After almost a week of consideration, my tradition of being able to conjure up any strong opinions regarding what has or has not been nominated for an Academy Award – or any other award – continues unabated, it seems.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig were nominated for Best Director but also would have been happy to see Patty Jenkins take Christopher Nolan’s slot. I also would have accepted Edgar Wright, whose work with Baby Driver is some Fred Astaire level stuff.
It remains difficult for me to get worked up about who was or wasn’t snubbed, though. Sure, I have my opinions and you’re going to have yours and we can debate that. That’s what you do with art, not rate it as if its values can be extolled numerically.
In Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams’ John Keating dismisses out of hand that poetry can be analyzed and measured to determine its value. “I like Byron, I give him a 42 but I can’t dance to it!” he says, mocking that such a scale is even possible. And he’s right.
To be clear, I have this same issue with any sort of awards show in any industry. Each has its own agenda in what it decides to give accolades to that have little correlation with…well..anything. They are all industry conventions where members of the industry are celebrating themselves, pretending they are coronating some work or works as “important” by doing so.
The Grammys are frequently (and rightly) chastised because the choices they make for nominees and winners are held up as culturally representative and important, even if the winners themselves are not. In the ad industry, awards often go to “creative” work that stands out for legitimate reasons, ignoring that the goal of advertising is commerce, not artistic expression.
When critics put together a list of their best movies of year, that’s wonderful. Take them for what they are: Subjective opinions based on that person’s experiences with each film that both did and did not make the list. Use them to inform your own viewing choices. It’s also alright to say “I know this is supposed to be one of the best movies of the year, but I really just want to have a beer and watch The House.”
Don’t get worked up over awards. It doesn’t matter. That Wonder Woman didn’t make the cut of Best Picture nominations doesn’t make it any less of a stellar film with an inspirational, aspirational story and solid direction of a confident performance by Gal Gadot. If you want to take Denzel Washington’s Best Actor nomination as a chance to check out Roman J. Israel, Esq. after having previously dismissed it, cool. If not, that’s fine too, Karen.
I’ll watch with interest to see what wins because it is informative, culturally, to see what is being heralded. I’m curious to see if the newfound realization that non-white people exist in the film industry translates into any wins. But that’s about it. For the most part, I just can’t get worked up about it.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.