Why I Love The Academy Awards
by Mandi Harrison
I’ve loved watching award shows since I was in middle school. I had a routine- snacks, the prime seat on the couch and a notebook and a pen, where I would log each nominee and the eventual winner, as if my documentation was a pivotal component of the actual process. I did this with every award show, but my absolute favorite was The Academy Awards. As time passed, I got my own TV, and I moved from the prime couch spot to the comfort of my bed, and eventually the number of award shows shrank and the notebook disappeared. But my love for the Academy Awards has remained.
To me, the Academy Awards are a celebration of film. It is a lot of pomp and circumstance, and there is almost a mathematical formula to the way the awards are won, but it is still thrilling to watch. To the writers and directors and producers and actors and the thousands of people it takes to bring movies to the screen, it matters. Storytelling and film-making is a way to preserve history and the Academy Awards is a way to honor that history.
It’s well known that The Academy Awards, or The Oscars as they are more commonly referred to, are long. They are scheduled for 3 hours and the running time often goes longer. There is a structure for the ceremony, starting with the supporting actor categories and then going into the special presentations and the technical awards, leading the way to the top awards of the night, including Best Picture. There are montages and presentations and performances galore, including the In Memoriam segment, in which to honor those who have passed away. With so many segments and speeches, it’s no wonder the telecast goes over the scheduled time.
There has been much controversy about how to shorten this year’s ceremony. The Best Original Song Nominees banded together, saying that they all would perform or none of them would after it was announced that only two of the nominees would be permitted to perform. And up until a few days ago, four of the award categories were going to announced during the commercial break and shown later in the show. The categories that were to be awarded off-camera were Best Live Action Short, Cinematography, Film Editing and Make Up & Hair. After MUCH protesting by filmmakers of all backgrounds, the Academy announced that all awards would be presented on screen. As they should be.
I know the Academy is trying to boost ratings and cut the time down. The Oscars are trying to be a tentpole event (trying to cater to all audiences), when they are for a niche market- true movie lovers. I personally think the show should be 4 hours long. Just plan on it running that long and allow all the winners to have their moment to shine. The Above The Line Awards, Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and the Acting awards are what the mass audiences tune in for, but the Below The Line nominations, for editing, sound, cinematographer, set production, wardrobe- these are what the true movie lovers want to see. The Oscars are the only awards program that televises the awards in these categories. These are the people who truly make the magic happen- it’s only right that they get their due.
“It’s an honor to be nominated.” It’s said so often, it starts to sound pretentious. There are many benefits to being nominated. First one: future employment. Many directors work with the same people on multiple projects; they’ve established a trust. Producers will put together packages with the director and the crew members they work with and if the director’s preferred cinematographer is Oscar-nominated, that can mean money- for the director, the cinematographer and the overall film budget. Having a crew that has been nominated and won Awards is extremely beneficial to the production. These are the people that bring the film’s world to life. They are the ones that fulfill the director’s vision.
Some of the categories that either weren’t going to shown at all or televised live are also the roles that make the biggest impact in a movie’s production. Representation is key factor- it’s not just an issue on screen; it’s behind the scenes as well. In 2019, we are still having firsts and breaking records for women and people of color in nominated positions, let alone having more equal representation on set. Last year, the first female cinematographer, Rachel Morrison, was nominated. The year, the first black woman, Hannah Beachler, was nominated for Production Design. Every year, there are new accomplishments. It’s both exciting to witness and irritating that it has taken this long to happen.
Cinematography: To quote Alfonso Cuarón, nominated this year for Roma, “In the history of CINEMA, masterpieces have existed without sound, without color, without a story, without actors and without music. No one single film has ever existed without CINEMAtography and without editing.” Yes, he may be nominated, but he has a point. This year’s nominees have all created something special in order to bring their director’s vision to the screen. Each of the nominated films: Roma, Cold War, The Favourite, Never Look Away and A Star Is Born has a beautifully unique view of their world.
Film Editing : The final, edited film is considered the final draft of the screen play- it’s where the story and the director’s vision comes together. Great editing can save a film. Example: The Accused with Jodi Foster. When that movie was made, the way the story was being told had the men in the test audience actually cheering as Jodi’s character was being raped. This was not the reaction or effect that any of the filmmakers wanted. The producers, the director and the editor reworked the story through editing and in the end, they had a movie that not only empowered women to speak up, Jodi Foster also won the Oscar for Best Actress.
Makeup & Hair- Whether it’s a period piece, a sci-fi thriller or a biopic, the hair & makeup teams involved in a movie have a huge task. If the actor doesn’t look natural or believable in their role, the audience finds it hard to sustain belief.
Best Song- I love movie soundtracks, especially if the movie is a musical. I love watching the performances of these songs, they often lead to memorable moments. This year, the Academy was only gong to have 2 of the 5 songs nominated perform- Shallow by Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper from A Star Is Born and All The Stars by Kendrick Lamar & SZA from Black Panther, aka the only 2 songs playing on the radio. Nothing against the two songs- they are bops and I love them, but I want to see the other songs be performed as well. I’ll Fight, by Jennifer Hudson from RBG is songwriter Diane Warren’s 10th nomination. I’ve never seen The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but David Rawlings and Gillian Welsh should get their moment. And “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns made me straight up bawl in the theater; Bette Midler is going to be performing it at the ceremony- I will no doubt be crying again. Getting to see these numbers performed live is a different way of getting to see the movie.
I’ll be watching the Academy Awards this year as I always do- complete with snacks and a prime viewing spot. I’m excited to see who takes home the Oscar for Best Actress (my money’s on Glenn Close!), but I’m just as excited to see who’s going to win for Film Editing and Cinematography. Movies may seem trivial, especially when there is so much darkness in the world, but movies are needed now more than ever. They document and reflect the times, as well as provide hope and an escape. The Oscars are a celebration of those films, a recognition of the work that goes into that. They remind me that as much structure and business practices goes into making movies, it takes just as much magic.