Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last few months, you are probably aware that 28th February 2016 marks the 88th Academy Awards also known as the Oscars. Yes, it is that time again. Time for celebrities to walk down the red carpet in clothes that are eye-wateringly overpriced, for those involved with the films to put on a fake smile as their competitors win and for us to be told what the best films of the year are, apparently. However, the question here has to be asked, are the Oscars really fair or worth anything now?
The first issue with the Oscars is how films are nominated and voted for. In December the list of potential nominations is sent around to members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an honorary professional organisation. Currently this has just under 6000 members, who then rank them in their designated category with those with the highest scores being nominated. The winners are then determined by a second round of voting, from the same group, when they are allowed to vote in all categories. Now, this sounds fine, until you find out that a survey conducted in 2012 of the membership showed, 94% were Caucasian, 77% were male, and 54% were found to be over the age of 60. This is hardly representative of the film industry today, or indeed the world, so can the awards given really represent general opinions?
This brings me on nicely to another major issue, which is that the awards are so disconnected from what we, the viewing and paying public, think and care about. We, as the public, are the target markets for these films, yet our opinions are never taken into account even in terms of us voting with our feet and our wallets. For example, the biggest grossing film of 2015, and indeed in history, Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens, did not receive a Best Picture nomination, or anything to do with its acting. The second highest grossing film of the year Jurassic World got nominated for nothing. Now, I’m not saying it should all be based on footfall, but I think we as the intended audiences of these films should have some say in how we reward the productions we think have done well. After all, we are the ones paying for the privilege of seeing them.
A final clear issue is the built in bias towards certain genres within the Academy Awards, especially in regards to the coveted Best Picture award. In the whole 88 years of the Oscars a horror film has only ever won Best Picture twice, with The Exorcist in 1973 and then Silence of the Lambs in 1991. In terms of Fantasy films the only film to ever win was The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in 2003. More damningly, despite some well-loved films being nominated, such as Star Wars in 1977 and Avatar in 2009, no Science Fiction film has ever won Best Picture in the history of the Oscars. In 2015 combined the genres of Science-Fiction, Horror and Fantasy had a combined market share of 39%, so why are there only two films nominated (The Martian and Mad Max) which could possibly fall into these categories, whilst the rest appear to fall into the Drama category which only secured 18% of the market share? On top of this, even though they were nominated, as history has shown us, the chances of them winning are slim-to-none. Still, it’s all fair and above board, isn’t it?
So, congratulations to whoever wins the Oscars, but these issues could very well mean the films could fade away into obscurity, despite the fact they won the awards. After all it is down to those of us who watch them to keep them alive, not a trophy.