Recognition among like-minded individuals is a key component in development. If we know that which we do is considered not just right and proper, but also exceptional, by those who share most closely that frame of mind, then this will inform how we continue. Awards perform a very real and tangible recognition of skills, so it is always odd that some choose to dismiss awards as “industry back-slapping”. Well, yes, that’s how awards work. The Academy Award Nominations were announced on Tuesday and, as commented upon at the time, witnessing reactions live via social networking sites such as Twitter, there was a real sense of a cycle at play.
Excitement. Anticipation is always the best feeling: the sense of the unknown is palpable and exciting. Waiting to see what films one has seen and loved have been recognised, which actors and actresses, directors, costume designers: whatever our field of interest, we all have ideas of what should or shouldn’t be included. Waiting to see who will be destined to have their names preceded by “Oscar Nominee” on trailers forever more is for film fans, good stuff.
Outrage. This stage of the cycle is inevitable. There will be films missed out for major awards (Drive, Senna to name just two that were largely or entirely overlooked) and films included that defy logic. (Apparently these include Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which given it stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, I thought was going to be The Nicest Film Ever Made until someone mentioned it was about 9/11.) Twitter was filled with bile and apoplexy at the films or stars missed or included because, how very dare they, they were not identical choices to that the individual complainant would have chosen.
Indifference. Of course, once the initial reactions die down, there is the distancing mechanism that has people using the complaints mentioned at the start: dismissive comments about awards themselves. How the Oscars are political; they don’t give a true picture of cinema; they always award people for a career not a film, because they missed their chance at the proper time (I’m looking at you, Mr Scorsese).
It’s an amusing cycle to watch in microcosm unfold on Twitter, as happened on Tuesday. Betrayal is a loaded word, but it does seem at least counterintuitive to complain about a process that ultimately celebrates film. The Academy Awards seem to have grown into this persona of the epitome of entertainment; the final word in film. Of course some films will get missed while about other nominations we are incredulous. It is the collective opinion of one group of people largely from Southern California which, by its nature, will be less diverse than the larger world public. The Academy Awards may not give the definitive picture of cinema, but they do cut a slice through film history. Like rings on a tree trunk, the Best Picture winners from the last 84 years give a picture of the world, or at least the USA, at that point. In the bicentennial year, an underdog film about an underdog character broke through to win Best Picture. When America was at war in Korea, a Jingoistic piece of musical fluff starring Gene Kelly as An American In Paris won Best Picture. At the first Academy Awards during the Second World War, a huge sweeping drama depicting a very different war attained that top prize.
It’s a frivolous look through history, but a curious one to make. There is arguably not enough diversity in the awards (whither comedy?) but it remains a living part of Hollywood history. Ignore the naysayers, I intend to be watching the Awards come February 26. I’ll be excited, I’ll possibly be outraged. But I won’t be dismissive.