Why Should We Care About Film Awards?

 
 
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by Leah Cathers

91 years ago the first “Academy Awards” ceremony was held. Tickets cost $5, it was not televised, and the awards presentation was done in 15 minutes. This year the audience hopes to reach 30 million, most of us will watch from our couches, and we’ll be lucky if it wraps in 4 hours. The question year to year remains, however: is this still relevant to film and why should we care?

Our consumption of film has evolved over the years, from an event worthy of fancy dress and a night out, to something you play on your phone, balancing on your pillow while you fall asleep. The distractions all around us when we view film this way can steal the impact that it might otherwise have.

At the opening of the 2002 Oscars, Tom Cruise said “We’re all here tonight or sitting at home watching because something came off a movie screen; a little bit of magic touched our lives.” I was 15 when that telecast aired, holding my breath to see if my favorite film of the year “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” was going to take home any awards. I hadn’t started working for the cinema yet but still spent my limited funds as a teenager to see it 13 times in the theater the previous year. I felt the magic Tom Cruise talked about. I’d been in auditoriums where people cheered as Aragon defeated the Uruk-hai and cried as Sam chased after Frodo. And then I felt the disappointment when “Fellowship” didn’t win, instead being passed over for “A Beautiful Mind” as Best Picture. But I took other things from that awards ceremony. I saw history made as, for the first time, an African-American woman, Halle Berry, won Best Actress. I had discussions with friends about other films that won instead and was introduced to amazing films because of this. The magic I felt because of one movie sparked a love of film and story-telling that’s carried me into my 30s. We need to allow space for that magic to grow, to take root and attach itself before we turn our attention to the next distraction.

Of the 8 films nominated this year for “Best Picture”, we are fortunate to have been able to view 7 of them locally at Cumberland 12 Cinemas on the big screen. Some were huge action pieces, fueling excitement and wonder, while others were quiet character studies, pushing us to focus on the humor or anguish of the characters. Either way, the ability to watch, uninterrupted by your dog barking at its own reflection or the eternal call of Instagram, brings a connection to the content that can so easily be lost in the noise of our lives. Take the 8th Best Picture nominee this year, “Roma”. This went straight to streaming on Netflix in the US. It allowed for a wide audience, but the beacon of “Watch Next” with a countdown clock the second the last frame plays doesn’t exactly call for reflection on what was just seen.

The awards season brings our focus back in, spending weeks or months talking about some of the most exciting and thought-provoking films of the last year. Whether the individual awards themselves matter in the long run is sort of irrelevant. Does it matter that in 2006 “Crash” won Best Picture, even if it was wildly derided by the public? No; but what does matter is the impassioned response that it fueled, getting people to discuss the ways to effectively show representation in movies. Does it matter if Casey Affleck was the Best Actor winner for “Manchester by the Sea” in 2017? No; but it did help push through introspection on publicly rewarding individuals with sexual abuse allegations. It matters when these discussions about films, stories, and performances become social debate, like in 2016 when the awards provided a platform to address the lack of diversity in the industry, or in 2018 when the Time’s Up movement began to call out sexual harassment and inequality in Hollywood and beyond. It also gives us a reason to remember that in a world where everyone can create content in 30 second Instagram stories, there is still something special about turning your attention fully to story-telling.

Catch 5 Academy Award nominated movies now at Cumberland 12 Cinemas and enter their Academy Awards contest to have a chance to win great prizes!