Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why the Awards Season Really Does Matter

The cinematic juggernaut that is The Artist continued steamrolling toward the Best Picture Oscar with several wins at the Golden Globes this past Sunday. Not too shabby for a black-and-white silent film from France that initially scared away several distributors before being picked up by The Weinstein Company. Anyone who has seen the film would say that these awards have been justly earned based on the film’s quality, and they would be correct. The Artist is an absolute delight. However, that doesn’t stop industry cynics from crediting this silent film’s accolades to one of the most aggressive campaigners in the history of awards, Harvey Weinstein, who is anything but silent.

The validity of film awards has increasingly come under question over the years, and the lengths to which awards campaigners will go to win awards for their films are the stuff of legend. Listen to rumors and hearsay, and you’d think that Weinstein stops just shy of threatening murder to get his films the recognition they deserve, which leads many to believe that these awards are meritless and unimportant. But I’d like to take this opportunity to make a bold statement: They’re wrong.

Ask any filmmaker or production studio, “Who do you want in your corner come Oscar season?” and you’ll more than likely hear them say Harvey Weinstein’s name. That’s because they recognize how important these awards truly are. The value of having “Academy Award Winner” stamped on a DVD cover is immeasurable; in fact, it is almost required if an independent or foreign film hopes to sell any copies at the local Target. That’s because, for the average moviegoer, the Oscars provide a quick summary of the best (well, one version of the best) films in a given year, films that an average moviegoer may not have had access to in their local movie theater.

I can speak to this issue from a personal angle. As a young film lover growing up in small-town Texas, my first chance at seeing a film like The Artist would’ve been home video. Films that run for weeks in LA or NYC cinemas never make it as far as Southeast Texas, so I used award nominations and critics lists as a guide to what I should look for at my local movie rental. Although the circumstances have changed a bit (rentals have given way to iTunes and Netflix), the basic facts are still the same: many great films don’t reach a broader audience until after they leave the cinema. That’s why these films need the awards season, and that’s why we need it, too.

-- Stephen Jannise, Film Program Director

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