Oscar Sound Off: Do the Academy Awards Actually Matter in 2013?

February 22, 2013

The Oscars

This Sunday night, the 85th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre right here in the heart of Hollywood. It's the biggest of all award shows, the culmination of months and months of speculation from supposed "experts" and millions of dollars spent behind the scenes to jockey certain films into the best position possible to take home as many trophies as they can. The question in the headline isn't meant to single out this year specifically, but instead to wonder, in an age in which technology makes award shows like these more ubiquitous than ever before, if the Oscars really still mean anything anymore.

As die-hard film fans (and let's face it, if you're reading this, you are one), we're bombarded with hundreds if not thousands of articles around this same time for months every year: whether one movie deserves to win Best Picture over another, The Oscarswho was snubbed, which film is the frontrunner, why this movie is better than this one, and so on. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I've read some good pieces recently from FilmDrunk, CriticWire and HitFix about the ceremony this year. It can often be fun to get invested in the Oscars by choosing your favorite underdog picks early, hyping them all the way up until the ceremony, and filling out brackets with your friends. But if you follow the movie blogosphere, seeing tons of these articles pop up for months at a time can definitely trigger Oscar overload.

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. The casual moviegoer doesn't know about any most of these articles, all the coverage. They don't read constant tweets predicting winners, losers, and what jokes the host will make. All they care about is sitting around a TV with their friends on Oscar Sunday, eating, drinking and watching the world's biggest celebrities all gather in one place. There are entire shows based solely around what celebrities wear on the red carpet. The ceremony itself is undoubtedly a cultural event, so I'll answer my own question: even if some of us can't wait for them to be over just so we don't have to read another think piece or prediction, the Academy Awards definitely do still matter to the average American moviegoer.

They matter for the nominees, too. For the winners, there's definitely prestige still attached with going home with the gold statue, which could lead to opportunities to tackle projects that they might not have ever been able to accomplish before. As silly as it might sound, it absolutely means something to have "Academy Award Winner" put in front of your name every time it appears in a trailer for the rest of your life. There's an air of legitimacy that it provides to audiences when they see those words above an actor's name in a fancy font. The Academy Awards matter to the losers, as well - The Guardian recently discovered that each losing nominee will receive a goody bag filled with $45,000 worth of merchandise. Wow. If regular audiences knew about that, or that this is how a member makes their decision to vote certain ways, or how insular and quasi-ridiculous the voting process is, maybe they wouldn't hold the Oscars in quite the same high regard.

Last year, the LA Times conducted a study that we analyzed which revealed some pretty interesting statistics of Oscar voters: of the 5,765 voting members, 94% were white, 77% were male, 2% were black, and less than 2% were Latino. In addition, Oscar voters have a median age of 62, and people younger than 50 make up only 14% of the entire group. Those numbers pretty much speak for themselves, meaning all of these awards are being given by a very small group of professionals with extremely little diversity to offer. That part isn't widely publicized, and to tell you the truth, I don't think the general population would really care even if they did find out about it. For them, it's all about the pageantry, the glamour, and tradition of the ceremony.

Will the "right" movie win Best Picture on Sunday night (Argo, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty)? Time will tell, and even years after looking back on these upcoming Oscar winners, the same arguments will probably still arise about the faults and benefits of each one. The only thing that will change will be a clearer picture of our culture and what the zeitgeist currently is. When we're right in the middle of a cultural landscape, it's often difficult to have the perspective to recognize trends in relation to the bigger picture of our history.

With time to reflect, hopefully we'll at least be able to come to a conclusion as to why the Academy voted the way they did. Then again, as Princess Bride screenwriter William Goldman famously said, "In Hollywood, nobody knows anything," so perhaps the answers will always elude us. One thing's for sure: the Oscars aren't going anywhere, because as much as we like to complain about them, they still matter. Thoughts?

