Kurland On Film Editorial: The Award Season Shuffle….And Does It Matter?

By Scott Kurland

Remember when the Oscars were glamorous? There was once a time when the Golden Globes helped unite the Hollywood foreign press, high-caliber actors  and practically everyone across the world. What happened? I’m serious. What the hell happened? The Golden Age of Cinema always, and I mean ALWAYS rewarded excellence in filmmaking, acting, and direction regardless of competition. For instance, an award was crafted for the film “The Bicycle Thief,” simply because The Academy couldn't bear to see such an excellent film go unrewarded. "Cinema Paradiso," the greatest Italian film of all time, was recognized for its brilliance and received the Academy Award for "Best Foreign Film". “Harvey,” a slapstick simple comedy, won "Best Supporting Actress" for Josephine Hull's performance. Sadly, the Academy Awards no longer appear to have the same value now as they did before. The point of this editorial is to scrutinize the hullabaloo surrounding award season from an outsiders perspective. I am not a member of The Academy, nor am I a registered voter with the National Film Critics Association or the Hollywood Foreign Press. With that said,  the past few years of  awards seasons have left me baffled. I truly can't stand people weighing in on why such and such film was snubbed. 

Streaming With Mixed Emotions:

My biggest problem lately is how films are selected, and what films are ultimately chosen. This may require a bit of explanation. This year, “Manchester By The Sea” is getting a ton of well deserved notice and nominations. But did you know that film was distributed by Amazon Studios? Yeah, the same place you bought your kindle from distributed what is likely to be one of the years best films. I’m glad that film is getting a ton of notice. What really grinds my gears is that a film called “Beast of No Nation” was briefly released in a few theaters, won Idris Elba an Independent Spirit Award, but alas, it didn’t get any Oscar nominations. Why not you ask? Because even though it is a feature-length show, it aired on Netflix and Netflix isn’t an actual movie theater or television network. 

Netflix has given us some of the best films of the last few years. Have you seen their animated film “The Little Prince”? It’s a mini masterpiece and will likely be snubbed when the Oscar nominations are announced. Netflix's "The Little Prince" was supposed to appear on the big screen. Instead, it bounced around from distributor to distributor.  This beautiful and slightly dark film was five seconds away from ending up in the trash barrel. No one would have seen it, but Netflix saved it and showed it to the world. Why would this film be snubbed during award season when it did amazing overseas? The answer is simple....there is no reason. 

Amazon is able to get the nomination for "Manchester By The Sea" because it is in partnership with Roadside Attractions That relationship is the reason they are able to get a wider theatrical release. Talk about smart planning right? Here’s what I’d propose for Netflix to help them get on the award ballot. New Line Cinema is owned by Warner Brothers, but they aren’t doing that well these days. Their last big draw was in 2004 with “The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.” I was in High School at that time…I am now 30. In other words, they need a miracle, and by Miracle, I mean that Netflix should buy them. This way, Netflix gets into theaters, they win awards, and they can be the only network to play those films. It’s a win-win for everyone. However, that’s not the biggest problem facing the Oscars or the Globes.

Too Many Opinions Will Cloud Judgement:

I don’t want people to take this the wrong way, but I feel obligated to ask a very serious question. If  films like “Selma,”"Creed," and “Straight Outta Compton” weren’t snubbed, would “Moonlight,” be getting as much attention as it is now? I really liked “Moonlight," though I feel like I would have loved it more if I wasn’t being told by everyone that it is the greatest film ever made. To those people I ask: have you ever seen “Casablanca” or “The Godfather”? When I write my reviews, I try to avoid telling people that  film in question: 1) "is the greatest thing they’ll ever see",  2) "the film that changed my life 3) " you have to love it....or else.” I myself have heard all three of those statements when it comes to "Moonlight" and its beginning to feel as though it's receiving all these nominations for all the wrong reasons.  It's a truly great movie, but it seems as though the Academy is trying  to appease the masses and make people happy because of the #OSCARSSOWHITE hashtag. I asked some fellow critics why they loved "Moonlight,"  and they responded with uncomfortable murmuring and backtracking: "Well, you know Scott, it's "Moonlight" do I need to say more?" " Barry Jenkins is a genius.... " "Because we see the life of a gay black man hiding himself in Atlanta..."  All these critics statements may be true, but none of them adequately describe why the enjoyed "Moonlight."  I'll tell you why I liked it. I liked it because it opened strong with a great first and second act. The  third act on the other hand was mild and went out like a flame on a candle. "Moonlight," is a perfectly fine film, but it feels like an apology to an entire audience for dropping the ball the last few years.

