Every year, the public receives another round of critically acclaimed films that supposedly deserve the chance to gain even more praise through the Academy Award Ceremony. They have seen all types of films over the decades, from controversial art pieces, to feel-good biopics, to films designed exclusively for entertainment that disregard the snobs creating the rules of cinema production. While responsible for awarding some of the greatest classics ever put to screen, such as The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and No Country for Old Men (my personal favorite screenplay of all time), the Academy has been lacking in recent years. Not necessarily in terms of the quality of the selected films, but rather in the range of time from which said films are released, as well as their intended demographic and marketability. From the last five ceremonies alone, a majority of the nominated films either came from the last quarter of the year, held leftist themes famously known to appeal to more moviegoers, and/or marketability that could easily be enhanced through a few awards and publicity on network television. The harsh truth is that the Academy really does not care about the truly best films across the year.
Let one take, for example, this year’s Best Picture nominations. While I agree with many choices, one must also consider why all but one of these films feels so recent; it is because they are. All choices other than Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood were released in October or later last year, essentially guaranteeing Oscar attention because of their relevance to the public. Ever since the realization over the last couple of years by media industry heads that the Academy focuses solely on the last quarter of the year, all studios have begun to release their heavy-hitters within this time slate, though mostly in November and December. As a result of these actions, the Academy then nominates these films because they are uncomplicated choices, then the studios follow once more, and the public witnesses a rinse-and-repeat every single year. It has become a positive feedback loop more harrowing to witness than the pain induced by the body in the miracle of childbirth, since that–at least–results in the birth of a beautiful, new life. All the Oscar Cycle (not catchy, but it works) brings is exhaustion when a moviegoer, who may want to see all nominees, must make multiple trips to their local theater in only a select few weeks. No one possesses that much time nor that much care for traveling to the movie theater other than myself and other film-obsessed-individuals.
One could argue that the year’s best films truly do come out in the last quarter then, yes? Well, many examples beg to differ. March submitted Us and Gloria Bell, two critically acclaimed, female-led stories of struggle and privation that gained numerous praises for their direction and performances. Not enough? April bestowed Claire Denis’ gripping drama High Life, May was abundant with The Souvenir, Booksmart, and Rocketman, June gifted heartfelt tragedy with The Last Black Man in San Francisco, July pushed boundaries with Midsommar and The Farewell–I am getting ahead of myself. Before I absolutely deprive myself of sanity by continuing this list, I must stop and reiterate my point: the majority of the year almost never even receives a glance from the Academy, let alone a careful analysis.
Now, does this deduce that the Oscar Ceremony on television is not worth watching? Certainly not. The real factors making the broadcast unworthy of viewership would be the gratuitous montages of famous films, celebrity presenters making stale and irritatingly unhumourous jokes, and hosts that try far too much to connect with their audience to the point that it comes off as nearly pathetic. Once again, I will withstand the temptation to lose my sanity and leave the reader with my explanation. Just because the Oscars are skewed toward the end of the year does not mean all of the selected filmography has its quality inflated. Some films may, but certainly not all of them. The next time one of my readers watches a new movie before the last quarter of the year and thinks, “I loved that!”, spread it by word of mouth. Every great change to an institution was first brought about by the simplest of words.