Now that the Grammys and Academy Awards have been doled out this topic can finally be traversed without offending the delicate hearts of our Los Angeles film and music communities, maybe. The aftermath, of each and every award show from the Golden Globes to the People’s Choice Awards is the internet set ablaze with inflammatory comments provoking the institutions that present these honors. Maybe we should be pointing the fingers at elsewhere.
Not to say that is not an egregious misstep that Eminem would be garnished with best Rap Album, or that Boyhood would not win best picture. It is to say that the underlying notion behind the exclusive masturbatory cavalcade of back patting reciprocity which we call “Award Season” is truly an indulgence in one of our most basic and ugly human traits. Vanity.
Were we to really fashion an event celebrating the great works from the past year in film and music would it not look more like festival than competition? Instead of arousing jealousy and hate with glorified politically influenced “best in show” awards that demean the beautiful work of all who contribute to our culture, why wouldn’t we grant honorable mentions to them all?
Simply being nominated for high honors in these fields should be enough. It is in fact enough to be nominated until the night of award the presentation. These great troubadours and storytellers go from the edge of greatness to the pit of obsolescence in a single night. Condolence prizes are granted to those “other” nominees only by the gracious winners who feel inclined to mention them as they accept their prize.
Does our culture of exclusionary praise reinforce the celebrity ideal and further perpetuate the notion that all men are not created equal? Certainly. If our work is a product of who we are and it can be judged then isn’t it the crews, directors, and artists that are being judged? To critique and compartmentalize something that is so personal as a project that a people have dedicated full years to (or 12 years in the case of Boyhood) can at very least be seen as divisive.
Award season changes the target for the artist from creating authentic expressive work with profound technical merits to idolizing the opinions of the academy(s). The goal of art should be to simultaneously serve the artist and audience. Third party intervention from supposed experts dilutes this service and the merits that should be associated with the great work that has been put into the world.
On the more human level it ignites a boiling ugliness in us that makes competition of artistry. We pander over praise, and validation so much on a daily basis as citizens that there really is no need for a grandiose display of star-studded, sequent laden, fan fair. Well except for the economic need.
How could the institutions of media distribution, manufacture bonafide titans of industry without a slew of qualifying accolades? They can’t be cause taste and opinion, are subjective, so there is no way to justify paying one actor $500k for a film and another $4,000,000 without him having a gold statue next to their name.
How will we as audience members make sense of the over saturated climate of music, and film, with ever growing schemes to attract our attention without their having been donned as “best”? We can’t, or rather, don’t have the time to develop our own tastes and opinions because we have other more important obligations than keeping abreast on every movie or album that is released. So instead we wait until that special time of year to be told what the creme de la creme is.
Award season is a function of our inability to curate our own culture and it has once more been made a piece of content for us to consume. “Look here, as we make sport of film and music!”, says the media industrial complex. Post-presentation we sift through recaps and highlights that push more content out into the atmosphere as if other relevant news in the world has somehow been muted, and in some ways it has.
This is not to say that we should protest, or even ignore the fanfare created in award season. The greatest act that we can exercise is to listen and love what speaks to and resonates with us. It is to give support and credence to the film and music that we love. Let our continued time and attention be what validates these works and pervade as the highest honor of all. These institutions do not know better than you what you should like. So whether or not your favorite artist wins, or is even represented this award season, your opinion matters.