be real — 2019 was a great year for film. So why doesn’t the 2020 Academy
Awards represent the vast and diverse catalogue of brilliant films released
While a majority of films this
year do deserve their nominations, it’s hard not to look at the Oscars list
and lament over the snubs.
We see so much love for Joker,
The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917, but
not one nomination for great films like Uncut Gems, Dolemite Is My
Name, Booksmart and The Farewell. How do these egregious
snubs happen while 88 out of the 124 possible nominations went to the same 17
Within the prejudiced system
that is the film industry — which almost exclusively rewards white men for
creating white male stories — there are two less discussed but problematic
components that impacts a film’s possibility to be nominated: Oscar campaigns
and Oscar season.
Studios often rely on Oscar
campaigns in order to promote their films to the Academy. Through lobbying,
parties, screenings and even circulating potentially damaging rumours about
their competition, studios can spend an upwards of $10 million on their
campaigns. A studio wants their product to be profitable and being nominated or
winning awards can help a film make money.
A studio that has the financial privilege to hire
strategists and create an Oscar campaign can potentially influence Academy
members. Wonderful films that deserve recognition but can’t financially keep up
with big-budget Oscar campaigns are frequently left in the dust.
Oscar campaigns can get precious Academy votes,
but which films do people remember the most at the end of the year? Often,
it’s the movie that is freshest in their minds.
extending from late fall to the end of December, Oscar season is the time when
studios release the films that they think are awards contenders. When cinemas
are overloaded with often very good films all vying for prestigious nominations
at the end of the year, it can be difficult to remember the great films
released earlier on in the year.
how is that exclusion either fair for early year releases or beneficial for a
system which claims to award cinema’s best and brightest?
Academy can make allowance for films that can’t take the financial risk of being
released at the same time as major studio Oscar hopefuls by changing how it selects
issue is illustrated by the prestigious nominations for Best Picture this year.
Six out of nine best picture nominees are distributed by major studios that
have the budget to campaign. If you want to add Netflix in the mix, that number
goes from six to eight. Only Bong Joon-ho’s surprise contender Parasite —
the first South Korean film nominated for best picture — was distributed in
North America by indie studio Neon.
those nine films nominated for best picture, eight of them were released
between October and December — the outlier being awards darling Quentin
Tarantino’s latest feature Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which came
out in July. These patterns are troubling when you step back and look at the
plethora of wonderful, creative and different films released in 2019.
Oscars are not the be-all and end-all of cinema. But what the Oscars do that is
so important is that they legitimize films.
If the film industry and the Academy continue to allow big studios to hack the system, we will continue to see an oversaturation of white male films during Oscar season. Maybe someday the Oscars will do what they are meant for and actually celebrate artistic and technical brilliance in cinema.