The Academy Awards are nearly upon us. It seems like something a cinema blog shouldn’t be able to ignore. But what do these awards even mean to a British audience?
The BAFTA awards are supposed to be the eloquent British way of recognising achievement in the entertainment industry, but instead the film awards ceremony has become the warm-up act and precursor/indicator for the more prestigious Academy Awards or ‘Oscars’ as they are more likely to be identified. Whilst the BAFTA television awards usually reads as a recognisable list of programmes and personalities that the British public find identifiable and accessible, the films list is often seen as pretentious, biased, boring and predictable, so indeed the perfect emulator for the Oscars?
Due to the fact that films are often released in the UK a few months after the US and that the films made with Oscar nominations in mind, which also happen to be the films most likely to receive nominations, are all released towards the end of the year, the British public are left with very little time to see these acclaimed films, so a list of nominees usually leaves Brits outside of professional critics and ardent film fans scratching their heads. The sheer expense of watching these films (if you discount illegal methods) means that Oscar bait season, where critically acclaimed films briefly flood cinema screens, is completely wasted on the public, even if it turns out to be tremendously successful in obtaining nominations at various awards.
Oscar bait are specifically released, marketed and then lobbied all with the intention of winning awards whilst often irritating and alienating the public. Films are usually made for their audience but with Oscar bait there is a very particular kind of person who their producers were thinking of and they are not usually in line with general cinema lovers. There are some great films included in the nominations this year but you will notice that the same films reoccur in every category and only a handful have any chance of winning the most prestigious of these prestigious awards. La la land is a huge favourite, simply because it is a film about Hollywood, a love letter to the industry itself, quite pompous and self-indulgent and certified by those in the Hollywood bubble and of course BAFTA. Some ordinary members of the public enjoy it but many more find it tedious, slow and over-rated.
There seems to be a disconnect between the Academy Awards club and the general audience on both sides of the pond in a similar way to how art films and mainstream cinema are divided. For the common uninitiated audience these are all films for someone else, too difficult or too slow, part of a different culture to which they are alienated. Even if they have seen and enjoyed one or two films on the nominations list, the omission of their favourites and the likelihood of their preferred nomination winning, mean that the Oscars feels derisive; demeaning to their common tastes and incredibly pretentious. This is made even more annoying by the well-acclaimed but incredibly popular films we saw last year that were omitted for what can only seem like snobbery. Deadpool for example would have been many people’s choice for the best film of last year but isn’t nominated in any category, while Rogue one and Dr Strange get mentions in minor categories.
Certain genres and styles of cinema have always been preferred by the academy but never has the gap between popular and Oscar seemed so wide as in recent years. If the Academy continues to snub, whilst the film industry concentrates on either winning awards or making money, then the divide between mainstream popular cinema and recognised high quality cinema will deepen.