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  • Anne
    These days the Academy Awards mean no more than the crazed Lucas bashers that regularly vist this site
    • Philip J. Fry
      Hooray for stereotypes!
    • Squiggly_P
      Had Lucas directed or produced a single good movie in the last 20 years, people would probably not bash him as much.
  • McWetty
    I like that they recommend films that I have enjoyed immensely, which I might have overlooked (Argo). But the awards show themselves have never interested me. Rich people fluffing each other bores me.
    • I agree. And the expansion of the best picture category made it worse for me. When there were only 5, I loved the talk: who got snubbed, who should have been nominated, etc. Not quite the same now.
  • Guest
    They stopped mattering when The Hurt Locker won...or when Inception didn't win...or the countless times Hans Zimmer wasn't even nominated.
    • axalon
      I really can't believe The King's Speech won that year, I've seen Inception countless times have thought about it for years, hell I still use "incepted" as a verb in everyday conversation. The King's Speech was nothing special, yes it had great performances, but as a movie I don't think it brought anything special or new to the table.
    • I thought inglourious basterds and district nine to be better films, but thank fuck avatar didn't win so just count your blessings. Also inception wasn't Oscar worthy.
      • Guest
        Avatar should have won....Inception not Oscar worthy? Let me file your name next to "moron"
        • castingcouch
          Avatar?? LOL
        • Yea if you think avatar was best picture worthy you can't go around labeling people morons. I mean you can, and did, bu don't make a habit of it.
          • Guest
            2.7 billion worldwide....80%+ at RT....Golden Globe for best picture....yep sounds like a real turd. You sir are a moron
          • Hahaha you guys are great. But seriously the movie sucked serious dick and you should feel bad.
          • Willy Budson
            You sir, are just a stupid ape!
  • Cody W
    Ill admit, I say this as a nolanite, but the Oscars lost all meaning when they completely shun all of his work. And then ARGO!??! Give me a break, its like Affleck has been giving the whole academy handjobs under the table the last 6 months. Argo was great dont get me wrong, but it was so formulaic and those scenes with Arkin and Goodman? A finger on the gspot of hollywood. Oscars dont mean shit plain and simple. Its almost like good filmmaking isnt even praised by them anymore, just the ones that they personally thought were good, and we all know most big time critics and nose in the cloud hollywood peoples opinions are so terrible and up there own ass it doesnt even matter.
    • Greg dinskisk
      They haven't shunned all of his work... Inception got a fair number of nominations...
      • Guest
        It didn't get the Oscar for Best Picture nor Director which it clearly deserved.
        • Greg dinskisk
          It definitely did not deserve it over The Social Network, which was my major gripe of the 2010 Oscars. Inception really wasn't that good.
      • Cody W
        It got technical nominations, which I agree was a big part of the movie, But Nolan himself is just ignored, at least a nomination ffs, some recognition. Its like they have a grudge against him. Memento, The prestige, Batman trilogy and Inception. A majority of the those movies at least deserved a nod.
        • Greg dinskisk
          Nolan received Best Original Screenplay nods multiple times. His Batman trilogy, none of the films, deserved Best Picture nods, I don't believe. Memento, The Prestige, and maybe Inception? Sure, he deserved nods (for Memento especially), but is he one of the best of his generation? No, I definitely wouldn't argue that. Nowhere near the levels of Darren Aronofsky, the Coen Brothers, David O. Russell, David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Nicolas Winding Refn, Wes Anderson, P.T. Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow, Martin McDonaugh, Danny Boyle, Ang Lee, Alexander Payne, Jason Reitman, Edgar Wright, Joe Wright, Terrence Malick, ect.
          • Robert
            ...Terrence Malick is from the 70s and Kathryn Bigelow got her break in the late 80s/early 90s..
          • Greg dinskisk
            I'll give you Terrence Malick there, that was a bit of a stretch, but Kathryn Bigelow is DEFINITELY having her best days here. This is her generation.
    • thevoiceofreason
      if Affleck was giving handjobs under the table, wouldn't that at least guarantee him a Best Director nomination?
  • The fact that "The Paperboy" wasn't nominated upsets me. Sterling Greenwood/AspenFreePress
    I may be alone in this one, but yeah they still matter. People will always internalize their favorite films (things in general) so when their favorite films are not nominated they will take it personally. Yeah, there may be some films that get "snubbed" or not recognized, but that is just kind of how life works. If anything, they matter in that a win or nomination can lead to better sales figures.
  • mdennish
    Any awards show or beauty show has no value and is a waste of time.
    • castingcouch
      That's entertainment!
  • Big Boss
    Who gives a shit? They're already well paid actors with astronomical salaries and provisions to boot, the awards are useless overkill--even actors such as Joaquin Pheonix and Anthony Hopkins call BS on them!
    • zey
      *Now* Joaquin Phoenix calls BS but if you watched when Gladiator was nominated he was literally sitting on the edge of his seat in the theatre, waiting to see if it won.
      • Cody W
        That was his breakout role(at least IMO), believe it or not actors are people to, there eyes open, they learn new things about stuff ya know like the rest of us.
  • I've got better things to do.
    • JBrotsis
      Agreed. I'd rather read the next day which actors and movies won whichever awards then to have to sit through 2-3 hours of nonsense, especially since most of that show isn't directed towards the actual movie.
  • grimjob
    The Academy Awards have never mattered.
  • Alexander Desplat's score in HP: DH Part 2 deserved to be nominated back in 2012... and that movie deserved a few more nominations, The oscars really haven't been too good with their picks in the last couple of years. Not to mention other good movies that came out this year they deserved some Oscar love, what about Looper or The Perks of Being a Wallflower?
  • Actually, this year they are actually relevant. My biggest gripe is that they often favor the more 'obscure' films, they don't want to seem 'mainstream' they want to seem 'better than the mainstream'. A superhero film with a 92% fresh rating on RT won't even get nominated, but a drama with the same rating could easily win...there is a bias. But a lot of the nominees this year have actually made quite a bit of money and found quite a lot of long as the most obscure movie doesn't win(like in 2009 when The Hurt Locker won) I'll be happy.
