Every year, the film industry is granted two months in which the geniuses of decades past and present are celebrated and brought to the forefront of pop culture.
However, as awards season draws to a close, the criticisms intensify once again, all following a similar line of argument: is this all simply a spectacle of self-congratulation validated by the media?
After all, the Academy Awards alone costs tens of millions of pounds to host every single year, factoring in the host’s fee, venue fee, catering, performers, the cost of making the statuettes and of course the dresses. While the parade of beautiful actresses competing like pedigrees at Crufts’ to be best in show and the media storm over “who” they are wearing provides the fashion world with a key event in their calendar, the frock show inevitably detracts the attention from the films themselves and feeds the point of view that their celebrity stars are the true focus of the awards season spectacle.
Indeed much of what is televised and promoted revolves around the obviously talented actors and actresses that the audience is familiar with. The equally talented and hardworking editors, animators, costume designers, cinematographers and general “behind the scenes” people are routinely ignored, their achievements included in an apparently tasteful five-minute segment at the very end of the televised ceremony. How many media outlets have been agonising over who will take home the no less coveted prize of Sound Mixing? Precisely.
However, the advantages of ‘awards season’ should not be overlooked in spite of the arguably biased presentation of the ceremonies themselves. In an interview with Edith Bowman on the BAFTA Red Carpet earlier this month, Birdman star Michael Keaton spoke specifically of awards season’s importance to the film industry in motivating filmmakers to create excellent drama in a world where blockbusters tend to offer a ‘safer’ financial reward. Without the awards shows offering huge exposure and prestige, would drama films lose their appeal to filmmakers and audiences alike? It’s highly unlikely that bigger studios would opt to fund and advertise films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel over the latest Fast and Furious without the motivation of a golden statuette at the end of it.
In the case of the Academy Awards, despite the multi-million dollar cost of hosting the event, the ceremony brings in an estimated 130 million dollars in to the Los Angeles economy, making the financial burden of one evening well worth the investment.
Now of course the film industry is awash with prestigious film festivals that some would argue are a better representation of excellence on a global, unbiased scale. However, the months between November and February are the designated time of the year for movies to dominate public consciousness and mainstream media. In spite of the contrived and biased presentation of the ceremonies, dominated by dresses and celebrity self-congratulation, the financial benefits of the ceremony is perhaps too great to dismiss.