With the award ceremony season truly upon us, Liz Hyder tries to work out what all the fuss is about
It's that time of the year again when the film industry gets ready to gather itself together, dust off its finest frocks and head to Tinseltown to pat itself on the back. But is it also time to consider if Oscar really stands for anything other than industry indulgence in today's multi-ceremony world? Awards ceremonies have been a part of the film world since the creation of the popular 'movie', but with Baftas, Golden Globes, Writers Guild Awards and many, many more giving every film the opportunity to claim that it is 'award-winning', are awards becoming increasingly redundant?
For a long time it has been clear that the success (i.e. box office takings) of a film has nothing to do with awards (witness if you will, the phenomena of The Lord of The Rings trilogy or the popularity of the Farrelly Brothers - Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary, Shallow Hal etc.) and the Oscar judges have a long history of ignoring talent. Hitchcock never won an Oscar statuette and Scorcese's mantelpiece continues to be Oscarless, yet the films of both auteurs pop-up more frequently in lists of critical top tens than multi-award winning films like James Cameron's tedious Titanic.
As for the effect of these prestigious awards on the careers of the winners - there seems to be little evidence that it makes a great deal of difference. Cameron hasn't made a memorable film since Titanic, Nicole Kidman's ascendant star will continue to rise despite being ignored for her performance in Cold Mountain and Tom Cruise just, well, carries on. And yet, there's a great deal of power behind the Oscars, financial power that is. It's arguable that our very own Nick Park would never have made Chicken Run if his plasticine figurines hadn't nabbed two Oscars and brought Aardman to the attention of potential investors.
It's difficult to resist the excitement around the Oscars but the media frenzy surrounding these and the other major awards ceremonies seems to have overtaken the real reason to why the ceremonies were created in the first place. As long as the Academy Awards continue to be swayed in their judgement by the perceived 'worth' of a film (tortured genius, AIDS, tortured genius with prosthetics and so on) rather than its artistic merit, then the best part of the whole thing will be laughing at the ridiculous outfits, bad plastic surgery and coiffures of the stars. Whilst it's heartening to see that City of God, Whale Rider and In America have been nominated, it's worth remembering that the Academy Awards are an American institution and, if the US nominees don't win this year, it will be more to do with political appearance than a change deep down in the hearts of the voting panel.