I’m fully aware that I am not the first writer to critique the Oscars, and most likely won’t be the last. However, this topic still compels me. There is a lot wrong with the Oscars. They tend to favors actors and actresses who are caucasian, have a clear pro-Hollywood bias, and exclude the two biggest film markets: comedies and action films. Most egregious of all, is their constant failure to give an award to the people/films who actually deserves it.
Let’s start with the best picture award. Rotten Tomatoes lists the best 5 films of all time in the following order: 1. Wizard of Oz, 2. Citizen Kane, 3. The Third Man, 4. Mad Max: Fury Road, and 5. All About Eve. Now remember these are ranked using a variety of reviews from critics and audiences, and have come out as the 5 greatest films of all time. Whether they all deserve to be there is another debate, but they’re all clearly fantastic films if they are able to reach such a position on such a list. Only one of them won best picture (All About Eve). That means the top 4 films of all time we’re not considered the best picture of their respective year. That’s ludicrous. However, the more disheartening thing is to see what films each of these lost too. They lost too Gone With the Wind, How Green is My Valley, All the King’s Men, and Spotlight ( respectively). While I’m sure these are all fine movies, I can personally attest to the fact that these films are all clearly dwarfed by the movies that they beat (with the notable exception of Gone With the Wind).
Other notable best picture losers: Vertigo, Raging Bull, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, There Will Be Blood, E.T., The Shawshank Redemption, Apocalypse Now, Gangs of New York, and The Dark Knight. All films that have not only stood the test of time, but are commonplace on many people's greatest movies of all time lists. While I understand that a snub is bound to occur now and then, this is happening all too often.
Moving onto the actors. The biggest problem with the Oscars approach to actors is a refusal to take their performance for what it is and instead choosing to account for career context. Allow me to explain. In 2013 Daniel Day Lewis wins Best Actor in a Leading Role for Lincoln, beating better performances by Hugh Jackman in Les Mis and Bradley Cooper in Silver Lining Playbook.
So why does DDL win? Because he lost in 2002 to Denzel Washington, Washington won for Training Day and DDL starring in Gangs of New York. DDL’s 2002 performance is far superior to his role in Lincoln but he got the award in 2013 because the academy thought that they owed him after not giving him the award in 2002.
In Daniel Day Lewis’ case this helped him, because he eventually won the award, but it more commonly than not hurts actors who actually deserve the role that year ( Just take a look at Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper, who still haven't won). It can also hurt actors who have had controversial careers/ lives outside of film. A great example of this is Mel Gibson. I’ve seen many of the major films that came out this year, and can say without a doubt that Hacksaw Ridge is the best film of the year. It’s shot extremely well, the story is fantastic, the music is great, and Andrew Garfield is amazing in it.
It's probably the best film I've seen in theaters in the last 5 years. However, despite all of this, I know it won’t win Best Picture, and most likely won’t win Best Actor or Best Director ( even though it deserves all three awards). Why is this the case? Because Mel Gibson directed it. Now I am not defending Mel Gibson, he is a terrible person. That being said, I think letting past personal issues of someone attached to the film determine whether or not a film can really win any major award is childish and unfair.
(Vince Vaughn gets it)
I could go on and on about the Oscars. They have an innate bias towards films about Hollywood or the entertainment industry, refuse to give comedies/ action films their due ( 14 nominations for La La Land and no best picture nod for Deadpool, come on) and favors caucasian performers.
So how do we fix it? I have one proposal, make the Oscars have a five year delay. Have movies that came out in 2012 be voted on in 2017, 2011’s films voted on in 2016, and so on. If this happens Midnight in Paris never loses to The Artist, because 5 years later everyone can see Midnight in Paris is the superior film. Scorcese’s Wolf of Wall Street would never have lost to Gravity for best director. I realize this isn’t a perfect system, as it would make the Oscars a lot less interesting.
But it does give the voters a chance to see how history will remember these films, which in the long run is far more important than any award.