The Problem With The Oscars

Tom Pheby takes issue with Oscar...

On Sunday night the red carpet looked as red as it ever did, the stars wore the latest fashion creations from the world's top designers, and the speeches rattled on and on punctuated by umms and erms, with almost everyone getting a mention from Mothers to their hairdressers. Yes, like every other year, the 2015 Academy Awards did what it does best. Since the 1920's this self congratulatory pat on the back and revenue generating exercise has been manufactured by an industry to advertise their latest and boldest in an attempt to rake in the cash, and although I admit many have deserved the accolade bestowed upon them, some choices have been baffling at best.

In 1952, High Noon, the Gary Cooper cinematic classic lost out to Cecil B DeMille's The greatest Show on Earth, a star studded circus yarn that made you feel all fuzzy inside, but not necessarily  inspired. If the top gong was merely down to a fuzzy feeling surely The Quiet Man starring John Wayne should have been right up there in the same year?

In 1976 Rocky beat All the President's Men and Taxi Driver to the top award, which, lets be honest, is a complete mystery. Three years later the slushy Kramer vs Kramer pipped Apocalypse Now! In 1998 Shakespeare in Love (which I admit is a reasonable offering) took the top slot from Saving Private Ryan, the latter is undeniably a superior film. Maybe Spielberg's war epic was too graphic, but is still considered by many to be one of the best of it's type.

In 2008 Frost and Nixon was an also ran against Slumdog Millionaire. Is this just a case of subjective taste or, perhaps more contentiously, is it a case of film companies greasing various palms to secure support by way of a stream of freebies and five star giveaways? The likes of which you and I may never know.

The selection for best film or picture clearly depends on what type of films, or genre, is popular at the time, and although some years are better than others it does seem that science fiction is constantly ignored or overlooked. If you're responsible for an epic science fiction movie then on the day of the Oscars it appears that, at best, you'll be taking home a peripheral award or make-up trophy. Maybe it's a snobbery within the industry?

In 1979 Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic Alien hit the screens. A superb thriller with jaw dropping effects and costume design, yet it didn't even make the short list for Best Picture. It did however manage to scrape Best Effects, Visual Effects and a nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

The first Star Wars movie fared little better, but at least it managed to merit some consideration before falling massively short of the mark, and that's been the general story for anything with a science fiction theme. Take James Cameron's Avatar, it had audiences drooling and parting with their cash to the tune of an estimated $2.8 billion, yet it only earned an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. I'm not suggesting that revenue makes a good film, far from it, as there have been many movies that have made a truck load of cash which you wouldn't give two half sucked toffees for, but some films are popular for a reason, and at the very least should be viewed on, and commended upon, their merits.

The Dark Knight was a massive critical success and one of the biggest movie of 2008, yet it failed to receive any nominations other than for Best Supporting Actor which the talented Heath Ledger was awarded posthumously. If I was a talented actor (which I'm not, but he was), I'd rather my work was recognised whilst I was still breathing and able to enjoy the moment. Call me old fashioned.

But science fiction and the comic book genre are not the only ones to get the bums rush in terms of accolades. Think about comedy and horror movies.... yeah they never get a look in either. Peter Jackson summed it up quite nicely when he said:
"To get an Oscar would be an incredible moment in my career, there is no doubt about that. But the 'Lord of the Rings' films are not made for Oscars, they are made for the audience."
In 1978 Woody Allen left no doubt about his feelings on the ceremony when he said:
"I have no regard for that kind of ceremony. I just don’t think they know what they’re doing. When you see who wins those things—or who doesn’t win them—you can see how meaningless this Oscar thing is."
Yet tinsel town continues to exclude certain types of film, for whatever reason, and seems almost incapable of thinking outside the box. Some would say that it clearly prefers a safety first policy, whilst being smug enough to ignore other equally credible works that are favoured by the paying public and film viewing masses.

J.J Abrams is set to release the eagerly awaited new instalment of the Star Wars series, but he may not be invited on to the stage in a hurry to pick up an Academy Award - unless it's the Oscars in a galaxy far, far away...

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter
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