On March 15, the nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards were announced, prompting a question that gets asked every year: Do the Oscars matter?
Now, when someone asks this question, it’s matters how we define importance in the first place. When comparing the Oscars to world events such as COVID-19 or stimulus checks, obviously — despite how much I love films — the awards are not as important. But I think we’re really asking if the Oscars matter in determining the best films of the year.
In all fairness, the Academy Awards likely started with the best intentions — to celebrate the best of the cinematic art form every given year. But controversy and questionable decisions have plagued the awards for years, from unfavorable Best Picture winners like “Crash” (2005) to accusations of “Oscars so white” due to a distinct lack of ethnic diversity in the list of nominees.
The qualifications of what can and can’t be nominated for the Oscars changes all the time, especially this year. But the general rules put in place have traditionally disqualified most films that are not American, English speaking, or backed by a major studio.
To qualify for Oscar nominations, a film must run in the Los Angeles territory for seven consecutive days. Now, if your film is “Black Panther” for example, that won’t be a problem. But this rule immediately disqualifies the vast majority of films released on the planet every year. Foreign films or independent films struggling for a theater release don’t have a chance.
Keep in mind, meeting the requirements only means a film isn’t immediately disqualified. Realistically, it needs to do so well among both audiences and critics so the Academy will pay attention to it.
Unlike most award ceremonies that are run by a panel or group of critics, people who watch films for a living, the Academy is made up of industry professionals. Although that can consist of anyone working in movies, the members are predominantly actors.
Although there were 819 invitations sent out last year and diversity among the membership has improved, the demographics of the more than 8,000 members still consist of mainly old, white men.
When you break down who’s voting and why, combined with obstacles deliberately placed in front of films to prevent the number of films considered for nomination, it becomes clear that the Academy calling anything “the best” is highly misleading.
With that said, we should care about this to an extent.
The Academy is a historically recognized institution that shines a spotlight on certain films that otherwise wouldn’t get them — think of 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption,” which went from a box office failure to a home video sensation after receiving awards buzz.
There’s a reason terms like “Oscar Bait” exist; because studios know what kind of films the Academy likes, they will make films that appeal to the Academy, dictating the way movies are made in the future.
Really, it’s up to us to keep spreading the word of great films and voicing our problems with the Academy’s ways, which will hopefully bring about a revolution in the way they do things in the future.