“Well, we know where we’re goin’
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowin’
But we can’t say what we’ve seen”*
All the controversy surrounding them this year only serves to remind me of one overriding fact- Regardless of who is “nominated” or what is being compared- Who’s to really say who, or what work, is better than any other artist or any other work? “Peer” or not.
What basis do you use?
For a film, say, nominated for “Best Picture” do you keep a scorecard of all the various skills that go into making a film, adding points for music, sound, lighting, set design, story, direction, cast, lead and supporting actors and after seeing all the nominees vote for the film that scores the highest? What do you do if you scored a film higher that wasn’t nominated? How do you choose a “Best Director” winner? Do you give him or her the credit, or the blame, a plus or a minus, for the job done by the actors, composer & musicians, the crew, and on and on, then total them up? What if the director has an exceptionally “good,” or “bad” script? Add points, or subtract? I can’t imagine how anyone could make such a choice. How could they really KNOW if the actors “carried” the director, or vice versa, and on and on? Only those who were actually there have any idea, and they were only “there” for the movie they were working on. Whatever the means they use, looking at the track record of the results, it would appear to be an inexact science, at best, to put it kindly.
“Contests” of any kind comparing artists in any field are one of the most pointless things I can think of. WHY put everyone through them, then? Frankly? I don’t think it can be done.
On top of it all, and what galls me as much as anything to the point that I just can’t get over it- how do you explain Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, some of the masters of film making, never won? (Hitch & Chaplin received “Honorary Oscars” later in their lives.) That alone proves the pointlessness of the whole exercise! The same goes for Golden Globes, The Grammies (which I just addressed), Tonys, you name it.
The longevity of these awards is used to add “cachet” to them, which gets repeated year after year, so it feeds off itself in an effort to become “tradition.” Nonsense. It’s just part of the machine, the industry built up around them to market them. All it does is remind me of how futile the whole thing is.
When I was beginning to learn about the history of film, I saw a book of the “100 Greatest Films,” which I bought because it was full of films I’d never heard of. I put them on my list to see, nothing more. I wasn’t above adding titles to that list from just about anywhere because I was trying to develop a feel for what had been done going back to the late 19th Century. I can’t say I’ve ever looked once to see if a movie won an award or not. Awards are done after the film is finished- they don’t change the acting, or the ending. Maybe because I was used to it in Art & Music, where great talent often goes overlooked and fails to reach a mass audience until years, even centuries, after their death, I’ve never really given any meaning to whether a film was “popular” or not. I can’t account for why the great masses like something. But, as becomes quickly apparently, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good. The same is true with awards.
Maybe there is some sort of “valid criteria” that can be used to determine these things. I doubt it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.
Then there are charts like Rolling Stone publishes of “Top 100″ Songs, Bands, Guitarists, Albums, “Top 70 Bob Dylan Songs” and on and on. Give me a break.
ALL of these awards and lists, come down to one thing- Personal Opinions! And you know what they say about them…Everyone’s got one. ; )
The best “award” you can give something is for it to be widely seen or heard and just as widely appreciated. I bet that would mean more to most of the filmmakers than anything else. Oh? (And I’m talking to “critics” now who get to vote on a lot of these lists) while you’re at it, go back and discover the history of film, the history of recorded music, or whatever the medium is under consideration and gain some perspective about what has been done before, before you go talking about something being a “masterpiece” or “one of the best ever.” Compared to what? Those don’t come along nearly as often as I hear those phrases thrown around.
The “real” purpose of these “awards” is to sell extra tickets, DVD’s, downloads, or whatever to the masses who then think “If it won (fill in the blank), it must be the best.” And, they also give the nominees an excuse to get dressed up, and publicize themselves in the media spectacle created to broadcast these absurdities to the masses.
“We’re on a ride to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
Maybe you wonder where you are
I don’t care”*
Make up your own mind about what speaks to you. Spend some time to look back on the history of Film (and/or Music, Art, Literature, et al), and you’ll more than likely find other works you like quite a bit that you never heard of before. And, you’ll gain a sense of just how and where whatever is being done today “fits in” to the legacy of the work done already.
But, if you watch one of these things, listen for those few who say about being nominated, or when accepting an award that “There are no winners or losers tonite.”
They’re the few who are telling the truth.
POSTSCRIPT- Wednesday, March 2, 2016- Spike Lee, in an interesting interview in the Voice, talks about the monetary value to Oscar recipients, which is, of course, part of what I said above, how winning an Oscar “elevates your presence. If that weren’t the case they wouldn’t b spending millions of dollars on Oscar campaigns. It’s well-thought-out.” Is he inferring they can be bought? Regardless, it just heightens my feeling that this has ever less to do with the “Art” of Film.
*-Soundtrack for this post- “Road To Nowhere” by David Byrne from the Talking Heads album “Little Creatures” and published by Warner/Chappell Music, LLC.
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