The Oscars are Dangerous for Filmmaking

Analyzing the negative effects the Academy has had on the film industry.

Actor+giving+speech+to+a+crowd+at+the+2017+Oscars.+

The Hollywood Reporter

Actor giving speech to a crowd at the 2017 Oscars.

I used to love the Oscars. Watching felt like a game of predicting who would win. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from watching the movies you love being awarded for their work. But it is also deeply disappointing to watch movies that you know are deserving of an award not even be considered. As the years went by, and I got older, that disappointment only continued to grow. Movies I had spent the entire year boasting about to my friends and family weren’t even being nominated. I begin to question why an award show that is supposed to be honoring all the films was ignoring certain branches of it. At first, I thought maybe I had a misconstrued understanding of what a “good movie” was, but the more I thought about it the more I realized the problem was not my own opinions by the Oscars itself. 

The impact the Oscars have had on the film industry is one that worries me. The Academy labels itself as the “the best in film” but I don’t find that to be true. There’s a formula to winning an Oscar, and it’s creating a lack of diversity in the films being nominated. The Academy caters heavily to the bias of its committee members and donors. Dramas starring A-list celebrities are almost always guaranteed a nomination. Horror, comedy, sci-fi, and foreign movies have had a long history of being ignored during award season. Part of this comes from the Academy wanting to present themselves as more “sophisticated” however it establishes the idea that these genres should not be taken seriously. The South Korean film “Parasite” was the first foreign film to win Best Picture, and that was just in 2019. Some of the most game-changing films ever made are horror films, yet production teams on horror films are given disproportionately lower budgets than any other genre in the industry.

Some of the most game-changing films ever made are horror films, yet production teams on horror films are given disproportionately lower budgets than any other genre in the industry.”

Actors are paid significantly more money once they’ve won an Oscar. Directors and Producers are given higher budgets as well. So Low-budget films continue to not get featured at award shows and high-paying actors and directors continue to not work on low-budget projects. It’s a vicious cycle. Rebecca Green, the producer of It Follows (2015) took to posted to describe what it is like to work on an indie movie while their actors are being called to bigger projects. “Producing a 2mil movie and since arriving at the location for prep, has dropped out due to Marvel, Netflix, or TV opportunities.” She goes on to explain the studio she works with is only hiring A-list, Oscar-Nominated actors, which is an almost impossible task with a 2 million dollar budget. 

The Academy has been losing sight of the core of filmmaking for years now. It was also recently announced that the winners for “Best Digital Short,” “Sound,” “Film Editing,” “Makeup and Hairstyle,” “Live Action Short,” “Original Score,” “Production Design,” and “Animated Short” would not be awarded live on television as an attempt to boost ratings. This is not the first time the Academy has undermined the work that goes on behind the scenes when making a movie. In 2019, the winners for “Best Cinematography” were cut from the live broadcast. Patrice Vermette, one of the producers for “Dune” was interviewed by Variety and was asked what she thought about the Academy’s decision: “It is disappointing. Again, [the Oscars is] the celebration of filmmaking and to make a film everybody is as important to support the vision of the director. I think the implication… and not just us but our team as well – it’s the celebration of filmmaking and yeah it’s a bit disappointing.” 

I am not writing this to say every movie I enjoy should be nominated for an Oscar, I recognize how ridiculous that would be. But the Academy has infiltrated the way we talk about filmmaking. Talking to my peers about award shows can get exhausting. I always feel like I have to defend one film against another one instead of just appreciating them both for their own reasons.  It’s not inherently bad to want to compare works of art, but the Oscars doesn’t necessarily compare films as much as it does declare one film the standard for all others. Unless the Academy is willing to make some radical changes to the structure of their award shows, I cannot see their rating getting any better from here. This year, the Oscars will be airing on March 27th at 7:00 p.m. on ABC. I will be watching, mostly just to see if any of my predictions come true. 

There are so many films I can think of that are worthy of the Oscar’s attention, but here are just a few:

 

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  • “Pirah” is the story of a young teenage girl names Alike who is silently embracing her sexuality. Although she hasn’t come out yet, her lesbianism is known by her family and friends but never brought up. She spends the movie searching for love while risking her relationship with her parents and friends. Adepero Oduye, who plays Alike, acts so naturally. You feel instantly connected to her character. Odyue should have been nominated for “Best Actress.”

  • “Us” follows a family who are hunted down by their evil clones. This movie is absolutely horrifying but it also takes a deeper look into confront your trauma. Jordan Peele should have received a nomination for Best Directing. Lupita Nyong’o does a wonderful job of portraying the main character Adilade and her evil twin Red. She makes the two feel connected but also separate from each other. She should have easily been nominated for “Best Actress.”

  • After his mother passes away, Annie and her family quickly start discovering the dark secrets of their family history. Hereditary become an instant classic, and so I was honestly surprised when it wasn’t nominated for “Best Picture.” I also believe Toni Collette deserved to be nominated for “Best Actress” with her rather disturbing yet engaging performance in this film. This was Ari Aster’s debut feature film, and he very quickly proved that he was a forced to be reckoned with. He was able to create such a complex story and for that I believe Hereditary should have also been nominated for “Best Original Screenplay.”

  • The Truman Show is the story of a man who has been living in a simulation for his entire life. The film explores the idea of what freewill actually means. Jim Carrey, who is usually known for his comedic work, took on this more serious role for this film, and he does an excellent job. His performance should have landed him a nomination in the “Best Actor” category. “The Truman Show” is a visually stunning film and should have been nominated for “Best Cinematography.”

  • “The Farewell” is a story about a family travelling back to China to tell their unsuspecting family member goodbye before they pass away. This film shows us a different side of what it means to grieve, and analyzes the structure of immigrant families. “The Farewell” should have been nominated for “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Picture..”

  • “The Florida Project” follows a child living in a motel in Florida, right outside of Disney World. This is a really colorful film and does a wonderful job of recreating the nostalgia of childhood. It should have been nominated for “Best Cinematography” and “Best Production Design.”

  • “The Shining” speaks for itself. It’s an adaptation of the book by Stephen King and is equally alluring and disturbing. It should have been nominated for “Best Adapted Screenplay” and “Best Picture.” Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall star as Jack and Wendy. Their performances are really what drive the movie home, and they should have been nominated for “Best Actor” and “Best Actress.”

  • “Zola” is based on a twitter thread from 2015 in which a woman ended up on a trip to Florida with a group of people she had never met. Zola feels fresh in its approach of retelling a story many people are already familiar with. The visuals are dreamy and make audiences feel intertwined with the story they are watching. It should have been nominated for “Best Visual Effects” and “Best Cinematography” and well as “Best Screen Adaptation.”

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