Award Ceremonies: Profound or Past Their Expiration Date?

By Katina Handrinos

An event both famous and infamous has recurred every March since 1929. Celebrities, filmmakers, musicians, and actors all come together in celebration on this one night: the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars. With the 2023 Oscars right around the corner and the Golden Globes in January, talk of nominations and winners is in the air. But does anybody actually tune in to watch hosts tell the same tired jokes and see the same Hollywood big-wigs get a pat on the back? In this Hot Take of the Issue, award ceremonies like the Oscars and the Golden Globes are under the microscope, and The Banner is investigating if they’re really the end-all be-all of cinema. 

The Oscars and the Golden Globes are two prestigious and well-known award ceremonies in America that have been around for almost a century. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is behind the Oscars while the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or HFPA, backs the Golden Globes. Their respective members are film professionals such as directors, producers, actors, and executives. For the Academy, membership is through invite only; in 2022, Robin de Jesús of tick, tick…BOOM! and Anya Taylor-Joy of The Queen’s Gambit, just to name a few, were invited to join the Academy’s Actor Branch. 

While these ceremonies and organizations are, for the most part, widely-respected, recent news has caused people to take a step back and really look at these institutions. In 2021, the Los Angeles Times published a scathing exposé of financial and ethical lapses and lack of diversity within the HFPA. At the time, of the 87 voting members of the Association, none were Black. 

This systematic issue doesn’t just end with the HFPA. In 2012, the LA Times collected data about the demographics of the Academy’s members; of 5,100+ active voting members, 94 percent were white and 77 percent were male. Even beyond the makeup of the Academy itself, less than 4% of acting Oscars have been presented to African Americans and only two women, Kathryn Bigelow and Chloé Zhao, have ever won the Director category. 

While both the Academy and the HFPA have taken steps to diversify their associations, how relevant are these antiquated ceremonies now? When asked about her thoughts on these events, co-head of Film Club Lydia Morris-Kliment ’23 responded, “Me, personally? I don’t value them much. I think they once held a lot more prestige, but not so much anymore.” 

Associate Head of School Ms. Caspar, who worked in film production after college and has a master’s degree in film studies, mentioned her nostalgia for the Oscars and that she does take note of the award-winning movies. However, she also went on to comment, “I have little respect for either organization because Hollywood takes care of Hollywood. It is an insular, who-you-know industry, and cronyism and economics play a large role in decision-making. The industry has made few gains over the years in terms of racial, ethnic, and gender representation, sometimes taking one step forward and then two steps back.” 

When I consider the Oscars and the Golden Globes, while I’ll definitely look through the nominations and winners if I come across the lists, in my opinion, they’ve lost their shimmer. The whole song and dance reeks of sneaky marketing, greed, and ploys for a certain type of “acceptable” film to reign forever. These ceremonies can keep Hollywood crystalized in the past and discourage less mainstream, smaller budget movies from being recognized and getting the chance to be created. 

Without making the space for a greater variety of filmmakers that reflects America, would we have seen new classics like Moonlight get the praise they deserved? It will take industrial and systematic change to see even bigger steps in representation and recognition, and it’s not happening just yet. While I don’t think either of these associations or events are entirely sinister, the people behind them are not completely innocent either.