Point by Bess Donoghue

For film aficionados, the time has arrived when the previous year of cinema is celebrated with award show after award show. Out of the many awards, the Oscars seem to garner the most attention, often generating many questions. What is it about the Academy Awards that make them so prestigious? Additionally, what is the value or even importance of such a show? Do the awards truly commemorate the previous year in film?

Unlike awards given out at the Golden Globes (chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press) or the Critic’s Choice Movie Awards (selected by premiere national film critics), the Oscar recipients are determined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which consists of 6,000 members directly involved in the production of film.

Members of the Academy vote for categories in their field of expertise–actors for actors, costume designers for costume designers–and all members vote for Best Picture. Instead of the media or critics honoring films, the most renowned filmmakers from all sectors of production can honor the year in film. The recipients of an Academy Award understand their work is well-received by the best of their field, and that type of recognition cannot be underestimated.

In the last couple of years, there has been greater awareness in the films recognized with Oscars. No longer does the Academy strictly honor Hollywood films. In the last five years, three independent films have won Best Picture, including “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.” One of this year’s most charming and celebrated films, “Silver Linings Playbook,” is also making a name for itself.

For some of these indie movies, they might not receive much recognition if it were not for the award season. These films with low budgets can grow in popularity as their titles are spread by word of mouth and eventually garner award nominations. These films face a competitor where other mainstream Hollywood films have a complete advantage: box office success.

If this past year of film was awarded in terms of box office success, the top five films of 2012 would have consisted of the “Twilight Saga,” “Skyfall,” “The Hunger Games,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and, box office number one, Marvel’s “The Avengers.”

While I’m a fan of most of these films, there is more to this past year of cinema than superheroes, 007 and vampires (sorry, Bella). Although these films are not recognized by the Academy Awards, these films speak for themselves with their success at the box office. Films from this past year without this type of popularity, including “Lincoln,” “Life of Pi” or “Argo,” have quality that deserve recognition. The Academy Awards looks beyond the box office and seeks to honor the films that are not only entertaining, but also aesthetically pleasing, well-written and – even more importantly – innovative. 

Throughout the year, there is a simple and quantitative way to acknowledge film achievement: the box office. However, when it comes to professional opinion in regards to the quality of that year’s cinema, the Academy Awards is a favorable outlet. The Academy is comprised of only the best within the film production field. If not for the Oscars, some of the best films of the year may not have received the recognition they deserve.

Counterpoint by Tim Hadick

Awards season is upon us. Movies that are just begging to be nominated have been selected, while others are just trying to hang in there at the box office. With the Golden Globes all handed out, we now have a good idea of who will win an Oscar gold or a Screen Actors Guild award. But what’s the point, really? Does winning an award really make a movie better than another? No, it doesn’t.

One might say recognition is the most important aspect of these awards, that directors, actors and production members are all being rewarded for their hard work. But the system of these awards has a fundamental flaw in how they are awarded: they’re all determined by votes from people that have no business voting.

Let’s take a look at how the three arguably most popular awards in the U.S. are voted on. The Academy Awards and SAG awards are voted on and nominated by the people who made the movies being recognized as well as others in the film industry. Those voting that have friends up for awards are going to vote for their friends’ movies, and older actors and producers are going to vote based on older perceptions of film – for example, this explains why “The King’s Speech” won Best Picture in the 2010 Academy Awards over “The Social Network.” This is a circle jerk for deciding awards, yet we hold their opinions to such high standards. The Golden Globes are unique in that they are awarded by asking foreign journalists to vote. But they aren’t voting solely to say what they think is the best movie or TV show in general. Their votes are motivated by picking movies that boost foreign relations with the U.S. Basically, all three voting pools have ulterior motives.

Well, what about critics’ opinions? The Critics’ Choice Awards are only voted on by broadcast members, meaning critics that work with TV or radio (along with a few essentially random bloggers). Where’s the representation from newspapers or well-known YouTube critics? Critics are evolving; newspaper critics are using more creative wording to appeal to readers and the Internet is allowing for more creative ways to gain popularity from viewers. We can’t be stuck assessing a movie’s value with old-style critiquing.

There is no good way to determine which movie should be awarded for its quality. Everyone has their own opinion. But the essence of movies is not about being rewarded. Movies are about sending a message to their audiences and stirring conversation. Movies bring us together in a shared experience that can be analyzed, discussed and, most importantly, to entertain us. Don’t let the opinions of critics – myself included – or the people behind the Hollywood curtain keep you from enjoying what you enjoy.