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The Academy Awards

I really had to think long and hard about whether I was going to cover the Oscars this year.

The Oscars are in no way indicative of any year’s best in cinema, with awards and nominations going toward the films that had the best campaigns rather than the best quality. Plus, this year’s round of nominations completely stunk. We know all of this already. We’ve known it for years. We’ve heard the same complaints leveled against the Academy Awards all year, every year, yet AMPAS can’t be bothered to do more than expand the limit of how many films can be nominated for Best Picture.

I so badly wish that I could skip entirely past the superficial glitter, the mindless glamour, and the campaign jockeying bullshit that goes into the Academy Awards. What I would give to forget about the awards and just focus on the good films. But in the end, I know that I can’t. Because in many ways, the awards are what makes the good films possible.

The truth remains that for whatever reason, the bull-headed and backwards-thinking people who run Hollywood still think that this archaic pastime is relevant. Why? Who knows? At a guess, it’s because of who gets to vote for the Oscars: Actors, producers, writers, directors, animators, executives… Basically, the people who make movies. So this process of voting for awards gives these people a feeling like their opinion matters for something, plus it’s a chance to receive (and give) praise from (and to) their peers. In such a notoriously ego-driven town as Hollywood, I’m sure that last point counts for a lot.

Whatever the reason, everyone in Hollywood wants those awards. Far more importantly, they want those awards so badly that they’ll greenlight movies for no other reason. Seriously, does anyone out there think that Warner Bros. would have spent so many years and hundreds of dollars in research, development, prep, production, and VFX work for Gravity if they couldn’t have milked that film for awards buzz? Bullshit.

Even when the plan backfires, we all still benefit from it. SelmaInherent Vice, and Nightcrawler were all famously snubbed for the Academy Awards this year, and some say that it’s just the latest sign of the Oscars’ growing irrelevance. That may be so. But those are three movies that people love now, and people may continue to love them for years to come, and I guaran-damn-tee you that not a single one of them would have been made unless the filmmakers were able to use potential awards buzz as a selling point.

The sad, simple fact remains that as long as those who make movies continue to care about awards, filmmakers will continue to use them as leverage to make daring, intelligent, great works of cinema that otherwise never would have found financial backing. Or top-tier talent. Or, let’s be frank, an audience.

To that end, I will now begin work on my annual list of predictions. And when the Oscars air next Sunday, I’ll liveblog just like every year. God help me.

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