Are the BAFTAs and Oscars losing their golden allure?
- Credit: PA
Film award shows seem to be losing favour with audiences. Arts editor Andrew Clarke wonders whether its because the audience for movies is changing and the Oscars and BAFTAs are reacting by rewarding the wrong films.
With the BAFTA film awards turning on the glitz this past weekend, it’s clear that Oscar season is now in full swing. It’s film awards galore at the moment and on Sunday March 4, cinema’s fun-filled carnival lets off its biggest glitter cannon for the American Academy Awards.
But, there is a feeling abroad, particularly if you read posts on social media, that perhaps the film awards season are starting to lose their allure.
Facebook and Twitter posts are complaining that BAFTA spent an interminably long evening rewarding films that either nobody has heard of or no-one wants to see.
While I don’t agree with this in the slightest; the three big winners: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Darkest Hour and The Shape of Water are worthy winners and are stunning films, along with fellow nominees: Dunkirk, Blade Runner 2049, Lady Bird, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and, don’t laugh, Paddington 2; but, I think what the Twitter-sphere is worrying about is the fact that Oscar-films/award-season movies no longer have the profile that they once did.
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In the past Best Film categories used to be dominated by films that were both great films and crowd-pleasers: everything from My Fair Lady and Lawrence of Arabia to Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love and Gladiator.
However, just recently awards season movies have got smaller, more serious, more art-house. Films like Twelve Years A Slave, Babel, Argo, Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight are all fine, engaging films but didn’t linger at many multiplex cinemas. Sadly, Moonlight, last year’s Best Picture Oscar-winner struggled to find space in the UK’s Top 100 films of the year.
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Because these films are deemed to be ‘serious’ films with a limited audience, this affects the marketing and promotion they receive. It could be argued that the studios themselves are selling their own films short. From the moment of their release, the majority of the awards season movies are thought of as being aimed at a niche audience. This is the result of changing dynamics at the box office and the way that the film industry looks to sell itself and what the awards bodies are looking to reward.
These days there is a definite perception of what ‘an award-season movie’ looks like, which, I’m sure, affects the way the cinema audiences view the films.
Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, Blade Runner 2049 and Paddington 2 are all excellent films and good, old-fashioned crowd-pleasers and, apart from Gary Oldman’s hugely deserved Best Actor win, you get the feeling that their nomination was always going to be their reward – that it was always unlikely they were going to walk away with one of the major prizes.
Film awards are ostensibly there to reward the best films of the previous year but as the majority of the films are released to the general public during the December to March ‘awards window’, their real role is to act as a marketing tool.
If you have a well-made niche movie, dealing with potentially difficult subject matter, a movie like I, Daniel Blake for example, it is easier to sell it to a wary mainstream audience if you can put phrases like winner of three Oscars and four BAFTAs on the poster along with a clutch of five star reviews.
It’s amazing how quickly films disappear from cinemas or the number of prints dwindle after a potential BAFTA or Oscar winner fails to bag any of the top prizes. The film remains the same but the studios suddenly appear to lose faith in their own product.
As we all know, the world is changing, cinema is changing. The film industry is a commercial business and it evolves to meet the needs of its audience but I can’t help but feel that we may be seeing a sea change in the way that film awards are viewed by the general public.
At the moment, film awards, certainly the big events like the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars, are seen as star-studded outreach events for the industry but, if this week’s social media is correct, then people are starting to lose interest in awards events and you have to wonder whether that is because the movies being lauded no longer speak to the mainstream audience .
It will be interesting to see whether the slide in viewing figures for The Oscars will continue this year? If they do, will the Academy start to change the films they reward? If so, will the awards be devalued? It’s a tough one.