Why Do We Take Awards So Seriously Anyway?


Like clockwork, the Directors Guild of America announced its five nominees for Best Director of 2014, and the internet exploded in anger. Two years ago, it was Tom Hooper and the nerve he had, I don’t know, using too many Dutch angles in his adaptation of Les Miserables. Last year was relatively quiet on the outrage front (though David O. Russell detractors had a field day all season trying to tear the guy down for paying homage to Martin Scorsese). This year, film fans had a field day tweeting (with hellfire and brimstone) all the reasons why Morten Tyldum and (for God’s sake) Clint Eastwood are the worst human beings to grace planet Earth. Why? Because they each received a pat on the back from their colleagues. Seriously.

I write this post every year, and every year, it gets harder and harder to enjoy what should be the most enjoyable time of year for film fans. We’ve just left top 10 season, and everyone’s must-watch lists should be overflowing with quality titles. End-of-year releases are starting to expand nationwide. (I mean, have you SEEN Inherent Vice yet?) And the filmmakers, actors, and craftsmen and women we so admire are deciding who among them achieved greatness this year.

That should be enlightening and fun, but as a community, we seem more and more determined each year to tear down the one or two choices we’ve collectively decided are unworthy. Morten Tyldum, God bless him, directed a super entertaining thriller a few years ago called Headhunters that few saw because he and the film came from Norway. This is his first major American film, and people—including many of the 15,000 professional directors in the DGA—have responded to it very strongly. But we can’t be happy for him. Nor can we be happy for Clint Eastwood, still turning out an auteur’s work at the ripe young age of 84. We can’t even focus on the nominees we’ve decided we can like—Wes Anderson, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Richard FREAKING Linklater.

Some people really don’t care about awards, and I get it. Others say they don’t care about awards yet react angrily when David Fincher—someone with carte blanche within the movie industry—doesn’t get another citation from his peers. Other people take this so personally, so seriously when they’re favorite doesn’t get picked that I can’t help but wonder whether they know the film is the same film it was before this historic injustice occurred.

For the record, my five Best Director choices for 2014 would have been Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, the Dardenne brothers, and Christopher Nolan. Clearly, I did not get what I wanted, but that’s assuming I wanted anything out of the DGA—that it lives to serve my singular artistic values and opinions.

And I guess that’s my point: there’s no right answer here. I think people want their opinions validated, so we lean on the crutch of awards. And in the few cases that outrage is at least a little justified—for instance, the absence of Ava DuVernay and other female filmmakers and filmmakers of color—the problem is systemic. It goes way beyond Morten Tyldum and Clint Eastwood, and frankly, she still made the film she wanted for a major studio and she’s still the amazing person and great filmmaker she was before the DGA nominations came out. She’s arrived and, as she herself says, she’s a winner.

The 2015 Oscar nominations come out on Thursday, and I implore you: don’t take them too seriously. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the show when it comes in February. Celebrate your favorite films and performances, but leave the indignant attitudes at home. Film is meant to be enjoyed, and you’re sucking the life out of the room.

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3 Responses to Why Do We Take Awards So Seriously Anyway?

  1. Dan Heaton January 14, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I understand the importance of the Oscars to smaller films and people seeing them, but I agree that it’s hard to get too excited about “snubs” or who wins. I do enjoy the shows (sometimes) and finding out about films that I might have considered, but it’s entertainment. The idea of an “Oscar race” still doesn’t make sense to me.

  2. Wendell January 14, 2015 at 11:56 am

    As a life-long hip-hop fan, I take awards with a grain of salt. I remember the first year the Grammys decided to recognize rap music and awarded the very first rap album of the year to DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. It’s not that it was a bad album, it’s that it was clearly the safe, mainstream choice. As it relates to film, and every other type of award, I just let the powers that be award who they like and move on with life. I might express some agreement or disagreement, but it’s nothing I’m passionate about. That said, it would’ve been nice to see DuVernay snag a nom, but I can’t say I’m surprised she didn’t (the whole “systemic” thing). Great article.

  3. Brittani January 14, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Because they’re fun, John! I love Oscar season, yes the bitching comes with the package, but I rarely see “mean” bitching, more “amusing” bitching if that’s a thing.

    But I do try to say “snub” less for you. lol


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