Column: The downfall of the Oscars


Award show season has already descended upon us. Nominations have been released for the 91st Academy Awards (which will air on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. CST), where the winners will receive a shiny gold trophy to signify their accomplishment. Yet, this shows fail to excite me, and I have grown more disappointed with the nominees and winners over the years. From controversy plaguing the show to lackluster nominations, this year will be no different, if not worse than the years past.

An Academy Award does hold prestige, but why? After all, many works in the film industry have merit and deserve the recognition that these award shows bring, yet are overlooked during the nomination processes in favor of more popular works.

Each person has their own taste in movies, so each year’s nominations and winners are never going to be suited to everyone’s liking. However, there are always snubs for nominations and wins that most moviegoers and film critics alike believe were deserved. It has also become apparent in recent times that these awards value audience-approved and well-liked films rather than films that have true merit and and are unique, which begs some questions: is this show (or was it ever) important, and what has caused its decline in credibility?

While the Academy Awards are not bad at choosing films based on merit, they seem more inclined to choose films that are released during “Oscar Season,” the months towards the end of the calendar year in which films are released to increase their likelihood of garnering a nomination. From the eight nominations for Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards, all but “Black Panther” were released from August to December of 2018 in at least one location, and  — with the exception of “BlacKkKlansman” and “Black Panther” — had their worldwide releases from October 2018 to January of 2019. The Academy members seem to be easily swayed by the films that are fresh in their mind.

Furthermore, the nominations also lack diversity in genre. Over the years, horror films have been severely lacking in nominations for Best Picture, with only six ever being nominated and only one winning, “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1992. A lot of the films nominated are serious dramas with heavy themes or films centered around social issues. This makes it nearly impossible for films in other genres to win an Oscar, and the nominations and winners become more predictable every year.

This lack of diversity could just be a coincidence, but it seems more probable that the lack of diversity in members of the Academy may have contributed to this. Currently, the Academy members are only 31 percent women and 16 percent people of color, which indicates that most of the nominations are made by white males. They tend to have similar tastes in what movies they enjoy and what they believe are deserving of a nomination, often those geared towards older audiences.

The Academy Awards lost even more credibility when the committee vaguely announced on Aug. 8, 2018 that they were going to implement a Best Popular Film category for the 91st Academy Awards, which would have focused on films that grossed higher at the box office. After severe backlash, they ultimately decided they would not follow through with it this year. Adding this category would have tainted the “merit” component of their selections, and its announcement showed that the Academy is aiming to gain more of a mainstream audience to care about the show. While popular films should get recognition, it should be for their content and merit rather than their box office revenue and amount of press.

A major aspect that keeps shows going is viewership, and the number of viewers for the Oscars have plunged in recent years. A potential reason for this is that the shows seem disconnected from today’s audiences and what films they care about. Not to mention, people who only care about award results can simply search up the winners online. Regardless of the reason, it appears that people are truly starting to care less about seeing awards shows in their entirety.

The Academy Awards is, of course, ultimately mindless entertainment, really meant for the celebrities who get to dress up and attend. Yet, each year the glitz and glamour of this award show will continue to fall away for the rest of us as we see through the marketing tactics they are trying to pull.