Thoughts // WHY THE ACADEMY AWARDS MATTER

A preview of Hollywood's most regal and wildest night of the year.



I vaguely remember the Oscars when Beauty and the Beast was up for Best Picture, serving as the first time an animated flick had ever earned the honor. I was not even seven years old, but being a fan of that film made the spectacle of the awards show a very early memory that stuck with me ever since.


Fast forward a few years and I remember being excited to see Forrest Gump because it'd won so many Oscars, which meant it must've been good, right?


I was in middle school when Titanic fever infected us all, "My Heart Will Go On" was played ad nauseum, and literally everyone watched it sweep the Oscars. Not only was the film an event, it was the first time I'd ever remembered everyone rallying around Hollywood's biggest night.


My family played a major part in those early years as pop culture and watching movies were our favorite pastimes that leaked into my high school years where we'd fill out ballots before munching on party foods while we watched Billy Crystal or Whoopi Goldberg kick off the night.


In college, my friends were just as excited about watching the show as I was. Those years marked the first where I even woke up early enough to catch the nominations announcement. The to-do of the awards season was still being formed into what it is today in the modern era, but with movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, the film festival circuit was truly delving into what makes an Oscar movie as opposed to just the most recent film epic. Titanic was hard to recreate, but plenty of studios and directors have tried.


Just over a decade ago, I started this site, focusing on film criticism, industry news, and awards season prognosticating (you can read my predictions for the 91st Academy Awards here). Social media has helped bring to light more of the industry's unique voices and images. Independent cinema has become a lucrative box office business. And, even documentaries have broken into the summer blockbuster season with aplomb. With the changing times, the Academy has tried to keep up. The earlier lists of ten or more nominees like when The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind competed, became a part of the current makeup. A preferential Best Picture ballot process has allowed for more well-rounded pictures to take the top prize, like The Shape of Water and Spotlight. The changes have also meant the awards season has become a brutal war zone of PR nightmares and intense campaigning.


Many in the field would say that Harvey Weinstein is to blame for the current state of the race. His infamous takedown of Saving Private Ryan, allowing for Shakespeare in Love to be a Best Picture winner, is one for the campaign history books. In today's race, the idea of campaigning correctly could be the reason why a heavily-predicted contender like Bradley Cooper for directing didn't make it across the finish line. Cooper has chosen to take a back seat to the usual schmoozing. A Star is Born has suffered. On the flip side, Roma has broken out as the expected Best Picture winner. It has its hurdles, mostly being a Netflix original film, but the fact that its unknown actors even secured lucrative nominations means the branches of the Academy have fallen for Alfonso Cuarón's black-and-white masterpiece.


The 91st Academy Awards have the potential to rewrite much of the Oscars' history. Cuarón could become the first director to win for cinematography. Glenn Close should finally win her first ever Oscar after being nominated six other times. Black Panther already broke some ground by becoming the first superhero flick to make it into the Best Picture race. And, Spike Lee and his BlacKkKlansman could end up as the surprise upset.


Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book give the best example of the modern era of cinema and awards season. Both films have been heavily ridiculed by critics and Film Twitter, mostly for justifiable reasons. Bohemian Rhapsody handles its subject too lightly, along with being a mess of a behind-the-scenes story. Bryan Singer's personal turmoil has easily overlapped the film's more positive notes, like its massive box office haul. Green Book, equally, has its own backstory problems. Besides being somewhat reductive in its attempts to showcase racial equality, it's based-on-a-true-story premise doesn't quite match what the subjects' own families have said. And, it feels old-fashioned, but not in an homage way like La La Land.


The new Academy has definitely allotted for a generous spread of diverse nominations. The Best Picture category includes box office giants, critical favorites, and safe choices that sit right in the middle. The old way of thinking may be moving out the door, thankfully, and the 91st Oscars are the opportunity to truly show how an awards season can culminate with a ceremony that both celebrates the art and caters to cinephiles and film fans at the same time.


In what most would call the most divisive season in recent memory, it's also become the must-watch awards show in years. Some will watch to see if the hostless show fails miserably, which it may. Others will watch because the Academy's reversal on many of its decisions this year means the show will celebrate cinema like it should. Either way, those of us who grew up with Oscar day serving as our own Super Bowl will be tuning in, hoping our own ballots match up (which were really difficult to make this year), sipping champagne, and eating up each and every moment with delight.


Film has become one of the most broadly-accepted art forms around the world. Whether you enjoy the classics or not, there's something special about the nostalgia of entertainment of yesteryear. What better way to be part of building the nostalgia for the next generation than by celebrating the craft, culture, and glamour of all things Oscar.


Cheers to the end of another successful awards season and to the future of film, of culture, and of telling stories in new and exciting ways.

© 2018 by Scottie Knollin.

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