By Benny Streeter
Since 1930, the Oscars have been held with the purpose of judging the quality and merit of film. The Oscars are seen as the most prestigious award in the film world, and yet, the academy that judges the films have shown themselves to be incompetent and unfit for the job. If I’m being completely honest, the Oscars mean practically nothing in most categories. Sometimes the Academy is able to judge what films or actors will go down in history as icons but for the most part they constantly fail at making even the slightest effort to search beyond the borders of North America. Whether it be Hollywood patting itself on the back for decades on end, the Academy being unable to properly judge films, or the mess that is the category of Best Animated Feature. The Oscars have proven that they have no significance and that they don’t deserve to be taken seriously.
The Oscars has supposedly been used during their lifetime to congratulate and award the best of the best. They’re designed in theory to calculate objectively the best work done on a film out of all films released that year. In reality, there’s a reason that the awards always go to one of three studios. While words like cheated or rigged would be inappropriate here, the truth is that Hollywood has such a tight grip on the Academy’s minds that they tend to cast their vote to films that they find pleasant or see themselves in. The predominantly old and rich Academy has a strong bias for films that resemble their Hollywood lifestyle. Go to any recent year of the Best Picture nominations and see how many films about the rich lifestyle there are. Once you’ve done that check, see if more than one foreign film was even nominated. This lifestyle and studio bias is how forgettable films such as The King’s Speech can beat out The Social Network and how Inside Out can beat Anomalisa. We’ve established that the Oscars have poor judgement but then why do we hold them on such a high pedestal? Hollywood has managed to convince us that their word is final, and as a result we treat their judgement as something meaningful. The Oscars prides themselves on awarding innovation and unique artistic expression but at the end of the day it’s all just about what big budget trash bin Hollywood puts out.
The ignorance and laziness of the Academy never fails to astound me. Shockingly, they sometimes don’t even watch the front-runners for each category they’re judging, and they admit in their ballot that they only saw one of the nominees. Academy members will flat-out watch one nominee and be impressed enough to not even give other films a shot. Whether the voters of the Academy actually watch every film that’s considerable for Oscar eligibility is unknowable, but there is evidence that many of them don’t. The watching relies on an honour system and many members of the Academy question whether their peers watch the average 60 potential candidates or just pick the one they liked. In 2014, several members of the Academy lied about watching Twelve Years a Slave despite voting for it as Best Picture. In 2018, some voters denied ever watching Get Out saying that it probably wasn’t worthy anyways. One Academy voter even went as far to say that they wouldn’t watch Uncut Gems because Adam Sandler is not an actor with an Oscar-like brand. The worst case of Academy ignorance would need to be on the ballots of 2015’s Best Animated Feature votes. During the voting process a large portion of the Academy voted for Big Hero 6 without watching more than one of the other nominees. The voters used the reasoning of “It’s a cute movie that my kids dragged me to watch,” on an official ballot for the Oscars. This is their job, this isn’t something to take lightly. The unprofessionalism presented here by the Academy seriously convinces me they have children working to decide what wins and what doesn’t. How is the audience expected to take the Oscars more seriously than the Academy? It’s embarrassing that something that’s held with such importance in society is unaware of its overwhelming ignorance.
Taking into account all the bad things about the Oscars, the Best Animated Feature category is the worst. In the past ten or so years, the Academy hasn’t even tried to hide the fact that they do not care about this category. Even before the Academy opened up the voting circle to all members, the judging was still problematic. Foreign animated films tend to stand either equally or above western animation in quality and yet the only foreign nominations for animation are Studio Ghibli films. The bar is set so tremendously high for foreign animation compared to western that some of the best films of all time are the only foreign nominations. Now place that masterpiece of passion and hard work next to Ferdinand. Just because the Oscars is run in North-America, doesn’t give them the right to ignore any foreign project. To prove the laziness of the Academy, look at the nominations for Best Animated Feature in 2018. The Boss Baby and Ferdinand shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Coco or The Breadwinner, and yet this is the best they could find to compete against. While Coco and The Breadwinner both deserve the nomination, I find it impossible that not a single country in the world could produce something better than The Boss Baby in the minds of the Academy. To fix this, the Academy should undo and improve upon the past changes in the category. Voting and eligibility for the animation category should be restricted to experts who appreciate the work of other countries and understand the medium of animation. Society has missed out on so many masterpieces from across the globe just because Hollywood refuses to acknowledge them.
Every year Hollywood will continue to congratulate themselves and the mediocrity they produce while ignoring the best work the world has to offer. The Oscars is no longer watched to see what actually deserves rewards, it’s become a betting game that you watch with your friend that takes itself too seriously. But saying this won’t change anything, Hollywood doesn’t care why people watch their self-serving award show – they just want people to watch. This isn’t about boycotting or cancelling the Oscars, it’s more of just a statement of my disappointment for the work that gets done by the Academy. In a perfect world, the Oscars would celebrate films worldwide and be considered as a celebration of passion and excellence in film, but here we are. The likelihood of the Oscars changing for the better is low but I’ll keep holding out hope for now.