Understanding Awards Season

 

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(The New York Daily News)

Awards Season is here again! Awards Season, of course, consists of those precious months when the best and brightest of the film industry are celebrated in a series of three-hour long patience marathons where indulgent Hollywood stars thank their friends for giving them awards. However, before we judge these ceremonies for their length, their irrelevance, and their tendency to pick obscure films, we must explore the ways in which they work.

Most ceremonies can be divided into three categories: the self-congratulatory ceremonies, the press awards, and the People’s Choice Awards. First, we must begin with the Academy Awards (or Oscars), the most prestigious award in the American film industry. The Oscars are organized and voted upon by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an organization of more than seven thousand men and women from across the film industry. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists includes actors, producers, writers, directors, editors, publicists, and representatives of other related disciplines. Every year, members of the Academy from each discipline vote upon the nominees for their occupation’s category (except for Best Picture, which is open to all members). Then, after the nominees are selected, all Academy members vote for each winner in each category. Finally, at the official Oscars ceremony ( which occurs on February 26th this year), the winners are announced.

Interestingly, voting changes initiated in 2009 transformed the Oscar voting procedure from a popular vote system to a run-off voting system. In a run-off system, voters rank their favorite movies based on their preferences. This system ensures that polarizing films might not receive enough high rankings to win awards; however, bland movies ranked second or third might win under this arrangement instead.

Currently, the Academy is currently quite racially homogenous. Diversity has been a huge problem for the Academy that it is attempting to remedy. According to The Los Angeles Times, “forty-one percent of the enormous new class [of members] is comprised of people of color, bumping the overall academy from 8% to 11% people of color.”

Other major awards given by industry insiders include the various Guild Awards. Each of the individual unions representing workers in Hollywood (such as the Screen Actors Guild, or SAG-AFTRA) host a major award show (such as the Screen Actors Guild Award, or the SAG Awards) to recognize the spectacular work of individuals in a specific discipline. To create a list of nominees, each guild selects certain members to constitute a nominating committee, which creates and votes upon a nominee list. Once this list is put together, all union members vote on which nominee should win.

Some major awards are organized and distributed by the media instead of by film industry members. These awards include the second-most prestigious film and television award, the Golden Globes Awards. The Golden Globes are organized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), an organization comprised of journalists from over fifty-five countries around the world. These journalists organize the ceremony, nominate nominees, and vote to pick the best movies and television programs of the year. The wide variety of foreign viewpoints can allow less traditional films, Inside Llewyn Davis or Deadpool, to be nominated. Interestingly, the categories are divided by genre, so that two movies will be recognized as “Best Picture”: one movie representing Drama, and the other movie representing comedy.

Unfortunately, only one major award show this time of year takes into account public opinion: The People’s Choice Awards. At this event, both nominees and winners are determined by public, popular vote. Consequently, more mainstream-oriented fare, such as one of the various Marvel Studios movies or Fifty Shades of Grey, receive nominations or win awards. Furthermore, as the Golden Globe Awards, the categories are divided by genre, which ensures further diversity among the winners.

Now that you know how these award ceremonies operate, you can watch them properly. Now, if Moonlight loses the “Best Picture” award to La La Land or if Academy does not give Sausage Party the Oscar’s “Best Animated Feature” award, you should be able to understand why. Get those Tweets ready! Awards Season will be a show.

Benedict Burgess wrote this article.

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