The Importance of Award Shows

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With award season upon us, Dylan O’Neill asks why we still love award shows despite not always agreeing with who wins.

 

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Be it the Academy Awards or the Emmy Awards, the BAFTAs or the IFTAs, these red-carpet events celebrate the productions and the people who dedicate themselves to bringing us entertainment. But aside from the “who wore it better?” lists we see the next day, what is the point of these shows?

“It’s an honour just to be nominated” is a phrase that is used by many actors and directors, shortly after they are shortlisted for an award. Besides being a humble response to anyone who asks, there is some truth to go along with it. Accolades are featured prominently on any advertisement for a film or television series because they inform the audience that a group of people, whose opinion we are supposed to trust, deem it worthwhile to invest their time (and money) in that production.

Being nominated basically guarantees viewership by peer-pressure alone.

This starts a snowball effect as more and more people begin to watch the films or television series to remain up-to-date and maintain relevance in the conversations surrounding it. The following grows until the production has a worldwide audience and its actors gain name recognition. In this way, being nominated basically guarantees viewership by peer-pressure alone.

However, with some films and television series, the opinions of critics do not always reflect the views of the general audience.  A prime example of this rare phenomenon is when Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever (1995) received three Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Effect Editing, and Best Sound. One would assume that with three Oscar nominations the film would be well received by fans, but on the contrary, fans scored it a disappointing 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, commenting on the ridiculousness of the alterations Schumacher made to the Batsuit, complete with nipples.

Probably the most notorious case of critics praising a movie that was objectively terrible is Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009). Astonishingly, members of the cast and production team commented on the film’s failings. It says a lot when the director of a movie is on record saying he thought “it was crap.” Despite all the complaints surrounding the production and the miserable score of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing. This meant the film could advertise as being Oscar-nominated.

Members of the Academy (the people who decide the winners and losers) can’t be too harshly judged.

Members of the Academy (the people who decide the winners and losers) can’t be too harshly judged. Sometimes they get it wrong, sometimes they don’t. They were responsible for Moonlight (2016) winning Best Picture, a movie which follows the life of a gay man of colour. A win which carried greater importance than just the presenting of a statue, as it sparked conversation on the topics of gay and civil rights across social media.

If we take a look at the world of television, and the Emmy awards, the most controversial moment from 2017 was the snubbing of screen legend Oprah Winfrey, for her role in the HBO movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  This movie showed viewers the life of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells were used (without her consent) to create the first immortal human cell line.

The Hollywood Foreign Press (HFP) is also guilty of its fair share of misjudgement. 50 Cent’s hit television series Power ­somehow managed to be overlooked in every category of the Golden Globe Awards, despite being the second most watched cable series, after Game Of Thrones. This has occurred every year since the show’s inception to date.

However, the HFP has also garnered much praise over its decision to award Best Motion Picture and Best Television Series to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Handmaid’s Tale, respectively. Both winners highlight the mistreatment of women in modern society and have been referenced in many social protests in recent months.

So why do we continue to tune into these award shows when there is clearly so much disagreement between fans and critics over who and what should win?

So why do we continue to tune into these award shows when there is clearly so much disagreement between fans and critics over who and what should win?

Yes, to see what people are wearing on the red carpet is a legitimate answer. The more obvious answer is of the proud history of recipients using their allotted time to highlight important issues of the time. Take, for example, Halle Barry who after receiving her Academy Award in the category of Best Actress, acknowledged the historical significance of her win, “This moment is so much bigger than me… It’s for every nameless, faceless woman of colour that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened”.

In 2017, upon receiving the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement, Meryl Streep recounted how Tommy Lee Jones once said: “Isn’t it such a privilege just to be an actor?” and publicly denounced President Donald Trump for abusing his privilege in mocking a journalist with a disability.

Issues such as these reach an extended audience when household names in entertainment use their time to promote a cause, bringing it to the forefront of peoples’ minds. Award shows hold great importance in today’s world because they reward the people we idolise for their work in informing us of the lives of the people around us.