Is the Academy relevant in 2022?

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New Years’ resolutions are great in concept: note a systemic problem in your behaviour, create a plan to resolve said problem, implement said plan, and then bam! New year, new, improved you. In practise, though, you know that this isn’t the reality. Will you ever replace your nightly TikTok binge with a healthy chapter or two of Sartre? Not a chance, and Tanya Burr slander is equally intellectually stimulating anyway.

Most of the time, failing to meet these trivial promises is no big deal, but if you’re the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and your resolutions are not trivial (to readdress the lack of racial diversity in your judging body and you still haven’t achieved that), then you better get a wiggle on. Even in 2022, out of 87 members not a single one is Black.

Reflects a wider shift of power in the industry

Despite the spotlighting of representational issues in the film industry by campaigns such as #OscarsSoWhite in 2015, the HFPA has failed to commit to any tangible change to their practises. As a result of their inaction, NBC has refused to broadcast the Golden Globes, marking a significant breakdown of their longstanding, $60 million-a-year relationship. It’s a catastrophic loss of both financing and status for the HFPA and reflects a wider shift of power in the industry: the promotion of the consumer as the enforcers of change, and the demotion of awards ceremonies as an indicator of a film’s success.

In the last decade or so, the function and authority of awards ceremonies has come into particular question. Accusations of ‘Oscar-baiting’ (whereby films are released and marketed specifically to boost their chances of being awarded) has muddied critical opinion of anything released between September and the new year, whilst the emergence of stream- ing services into the production market has prompted audible backlash. In short, awards ceremonies’ interaction with the commercial interests of the production firms is slowly but surely catalysing their demise.

Stephen Spielberg himself lobbied the Academy to block films by streaming services from consideration, arguing that as they had guaranteed audiences, and committed only to exceptionally limited theatrical runs, they were automatically skewing their perceived artistic merit. Although his objections were not acted upon, thankfully, the influence of commercial factors has not totally overpowered film awards ceremonies’ judging criteria. Though the Addison Rae-fronted He’s All That is disturbingly watchable (as viewing figures of 55 million households would attest) it is no Citizen Kane, nor Paddington 2.

One of the most important and irreplaceable merits of the awards ceremonies is not the recognition of the commercial achievement of the production companies, but the acknowledgement of the mammoth artistic efforts made by the behind-the-scenes crew. Whilst with a cinema screening the only way to persuade the audience not to scatter at the sight of the credits is to insert a bonus scene after they end, awards ceremonies offer a protected space that cannot and should not be removed.

Awards ceremonies will never completely disappear

Realistically, awards ceremonies will never completely disappear. They are irreplicable in their placement as events which shape and are shaped by history. As ‘first x to be awarded’ continue to occur, the topography of the filmmaking landscape develops and serves to constantly redefine the purpose of film as a social art form. Best Picture wins for Moonlight and Parasite have, in recent years, set the tone and expectation that the film world is on the horizon of the most diverse and rich artistic phase of its existence. Which is why it’s so disappointing that progression in improving representation, such as in the HFPA’s case, remains so stagnant.

The Golden Globes and Oscars will only preserve their status through targeted and conscious effort: they must grow and develop

Awards ceremonies such as the Golden Globes and Oscars will only preserve their status through targeted and conscious effort: they must grow and develop, and reflect the influences and demands of social, artistic, and commercial factors with awareness as to the message they communicate. If they find that resolution too complicated, might we suggest ‘do better’?

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