Awards season has reached awards week, with the Baftas ceremony just gone, and the Oscars this Sunday marking the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Though as this year’s Baftas have taught us, tinsel town isn’t currently the prettiest picture. Peppered with critiques of this year’s nominees, Joaquin Phoenix led the criticism calling out “systemic racism” in the industry, whilst Prince William bookended the ceremony with a promise of a “thorough review of the entire awards process”. The seething politics underlying the industry is glaringly obvious, no matter how many musical numbers and selfies try to pull the elaborate wool over your eyes.
The 92nd Academy Award nominations aren’t so much a rotten bunch, their rather predictably familiar; a droning reminder of the Academy voters’ traditional tastes. With Golden Globe and Bafta successes under its belt, Sam Mendes’ WW1 epic 1917 leads the pack with an underwhelming march, followed by Scorsese’s The Irishman and Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Their places ‘reserved’ in the Oscar lineup, rather than exceptionally merited. This is made particularly sour by the omissions of both Lulu Wang’s fantastic The Farewell, and a directorial nod for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.
The Jokers’ inclusion across the nominations is perhaps the most peculiar addition to this year’s awards. The superhero origins story of Batman’s arch-nemesis is certainly above par, but when matched alongside Bong-Joon-Ho’s Parasite, or Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, for instance, seems like a goofy inclusion. The film instead sits beside last year’s Black Panther as an example of the Academy’s enthusiasm to represent ‘popular film’, particularly after their failure to bring a category of the same name to the ceremony in 2018.
It has become increasingly clear that awards ceremonies, and the Oscars specifically, have become less concerned about the films and more about the occasion itself. No doubt the academy awards have always been a propaganda piece, but with significantly dwindling viewing figures, it is evident they are losing their influence.
Where in a pre-millennium culture, a film’s critical success was judged purely by journalists forming individual opinions which culminated in a definitive awards ceremony, in a contemporary landscape, from the moment a film has been released it has been critiqued, analysed and picked apart shot-by-shot. For, with reviews from across social media from YouTube, to Rotten Tomatoes, why listen to the opinions of the enigmatic ‘academy’, when the thousands of IMDB users have already formed a consensus?
Whilst the significance of the Oscars ceremony may have diminished, audiences still watch and critics still listen. Its willingness to accept the new guard of Netflix and Amazon has crucially retained some credibility, though its voice has been dampened; indifference has wriggled in. The times are changing.