    It's a shame that the indie film "Tangerine" came out last year. The film starred transgender actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in one of the strongest performances of 2015. If it had come out this year, the Oscars would have made history. "Tangerine" deserved to be nominated for several reasons: One, they cast a talented transgender actress instead of male actor pretending to be Cisgender. Two,  "Tangerine" was shot entirely on a shoestring budget as their cameras were iPhones with lens adapters. And three, it achieved in the first 20 minutes what took "Moonlight"  two hours to accomplish . We should nominate films that are bold, not just because of skin color, gender, or identity.  We need to make films we love and know the reasons why we love them, not because it happens to be the IT movie at the moment. Does anyone remember when we gave "Crash" the best picture Oscar? Do we remember why? Yeah, me neither. I remember  reading about how controversial it was to nominate Hattie McDaniel for “Gone With The Wind” and how shocked the world was when she won the Oscar. We nominated her and gave her the Oscar for no other reason than because she was simply spectacular. Stuff like that doesn't pave the way for change, but instead helps change occur naturally.  We should nominate diverse actors and actresses, not in the hopes that it might create new roles for a new generation, but because they are great talents and who help create those roles organically. Honestly, when it comes to picking the best films of the year, it shouldn’t be based on making people happy. No one will ever be happy. If we nominate A, we’ll piss off B for no logical reason. And don’t even get me started on the people who think C should be given credit. We shouldn’t focus so much on the small  devil in the details because  it will make us miss the big picture.

The Big Picture:
Samuel L. Jackson said how much he hates award season films that cater to award season voters. I find that ironic because he’s been nominated for an Oscar, won a BAFTA, and has four Golden Globe nominations. It's not ironic because he has all those nominations, it’s ironic because he’s right. I love “Manchester By The Sea,” I truly do. However, all indie films need awards to stay relevant. If the “Hurt Locker” didn’t sweep the Oscars there’s no way we’d still be talking about it eight years later.  The same goes for “Black Swan,” “The King’s Speech,” and, it pains me to say this one, “The Shawshank Redemption. These were all indie films who received a following because they were nominated for awards and because their theatrical run was extended. There are so many great independent films that fade away because they don’t get the nomination. For everyone of those films I mention there’s an “Edge of Seventeen,” “Children of Men,” and “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl.” Those films were pieces of art, but they got no awards love and I’m predicting  no one will remember them in five years.“Children of Men” is the exception thanks to SyFy Channel constantly playing it every spring. I don’t know why they do it, but God Bless them. 

The Academy Awards do matter. They’re the Oscars for crying out loud. However, getting huffy and mad when your film or actor is snubbed is foolish. I had to learn that the hard way six years ago when “Shame,” one of the best films of 2011, was snubbed by the Oscars. I was shocked. This film was dark, bold and brilliant. Michael Fassbender gave one of the best performances of his career as a sex addict so far down the rabbit hole he could never feel love. Carey Mulligan was incredible as his sister, and Steve McQueen shed a light on what he could do if “12 Years A Slave” got greenlit. I was mad for an entire year because they nominated “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” instead of “Shame”. Know why “Shame” was snubbed? It's because was rated NC-17 and Fassbender and Mulligan went full frontal with their nudity choice. Award season does matter because it brings us all joy and helps us bond with one another. But, ultimately, it isn’t worth getting upset over

The Academy award nominations will be announced January 24th 5:30 a.m. PST/ 8:30 a.m. EST; with the ceremony on February 26th, 2017 on ABC with host Jimmy Kimmel.
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