– by David Morgan-Brown
I don’t think I have a guilty pleasure when it comes to films (except maybe the first two Guinea Pig films), but the awards season is something I feel guilty about — despite considering it arbitrary, it’s still something I get intrigued, bemused, and worked up about every year. Though it’d be untrue to say awards don’t mean anything, as the films even just nominated are cemented in history by the juggernauts of the biggest movie industry in the world, but the problem isn’t that the right films aren’t getting nominated, it’s that not enough films are being nominated at all.
Looking through the plethora of film awards ceremonies of this year, but specifically the biggies – the Golden Globes, the BAFTAS, and the Oscars — a skim through the top awards (Picture, Director, and all acting and writing awards) shows us the same films over and over again. I’m not commenting on the quality of the films themselves, but I will say that none of them deserve the amount of nominations they’re getting over the hundreds of other films and performances we’ve seen from 2014. These awards just seem to have no room for throwing in a deserved nomination to a number of films that have been completely snubbed by this trio of awards, with only 17 different films nominated for these top awards at the Oscars (out of a possible 43 – the BAFTAS are just as guilty with 15 out of 40). Do all 6,028 Oscar voters even watch every film released in each year before voting for the best one? Do they even watch the film they vote for as Best Picture? Sometimes not.
Some films just never have a chance. Worthy sci-fi, horror, comedy, and blockbuster films have managed to sneak into certain categories before, especially when the Oscars Best Picture nomination extended from 5 to up to 10 (not that it made much of a difference in variety, and they’ve cancelled that now anyway), yet are still missing in action when it comes to the non-technical awards. These films will never stand a chance with the awards season, namely the Oscars, that shows what a tight-knit demographic their voters are – 76% male, 94% white, the average age being 63. There are plenty of films released that don’t appeal to this Jurassic demographic, but aren’t any less worthy of being nominated.
Foreign films are often excluded as well, with only two receiving an Oscar nomination outside Best Foreign Language film for this year (one for Best Actress, one for Best Cinematography). It makes sense for an American movie awards show to mostly acknowledge American films, but they are willing to nominate foreign films in any category, yet it’s hardly done enough, the Oscars (and other award shows) hardly ever consider foreign films as being the best of the year, any year. Only 12 foreign film nominations (excluding Best Foreign Language Film, of course), have occurred at the Oscars in the past five years, with only 16 in the five years before that, and 29 the five years before that, and only 15 the five years before that – this shows that the quantity of foreign film nominations has dropped from its already low number in recent years. Sacré bleu!
But it’s no surprise really to see this number of films being completely eschewed in all categories – they just didn’t have enough campaign money behind them. Along with the production budget and marketing budget, some films (somewhat pre-selected for awards glory) have a campaign budget, which is used to advertise the film as an awards contender, split up into phase one (trying to get nominated) and phase two (trying to win awards). Companies usually spend 53% of this budget on advertising (mostly during phase 2) and 12% on DVD screeners (mostly during phase 1), with campaigns as costly as $5 million. To get as many of the 160,000 Screen Actors Guild members to see your film can cost $250,000 to send promotional DVD screeners to them all, along with up to $250,000 on costs for the cast and crew’s promotional interviews, and $700,000 on commercials for TV and radio. That’s even more money than entire budgets of films worthier of recognition than pre-selected Oscar-bait.
As another year of awards seasons sweep past us, and as some of the heavily nominated films become forgotten about and non-nominated films begin to grow a large audience, we’ll all get back into this crazy circus soon enough (but no sooner than October). Unless gambling is involved, the awards season can seem trivial at best and self-congratulatory at worst, but they have their way with awarding well-established Hollywood actors with already prosperous careers whilst awarding a little of the unknown rising stars who use their nominations or wins to boost their career at least ten fold. There’s a lot of good these awards shows can do, but assessing the numbers and the arts, there’s a lot more can than do.