By Edward Davis | The Playlist February 25, 2013 at 1:30PM
The Academy, again, is by the industry and for the industry. Every industry needs its own Super Bowl and the movie industry was wise enough to create the system early on knowing that such an event would only fuel, fund and perpetuate itself over and over again. You see movies based on the fact that they are "Oscar nominated," you try and "catch up" so you can see all the movies (and then you pretend and say, "Oh, Oscars don't matter. Oscars are a big sham."). The Academy Awards is a brilliant way for the industry to build buzz for itself, therefore increasing ticket sales and continuing to help sustain itself. Studios don't spend millions of dollars campaigning for bragging rights. This is an investment in their own picture because if they win, they're going to make their millions back and then some. The narrative arc and drama that the Academy Awards builds and creates each year only gets you more personally (and sometimes emotionally) invested and therefore is all the more genius. It feeds itself, it feeds the industry and it's a nice self-perpetuating cycle. But it has nothing do with art.
4) Campaigning And Politics Play A Major Factor In Voting
Ok, so we've established that there are more than 6,000 people who vote in the Academy Awards, but it's already well known that this body of people are deeply influenced by both politics and campaigning around the nominated films. Is "The Departed" even Martin Scorsese's third best film? No, but the admired filmmaker had been nominated six times before and had never won. This is the politics (and concept) of who's "due" for an Oscar that is always very prevalent in Hollywood. You can name myriad examples of such collective hive thinking. An elder statesman or woman has had a long and illustrious career are nominated for a performance and everyone suddenly realizes they have either never won one before or haven't won in decades and so a corrective needs to be made, ergo they “deserve” recognition in the form of an Oscar even though that work might be mediocre compared to past performances. And yet, even with this thinking in place, the game can be changed by campaigning, lack thereof and or just how well liked or disliked someone is (Hollywood is full of talented people that are lovely and generous just as it is replete with genius artists that are kind of huge assholes). Yes, some of it is a popularity contest! Shocker, I know. Here’s another little tip you may not realize. Countless indie movies do not have the studio system money in place to compete with with big boys, and therefore have little shot of being nominated because they haven’t been seen. Fair? Of course not. What did fair ever have to do with life, let alone the Oscars?
5) Deserve Ain’t Got Nuthin To Do With It
Take this year for instance. The conventional wisdom was that at 85 years old, Emmanuelle Riva was going to win an Oscar for her performance in "Amour" because not only was she terrific in the brutal and painful movie, but because a win would also act like a de facto Lifetime Achievement award. But she "lost" to Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook." Was that due to Harvey Weinstein campaigning (TWC notoriously spends much more than most studios on Oscar campaigning)? Or perhaps "Amour" was simply too dark and painful for the voters and 'Silver Linings' more of a crowd pleaser? Maybe more screeners of “Silver Linings Playbook” were sent out than “Amour”? Was Lawrence more charming to voters? Did the language barrier hurt Riva? The point is there are so many factors at play you begin to understand that it's about much more than just the performance (when it should only be about that) and therefore you ought to realize this is reason #685623 to not get upset.
There's 313 million people in the United States and 7.068 billion in the entire world. Let's very conservatively guess that 1 billion of those people know and care about movies (this is generally the accepted number of people who are estimated to watch the show in recent years). And compare those numbers with the 6,000 people that make up the Academy membership and are allowed to vote (and in many categories only those within that craft are allowed to vote) and do the math. That's hardly a definitive consensus of what the general culture feels about the "best" movies of the year are and knowing these obvious numbers why are you still so angry?
Hopefully this doesn't sound all too cynical. To me it's simply practical and pragmatic. I personally enjoy the Academy Awards. It is what it is. It's fun to follow the season as it progresses with all its ups and downs, it's sometimes entertaining to watch the show, it's diverting to predict who you think will win and lose and its fun to root for who you can, but it's pointless to complain or get upset about what wasn't represented, or what was "robbed" etc. because there are myriad factors at play -- which as an adult of average IQ you should already know about -- that have nothing to do with movies or art and yet are a very significant part of why certain movies, actors or craftsmen and women win or not win Oscar baubles.
One of my best friends (who went to film school with me no less), texted me late last night to say, “C’mon, did you really think ‘Argo’ was the best movie and deserved to win?" My response was simple: What does it matter what I think? What’s deserve or best have anything to do with it? The point is (for the 99th time) confusing the Oscars as anything definitive about art is pointless and silly. It’s an award show created to be a celebration of movies. Why not just accept it for what it is -- a somewhat self-congratulatory institution bent on celebrating itself -- and sit back and enjoy the show. Well, that is if it doesn’t put you to sleep first.