I want to talk about the annual cavalcade of booze and frocks that is the film awards season.
It kicks off in November with the self-aggrandising (if nebulous) Hollywood Film Awards, and runs all the way to the Academy Awards at the end of February, which have traditionally been timed to cap the season (there was a bit of jostling a few years ago with the BAFTAs and Golden Globes).
During these four months, films which would usually be marketed as counterprogramming switch places with Hollywood blockbusters on the marquees, audiences and critics alike debate the worthiness of nominated projects, and the Weinsteins go to bat.
It’s a great, big soul cleanser for Hollywood, which in recent years has become so focussed on blockbusters that none of them are true tentpoles any more. It allows Hollywood the peace of mind to sit back, relax, and for the next 8 months keep aggressively depriving original projects and up-and-coming talent of decent opportunities.
We can see the shift in Hollywood’s focus reflected in the films nominated for (and winning) the big awards. Comparing the 90’s to the last ten years, the best picture Oscar winners used to include big, Hollywood originated films like Forrest Gump, Braveheart, Titanic and Gladiator. In the last ten years, the winners have almost exclusively been small, independent movies, such as Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and 12 Years A Slave. Some recent best picture winners overtly search Hollywood’s soul for redemption: The Artist, Birdman, Argo…
“But what does all of this mean?” you cry.
Well, it’s just a theory, but by my reckoning, if the major LA based awards keep going to movies made outside of the studio system, then the studios will no longer feel the need to try to inject any worthiness into their large films. Even the much heralded MCU produces films which are, at their best, weak allegory for generic geopolitical fears (Captain America 2) or jocular updates of proven formulae (Guardians of the Galaxy).
Studio blockbusters will continue to spiral off into spectacle, then, and a secondary industry will arise, producing more intelligent, mid-range action/adventure films, epics and historicals. You could argue that this is already happening, given recent independently produced hits such as Gravity, Lucy or Kingsman: The Secret Service, which were more thrilling, debate-sparking and romping than any studio blockbuster in recent memory.
Great, then. More of that, please. Hollywood has lost itself. Let someone else pick it up.