And the Award Goes To...

By Jennifer Allen

2018 is finally here. Along with all the talk about New Year's Resolutions and simply starting fresh, we get the onslaught of Awards ceremonies for everything from Best Actor or Actress to best Sound Effect or lack thereof in a film, TV movie, series, or some such.

I've come to have a love/hate relationship with all the Awards shows. Some are more interesting than others, to be sure. For the longest time we as Americans simply had the Oscars, the Emmys and the Tonys. All three were quite prestigious in respect to their respective genres. Later on we started seeing other ceremonies pop up such as the Golden Globes, the People's Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Critic's Choice Awards, and heck now there's even an Award ceremony for Sports stars.

In fact, from January 1 to June 30 you can't seem to get away from seeing your favorite star dressed to the nines in some sort of individually tailored tux or gown either presenting or receiving some sort of trophy that will no doubt become another dust-covered thing in their residence not long after.

Most of us get sucked in to watching said Awards shows for various reasons. Some watch it to see what sort of train wreck outfits will pop up. Others watch for the potential good, bad or weird acceptance speeches by the winners. Others still actually want to see their favorite celebrity finally get an award after so many years of being snubbed for one reason or another.

I get sucked in for all of these reasons, I'll admit. I do like seeing the outfits. I do laugh, cry and look on in shock when awards are being given out. It can be delightful or frightening when you see certain creative properties and/or people praised or snubbed on that fateful night. The overstaged or understaged musical performances for each of the “best song" nominees makes me either want to bob my head along or smack mute on the remote.

Despite all that, it seems that at least in the past few decades at least, Award shows have become nothing more than a glorified marketing campaign for entertainment studios.

Potential nominees for each of the various film categories are not simply noticed over the course of the year, but instead are strategically released and sent for consideration during the last quarter so that those who create the nominee lists will have them fresh in their minds. Many of the winners or potential winners of acting, directing, and screenwriting awards are from a story that is some gripping drama based on a real life event or about an individual who is either physically or mentally disabled/burdened because that is seen as “real acting..

The movie studios are relying on certain films to win simply so they can stamp “Oscar winner, “or “Golden Globe winner," in front of the film on DVDs or actor's name for a future film. It's all about making that next 10 million and keeping the executives happy.

What's most interesting is that the entertainment industry in the past few years has been changing drastically, and the Awards shows (save for one) have not changed with it.

For years we have had awards for Actor (male) and Actress (female). Now, however, we live in a society where not every person identifies as one gender or the other. Some of those people are also performers in film, TV, and stage. How do we categorize them when nominations go out? A better question is… should we categorize them at all? Only the MTV Movie Awards in 2017 has managed to demolish the gender barrier and simply had “best performance by an actor." It's a step in the right direction, albeit a very small one.

We also have the addition of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon creating story serials which are finally receiving critical acclaim. These are not specifically television shows, and yet they are placed in television awards categories for consideration. Why? Sure you can watch them on your TV if you want, but you can also watch them on many other devices. Should there be a separate category for them, instead?

Brilliant acting performances are also being further explored with the innovation of motion capture. In recent film, TV, and even video game projects we are seeing some amazing characters portrayed behind the CGI. Sure you don't see the actor's true features in many of these, but the emotions in their face, movements and voices are very apparent. To date, the Oscars have nominated exactly one animated acting performance for an award: Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin. While Williams did an amazing job, there have been many, many others since then who also deserve recognition.

The Emmys do have a “best voice acting" award which is given with all the other tech awards on a separate night. That doesn't seem to do the genre or the actors involved in it true justice.

The recent uproar surrounding the lack of nominations for people of color or women has also brought forth a lot of controversy. While #OscarssoWhite debate made an impact, in the end it was only a droplet in a larger pool. Last year was the first time that both an Indian actor and a black actor of Muslim faith were nominated for major awards, but they were both surrounded by more established white actors. Unfortunately, certain white male actors still get more people in their seats, so we as an audience only have ourselves to blame for that.

I think that we will see the Awards and how they're considered change to better accommodate these innovations to how we experience our entertainment. The question then becomes… when? When we stop buying something just because it has “Oscar winner" slapped on it would be a good start. When we all realize that not all good acting performances are based on a white man pretending to be crippled or dying is another.

The movie executives still believe that it's all about the money… so we as their audience must start fighting this realization with the two most powerful tools we have: our minds and our wallets.