The Gilded Race
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Every year, around February, a special day, swathed in red, arrives so people can express their affection and appreciation with expensive gifts and public proclamations of gratitude. The day, of course, is the Academy Awards, where this love of films is expressed through the Oscar.
“The Oscars are important as everyone should be applauded for their films. Whether they are a director or a costume designer, they all work hard,” says sophomore Audrey Lally.
The latest Academy Awards were held on February 26th, 2017, where Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, won Best Picture. However, regardless of phenomenal critical reviews and box office grosses, many students at Brashier Middle College did not think much of the nominations.
“I did see Hacksaw Ridge, which was nominated for Best Picture, because it seemed like a good movie, not because it was nominated. Nominations are not what a film is supposed to be about,” says senior Kyler Anderson.
General audience feel the Academy has no bearing on them and that their decision of what is best does not apply to them. Also, despite the outstanding victory of Moonlight, many still feel the lack of diversity of past years. It has seemed, though, with a record setting amount of nonwhite nominees in one year, that the Academy might be catching up with the times.
“It has been going a lot better, such as when Alfonso Cuarón, a Hispanic director, won Best Director for Gravity, it meant that things could become much more representative,” says junior Manuela Marquez.
Besides diversity, the Academy Awards has also been accused of nominating the exact same types of films every year. Whether due to a better pool of potential nominees, or to respond to this criticism, the Best Picture award may go to a different kind of film than usual.
“This year, the Oscars represent a very varied taste that includes documentary-type fact based films, social-realist dramas, and even big-budget musicals, all of which are well made films people can buy into,” says junior Ryan Jones.
This may all sound well because the Academy has traveled a long path to select their present nominees, but that path still stretches on for miles. Outside of acting, despite a few wonderful exceptions, there are still categories comprised entirely white males, which reflects the lack of diversity in the film industry, too.
“There was a movie recently called The Great Wall that takes place in China, but they had white actors portraying Asian characters. When I see that, I ask, ‘why, what’s the point?’” says Lally.
A problem like this seems simple enough to answer, even though implementation of that solution would be difficult. However, for an issue this important and relevant to everyone’s lives, no struggle can be too great.
“Many producers and studios are worried that their movies won’t be watched if they don’t cast white actors, but if they add diversity to all of their films, it will accustom the audiences to it and lead to the viewers to be more open-minded about other races,” says Marquez.
This plan may seem simplistic, but this acclimatizing is a basic fact of the human psyche, which goes back to a child’s very first viewing experiences.
“Movies can teach lessons, like when I watched as a young girl and learned my morals. If there were more diverse movies to watch in general, we can play them to children and teach them what is right,” says Lally.
In a year where a greater level of diversity is seen, these lessons could be starting to take place. The Academy Awards, and awards shows in general, could promote this wonderful progression and assist in the equality of all races and genders, or they could not.
“Award shows deter the creation of better films as they are solely for the producers who are aiming for Best Picture. With that, the studios lose sight of what they are portraying, so it hinders a film’s ability to be truthful so it meets up to Academy standards,” says Anderson.
These awards might just take away from the whole point of films: to be art. They can help with raising awareness of diversity just as easily as they can cause controversy over lack of equality. The good that can be done should not be discounted as long as the bad is prevented with progress. It is nice to win an award, but that should never get in the way of what everyone wants: a good film.
“Sometimes films get so much buzz that people only see the awards around them and not the deeper meaning. Whether it is Arrival that provokes thoughts on the nature of communication or Fences that makes you questions your role in your family, all films are meant to inflict deep, real emotions on their audience,” says Jones.