academy Awards used to recognize quality cinematic storytelling when it was created in the late 1920s. Now it’s just a game of politics, screenwriting lecturer Kyle Smith said.
“I don’t put too much thought into who they nominate the awards to, mostly because it’s become fairly predictable at this point,” Smith said. “My only interest is in who guessed the most answers correctly.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has organized and presented the Academy Awards, or Oscars, since its first ceremony in 1929 at the Roosevelt Hotel. The ceremony aims to honor the best efforts in film annually, awarding honors such as best actor, actress, director, screenplay and, perhaps the most notable, best picture.
Recently, however, discussions have arisen over which films are going to win the 2015 awards — before the films come out.
Heavy contenders for the 2015 Academy Awards include Unbroken, a World War II story starring Jack O’Connell and directed by Angelina Jolie; Big Eyes, a biographical picture about American artist Margaret Keane directed by Tim Burton; and Selma, a civil rights drama starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr, according to www.goldderby.com
These films have three things in common: They’re all historical films, they’re all being considered for big awards and none of them are being released until Christmas.
“It’s stupid,” psychology junior Andrew Leonardo said. “It’s basically nepotism. Not nepotism in family ways, but nepotism because of the name that you carry. I mean, it makes sense, like going to the carpenter like ‘I trust this guy because he’s always done a good job.’ But it’s not the same with movies. They’re just different things entirely.”
Leonardo has been a movie-lover since he watched them with his mother when he lived up North. Leonardo said that the Oscars have long lost their validity because of how flawed the voting process is.
“I feel like it’s always hard to give awards to things that are based on opinions,” Leonardo said. “Especially with these movie critics. As much as I hate to say this, these movie critics are, most of the time, kind of snobby, and their view of a good movie is different from what we see as a good movie.”
Jean-Patrick Mahoney, art graduate teaching assistant, also said the voting process holds many flaws. As a filmmaker himself, he doesn’t understand why the Academy has different awards for best film and best director.
“I really don’t understand how they separate the rest of the picture from the director, because the director is ultimately the boss,” he said. “I don’t know if there should even be a best director category. They either made the best film or not.”
Patrick said one of his favorite films of all time is Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, set in the Vietnam war when a military officer is on a mission to kill an insane rogue officer. Winning a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and being listed as No. 14 on the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound Poll, Apocalypse Now has gone on to be called one of the greatest films of all time.
Despite this, it only won best sound editing and cinematography at the 52nd Academy Awards. Kramer vs. Kramer won best picture, director, actor, actress and screenplay.
“I think that only speaks to the validity of the Academy Awards,” Mahoney said. “I mean, you can only really view these things in retrospect sometimes. I think a lot of films that have won best picture maybe are not really the most memorable film that have been made.”
Another issue with the Academy Awards is its reliance on other awards programs. One big indicator is the Directors Guild of America awards. In the past 30 years, there have only been five times that the winner of the DGA award hasn’t won best director at the Oscars: Steven Spielberg for The Color Purple, Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ron Howard for Apollo 13, Rob Marshall for Chicago and Ben Affleck for Argo.
“It’s like they’re building it off of the achievements they already got,” Leonardo said. “I feel like, for them, the Oscar is the biggest one you can get, and all these little awards they get are the stepping stones to that.”
Smith said there are three criteria for being an Oscar contender: have a big name involved with it, have it belong in a specific genre and have the film released in the fall. The only film to fit this criteria is Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken.
“You have A-list filmmakers like the Coen brothers releasing a drama in December,” he said. “That’s the criteria to be an Oscar contender, even if no one has seen it.”
Smith said the Oscars is no longer about what is the best, but about what is new.
“The Oscars have become a very predictable, political thing,” Smith said. “It doesn’t mean that much anymore.”