Why this film fan breathes a sigh of relief after Oscars season
Everyone loves Oscars season, and all that goes with it: glitz, glamour and gluttonous consumption of films.
The Oscars stir conversation around films that would otherwise go unrecognised at any other time of the year.
This year’s Best Picture winner Moonlight would frankly not have been given the time of day by the average cinemagoer before its historic win.
Now, though, the film is enjoying a wider release on an extra 80 cinema screens in the UK alone.
This is the positive side of what a good awards season can do for (a frankly stunning) film.
However, what about the insidious aspect to the Academy Awards?
The Oscar’s foster a lot of love for certain films and certain people within Hollywood (Meryl Streep anyone?) but what they also do is foster a conversation that is not always positive for cinema as a whole.
In the run up to the big night, discussion of each film moves from what is a good film to what is deemed “Oscar worthy”.
This attribution to a film a particular quality which is often quite far removed from the overall quality of the picture is detrimental to not only the awards themselves, but to cinema.
Take Hacksaw Ridge for example, a thoroughly mediocre film, and yet one which garnered much Oscars attention (despite it’s lack of eventual success).
The film adhered to a very well-established Oscars theme: that of the epic biopic, sweeping score, and easy to digest moral message.
As a result, it gained much more traction than the film deserved on its cinematic merits alone.
That is not to say that films do not break out of the mould, or that there is one set mould, but largely, the cinematic releases get bogged down in these easily definable markers of Oscar success.
This turns off the discussion about the merits of the film itself, its cinematic achievements often play second fiddle.
This is then exacerbated when the ball starts rolling, and conversation revolves around whether films are Oscar worthy.
Hell Or High Water is an obvious victim of such a system.
A vastly superior film than most nominated this year, with a razor sharp and tight script, amazing cinematography, and unsettling and distinctive score.
It also offered a morally complex look at the current economic system in America.
Despite this, not one conversation was had on mainstream media about its chances of success, other than to disparage and dwarf its chances in the shadow of the likes of La La Land.
Another, just as undesirable, effect of the Oscars “buzz” is that films that are far more enjoyable are downplayed as too lightweight.
In what world should a cinematic award downplay the extent of entertainment derived from a piece of entertainment?
The last comedy to win Best Picture was Annie Hall in 1977.
This likely attests to the lack of quality comedies in modern times, though with the likes of Hunt for the Wilderpeople last year, I doubt that is the case.
So for us Oscar completists, we are left to sit through some difficult and often unrewarding pieces of cinema at the expenses of exalting the genuinely joy-inducing works that we truly love.
Now the Oscars are over, part of me is sad that the revealing doors of Hollywood close for another year.
But another part of me is glad that I have a year’s worth of fun films to flicker before me before the worthiness of Mr Oscar returns.