    • Greg dinskisk
      So you prefer which one is most well known over which is actually the best? and RT scores mean nothing, just an arbitrary number that shows the percentage of critics that gave it a positive review... they all could have given it a 3.5/5 or less and kept it at 100%. The Avengers definitely does not even deserve a nod in most categories (maybe some of the technical). All the Avengers is is a well made action flick. Every Oscar nominee has at least some social commentary, something more to it.
      • It is about picking the BEST, but most of the time, it seems like the winners often aren't necessarily the best/most deserving, but just the one that is most obscure for obscurity's sake...just to try and keep some sort of clout that the Academy consists of individuals with 'specific, high brow' tastes. Remember when The Return of the King won? That was kind of amazing, and absolutely the right thing. And I'm not saying that The Avengers should even be nominated...I'm just articulating that there is a clear bias against certain types of films and in favor of other types.
        • Greedo
          But the fact that Return of the King won contradicts your argument. The Academy has no problem with genre films. I like The Avengers a whole lot, but never once was I actually concerned or worried about anyone the way I was in Argo.
          • The Return of the King was a decade about, and Titanic was 7 years before's not secret that they actively avoid the mainstream successes. Don't even pretend that they don't shun genre films. The Dark Knight didn't get any noms in the major categories like best picture...and it absolutely deserved them.
        • Greg dinskisk
          Name something that has won (recently, as in last ten years) that was 'obscure for obscurity's sake'? Personally, I'm not a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but okay, I see your point.
          • I think The Hurt Locker was the least watched Best Picture winner in a LONG time, I don't want to say ever...but in terms of ticket sales, it was one of the most obscure winners ever. It was also a painfully over-rated movie. It was a flash in the pan nobody talks about any more...while a film like Avatar had a HUGE impact on the industry and the way films were made, for better or worse.
          • Greg dinskisk
            The Hurt Locker made almost $50 million... I wouldn't exactly call that obscure... I'd disagree with the overrated-ness of it... Yes, Avatar had a huge impact on the industry, but for the worse, generally (I say generally because films like Hugo and Life of Pi took 3D and used it right, as opposed to most). That doesn't make it best by any means...
        • Cody W
          Youll find a lot of times the critics opinions, differ from the publics opinions almost completely.
          • Greg dinskisk
            You know, critics don't vote for the academy, so they don't really matter when it comes to Oscars
  • I don't know if they do. On one hand I never find the best picture winner to be the best picture I've seen that year. On the other they are much less mainstream(in Only the negative ways, mainstream has its moments, I'm no hipster) than any other major award ceremony.
  • I am Jacks DVD
    Like Ben said, they matter to an actors career in getting them more projects but we have also seen the opposite effect when an actor has won and we never hear from them again. It also has a big impact on a small indie film being recognised as it gives the film a larger audience when the casual movie fan sees that it has been nominated. As for actors who publicly slam award shows, they still turn up every year, especially when they are fav to win so they are full of shit.
  • People often forget the point of these awards ceremonies. REGARDLESS of it being televised or not, this is an academy of people of seniority (even literally) who wish to grant awards to certain people for their creative achievements in THEIR industry, just like with any other awards ceremony in any other industry, be it corporate, industrial design, journalism, advertising, etc. etc. etc. Those just aren't televised because they don't involve public celebrities. Because this awards show DOES involve big name actors, it is a commercial opportunity and therefore televised and sponsored and cashed in on even by other networks and media coverage, so it just so happenes to serve two other purposes: the media business and viewer entertainment. But the primary reason is the one I first mentioned. When one finds their self in an award ceremony for their own field, one doesn't question whether the judges are not racially diverse enough, or young enough, or hip enough.
    • dandassow
      George, Yours is probably the best explanation as to why the Academy Awards still exist. Granting someone an award generally has two complimentary purposes: recognizing the achievements of that person and adding prestige to the award by associating the award with that person’s achievement.
  • zey
    They haven't mattered to me since GoodFellas lost to Dances With Wolves.
    • Guest
      White Guilt for the win
    • castingcouch
      It was like the Academy told us to go get our fuckin' shine box.
  • Andrew
    The best picture or the best actor/actress not always win, its the academy of snobs that decide that. I only care about the major categories.
  • anonyomous
    They DO for all VFX artists. Ours is a crumbling industry with companies going bankrupt leaving artists with no jobs. In a time where all top box offices films rely heavily on vfx, we shouldn't see the industry failing. Rhythm and Hues who created the vfx for Life of Pi is bankrupt and yet they are 99% likely to win an oscar tonight. What does that say to Hollywood? I hope they speak for all artists in the world when they go up on that stage.
  • David Banner
    VHS/DvD/Blu-Rays with "Oscar winner" gets rented 3 more often as a movie without mentioning Oscars on it's cover.
  • guest
    94% were white, 77% were male, 2% were black, and less than 2% were Latino. How many are jewish and why didn't you mention that??
  • Willy Budson
    Complete shit and waste of time. Not free and fair at all.
  • I like celebrating good films, but honestly I cant stand celebrating the glut which is hollywood. Some of these people make an insane amount of money for doing something that really doesn't contribute much to society. Lots of hypocrisy too.
  • They only matter if you are directly affected by the outcome, it's fun to watch, but in the scheme of things matters little...




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