Why The Oscars Fail, Every Year

Award season is upon us, which means one thing: The official countdown to the Oscars is here. But as The Social Network and True Grit lead the expected future winners, what about the movies that'll get completely ignored this year?

Here's the thing about the Oscars: There are movies that get nominated for everything under the sun, movies that get recognized for a few awards, and movies that get completely snubbed (Okay, there are also "movies that don't get nominated, but no-one really expected to get anything in the first place, because they were kind of crappy to begin with and, let's face it, no-one expects a movie like The A-Team to win any award whatsoever anyway," but let's not go anywhere near them, right now). It's a gimme; that the nominations will end up skewed in particular directions and there will be some kind of minor outcry over the performances and movies that didn't get noticed even though they were entirely more deserving than the inevitable winner. That's just what people expect from the Oscars.

And this week, I realized why that is. It's because the way the Academy Awards work is ridiculous.

We're getting near the end of the year, and if there's one thing that means for entertainment journalists, it's end-of-year lists. I've done a lot of the Best of [Name Your Year Here] lists, and there's two things I can tell you with absolutely no hesitation about them:

The best friend you'll have when putting together a list of the Best Of Whatever? Someone else's Best Of Whatever list. It'll remind you of what came out that year, what you liked (even if just in reaction to what the other person has said), and what other people thought. The problem with doing that, though, is that you're surrendering to group think, to an extent; you're letting your memory be dictated by other people, and so if you don't remember something and they don't think it's worth mentioning, it'll slip through the cracks.

And so, we get to nowadays, when the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America and all other kind of guilds - Hi, Felicia! - are announcing their own award nominees and winners, just as Oscar campaigning gets underway. And what, I ask you, are the Academy Awards, if not a slightly-delayed Best Of The Year list with added singing and dancing? I'd be surprised if the Academy end up voting for the nominees they do purely because, with the attention they're getting from other awards shows - and, of course, the infamous "For Your Consideration" ads that are already appearing - they're the nominees that people can remember.

I'd love to see someone come up with another way of working for these awards. Something that didn't rely on who could afford the most ads and screeners, or who was already in the headlines and the forefront of voters' minds at the time. I'm not sure what that'd be - Make voters grade every movie immediately after they've seen it, and then tabulate scores at the end of the year? No, that's ridiculous; what if they'd had a crappy day and disliked a great movie unfairly as a result? - but there's got to be some way to ensure that the love - and, perhaps, the little gold men clutching the sticks that I'm still unsure what they are - gets spread around a little more evenly and fairly. Hasn't there?

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