Oscar Biases and Tendencies

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Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the Academy Awards or any awards show. These ceremonies are designed to bring in more cash for the studios as well as be a love-fest for its employees. Most of the time, as is the case with the Oscars, the wrong people are honored for their work and the wrong films are chosen to represent the best from that year. Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick, Howard Hawks, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock never won for Best Director. Peter O’Toole received 8 nominations for Best Actor but never won. Marilyn Monroe was never nominated, yet Michelle Williams was nominated for playing Marilyn Monroe.  In 1952, “The Greatest Show on Earth” was considered better than “Singin’ in the Rain,” “High Noon,” “The Quiet Man,” and “The African Queen.”

After looking back at ten years (2001-2010) worth of Oscars, specifically Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, the Academy, as expected, got a lot wrong (a year by year review is upcoming in which I play along and act is if the awards mean anything). Unfortunately there was a remarkable lack of originality and creativity in the films from the last decade to choose from and American audiences’ taste for films became greatly homogenized: CGI, explosions and brand names.

For the most part, the Academy rejected the trend of American movie-goers’ taste for remakes, sequels, reboots and superhero flicks and instead played it safe with a plethora of biopics and historical dramas, especially the biopics: “A Beautiful Mind,” “The Hours,” “Frida,” “Seabiscuit,” “The Aviator,” “Finding Neverland,” “Ray,” “Capote,” “Walk the Line,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “The Last King of Scotland,” “The Queen,” “La Vie en Rose,” “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “Changeling,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Milk,” “The King’s Speech,” and “The Social Network” to name a few. Of the 60 films nominated for Best Picture, 24 were biopics or historical dramas, with a much higher percentage of biopics and historical dramas nominated in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories.

It’s not as if these types of films are not worthy of honor or the Academy hasn’t done this before.  During the Great Depression, nominated films for Best Picture included “Disraeli,” “The Private Life of Henry VIII,” “Cleopatra,” “The Great Ziegfeld,” “The Story of Louis Pasteur,” and “The Life of Emile Zola.”  But you also had other creative entertainment such as “The Thin Man,” “Top Hat,” “Libeled Lady,” “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” and “The Awful Truth”.  The film industry is and has been for quite some time in a creative funk.  I wonder when it will change…

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