Saturday, December 19, 2009

Movies in Wintertime, Part 2---The Awards Whirlpool!

The Golden Globe Award nominees have been announced...and soon, Tuesday, February 2, we will know which 10 films will be competing for the Best Picture Academy Award!  The  Golden Globe Awards will be revealed on January 17, and you can see all of the nominees by clicking on the above link.

In an upcoming post, I will describe my own lifelong love affair with movie awards, and my recent disillusionment with Oscar, and subsequent inching back into the fold.

For now, let me say that I find the history of the Academy Awards, its trivia, its winners list, and especially the nominees across the decades, as fun as I ever did.  And I have become a pretty good repository of these bits of film culture.

The recent glut of of movie awards is as numbing as a steady diet of junk food.  Especially now when there are SO MANY awards handed out at year's end.  There have always been a lot of year-end film awards, but they are more highly publicized today.  (The Golden Globe ceremony, for instance, at one time was a more private industry affair broadcast on syndicated channels late at, it's a prime-time event.)

Does anyone else think that the sheer number of honors sort of dilutes them?  Consider, besides Oscars and Golden Globes:   the New York Film Critics, LA Film Critics, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, Broadcast Film Critics, Critics Choice, People's Choice,  Independent Spirit, Screen Actors Guild, and numerous other city and regional film boards and critics circles.  Results of all these are increasingly used by everyone from professional prognosticators to amateur stargazers to handicap the ultimate prize, The Oscar.

("Let's see, it didn't win the SAG Ensemble Award, but it did win Director's guild....but the other film swept the critics awards, but did not snag an Editing nomination...etc...").  I began predicting winners as a youngster, entering the Gene Siskel Chicago Tribune Annual "Beat Siskel" Contest.  I never won, but I did frequently beat Siskel (outguessed his predictions, that is) but always lost the tie-breaking draw.

By the time the Academy Awards are broadcast now, the odds are stacked in favor of the same few films that picked up many other honors, so that the resulting lack of suspense drains the event of some of the fun.....
....unless it just so happens that your own, personal favorite film of the year, (maybe of your entire life), is poised to score big, then you hold your breath and squeeze your eyes, just knowing you will be vindicated when the title is inevitably called out, ....or risk  crushing disappointment if it loses (again, my personal story in that upcoming post!)

It's a double-edged sword.  A lot of awards have already been announced, and many worthy films have not yet been in general release. 

This has the potential to play in two ways:  first, awards have value in that they help direct people to new movies they might otherwise have brings great work to the attention of an attention-challenged public. 

The flip side is this:  there is now an unfortunate tendency for people to view movies in terms of their possible award chances, or to scrutinize the films' or performers' worthiness for nominations, or their lack thereof.   Many will avoid some wonderful movies that didn't score well in nominaitons or wins. Of course, that's why awards have always been so good for the movie business--they just aren't always good for the art of film-making.  Moviegoers stop going to movies  primarily for personal enlightenment,  or to explore something new on their own, or just because they are drawn to a subject, but will attend simply to feel a part of the awards bandwagon, which is often more like an awards whirlpool.

I have seen too many movies I really disliked, because their nominations...or wins....made them seem more worthy of attention.  I didn't trust my own artistic criteria to make my own judgment regardless of the honors, because I was unwilling to believe that the awards might have nothing to do with real artistic merit! I even told myself I actually kind of liked these movies, so that I wouldn't have that left-out feeling if they won lots of awards on Oscar night. 

So I entreat movie lovers everywhere to enjoy the awards hoopla, but to give pictures their due, on their own merits, and trust your judgments....the Academy (and other groups) sometimes gets it wrong. There are some nice pictures struggling to be seen, that don't have the budget or studio backing to compete in awards contests.   A great film that you happen to like should STILL be a great film and worthy of your admiration...EVEN IF IT WINS NOT ONE AWARD.

Of course, when prizes like Oscar DO get it right....once in a while it is a happy almost feel as though you could give your own acceptance speech...and you keep coming back, year after lackluster year, for the next time the Best Film really is...the best.

Having said all that, on the night of the Golden Globe Awards:  The enthusiastic boy that still resides within me will be happy if I hear Meryl Streep's name called out in triumph! And I will try to attend "Up In The Air" because of the award hype, and "Avatar" too..and I hope they prove worthy of their praise...I will review "Brothers" and maybe "Precious", and assess their chances, this weekend...but, award wins or no, I will certainly be right there for "Nine" and "Single Man"!


  1. Very interesting article, Tom. You are a very enlightened person as films go and your reviews reflect this. Personally, it matters little to me how many awards or what lofty adjectives are attached to a particular film. The proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding.

    To me, watching a film is a very personal affair and if it doesn't reach me then it's a dud. A couple examples would be Twilight and Transformers 2. Reviews for both were overly-hyped but the acting in both was just painful.

    Another film that disappointed me was Slumdog Millionaire. How it won an Oscar I will never know! It makes me wonder if all these reviews and awards are really merit-based or if there was some corruption by the studios involved.

    I appreciate your thoughtful analysis of the films you review. You should have been Siskel's replacement! I plan on watching several of the films you have given favorable nods to and look forward to your next reviews with interest.

  2. Tom, this is a subject that has always been very close to me. Thank you for responding to it. I am in total agreement with you about "Slumdog" was one of those movies that was sort of pre-destined to win the Oscar, and the studio pulled out all the stops in creating a buzz and making it the "event" of the year. Voters (and audiences) confused their affection for the amazing kids in the movie with actual film quality.
    I should have plenty more reviews in January...hope you'll be back!