We don’t need the Oscars

The diminishing need for a competition that pits great artists against one another

Courtesy+of+The+Academy+official+Facebook+page

Courtesy of The Academy official Facebook page

By Ashviny Kaur, Staff Writer

On Feb. 8, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed its list of nominations for the 94th Academy Awards ceremony, better known as the Oscars. Films such as “The Power of the Dog” and “Dune” dominated the list, with 12 and 10 nominations respectively. Some surprises and snubs included numerous nominations for Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” (including Best Picture) a lack of consideration for Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” and four nominations for Japanese film “Drive My Car.”

After scrolling through Twitter for a few hours, it was apparent that the academy didn’t do such a terrible job with its list this year. However, I still harbor a decent amount of dislike for this ceremony. As a child, I loved watching the Oscars; the wins, the losses and even the speeches–an opinion I have denounced as of late. A ceremony over nine decades old, the Oscars are considered the pinnacle of the film industry; an “end goal” for those in the filmmaking world. However, looking past the glitz and glamor, it’s evident that the Oscars are no longer as important as they were in the past. Year after year, the academy proves that its ceremony tries to do too much, yet simultaneously accomplishes too little.

There are many issues that have led to the Oscars’ lack of prevalence in today’s culture; the largest one being the academy’s voting committee. As of 2021 the committee consists of 9,000 members, including many notable figures within the industry, divided into 17 branches for different artistic departments. With so many people, the committee was definitely bound to be diverse, right? Wrong. As of 2016, the academy revealed the demographics of the committee, and with 6,000 members under its belt (at the time,) 93 percent of them were white and 76 percent of them were male. The median age, to no one’s surprise, stood at 63.

While these statistics don’t make the academy inherently evil, they do contribute to the lack of representation when it comes to nominations and awards. Having less people of color within the committee insinuates that fewer movies regarding the experiences of minorities are viewed, much less nominated. Furthermore, once nominations are finalized, committee members aren’t required to watch all the contending films, and they’re free to select any winner. Members are discouraged from voting in categories they aren’t well acquainted with, yet they are never formally barred from doing so.

This rule regarding viewership, or lack thereof, is problematic for several reasons. By letting all committee members to cast a ballot, even in categories they aren’t experienced in, it allows for favoritism to run rampant. Committee members could potentially cast votes for their friends, colleagues or anyone they have worked with in the past. With nepotism already saturating much of the industry, there’s no need for those with special connections to get even more advantages. Even though it may be wrong to assume that everyone on the committee is at fault for choosing favorites, discrepancies in nominations and wins make this assumption a reality. Through strange nominations and wins in the past, such as “Shakespeare in Love” (1999) and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (2011), it’s safe to say that there is some unfairness and favoritism at play within the committee and its voting policies.

Furthermore, the policy gives widely released films an advantage over those that are limitedly released. People tend to watch movies that are widely marketed, and the academy’s committee members are no different. Many films with lower budgets and lower-scale marketing often go unrecognized and aren’t viewed as often as they should be. This disproportionately affects independent films of all genres, as most breakout directors generally work with smaller budgets, and exposure without outright marketing is critical for their work. To qualify for the Oscars, a film must be screened for a paying audience for one week in any theater in Los Angeles County. This qualification negatively affects millions of filmmakers not only in the United States, but worldwide as well. As acclaimed director Bong Joon-Ho (“Parasite,” “Snowpiercer”) stated in an interview with Vulture, “The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local,” insinuating that the academy, time and time again, fails to improve accessibility when it comes to qualifying foreign films.

Statistics aside, the Oscars get more redundant each year due to the academy’s need to foster competition and rivalry when there shouldn’t be any. Art of all kinds is subjective, and that’s the most beautiful thing about it. No two people have the same exact experiences or opinions on a movie, painting or song. Therefore, attempting to name one movie as the “year’s best” simply isn’t possible, as it compels audiences to question their personal experiences. Furthermore, there are simply too many movies released throughout the span of one year. As of 2016, roughly 736 films were released in the United States. This number has only increased since then, and everyday life is far too saturated with movies of every genre, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint which movies deserve the recognition and honor that comes with being nominated for a notable award.

In conclusion, it’s time to forget about the Oscars. It’s a ceremony that serves no real purpose, and while it may help smaller filmmakers further their careers, the chances of an award going to an unknown, independent director are slim. The academy is severely out of touch, and while there have been attempts to increase diversity within the voting committee, it’s simply not enough. The entire organization needs some change, and until that’s evident, I will not be tuning in.

Ashviny Kaur can be reached at [email protected]