The Oscars are fundamentally flawed

The Academy Awards, more commonly known as the Oscars, are one of, if not the most, prestigious awards a film can receive. Since its inception in 1929, 93 films have won the coveted title of Best Picture, soon to be 94 come March 27. Starting with “Wings” in 1929, and ending with “Nomadland” in 2021, the list of Best Picture winners is an incredibly useful source to see the progression of movies over the course of nearly 100 years. However, looking back at said list can also show the many pitfalls the Academy has succumbed to time and time again. With 94 years of history under their belt, the Oscars are in no short supply of embarrassing choices in the past.

Whether it was “Shakespeare in Love” winning Best Picture over the beautifully grisly “Saving Private Ryan”, or “Green Book’s” infamous recent win, the Oscars have never quite had the best reputation despite their perceived importance in the industry. The most common critique of the awards is that there’s a tried-and-true formula to crafting an Oscar-winning movie that can be completely devoid of quality. These kinds of films that are specifically meant to appeal to the Academy voters are often referred to as “Oscar-bait” and are looked down upon by most general audiences and critics. The Academy loves seeing period pieces, dramas about race, films set in Hollywood and dignified, elderly men yelling at each other. So while some films check a couple of these boxes and manage to still be works of quality, there’s always at least one film in the Oscar lineup that’s explicitly there to win awards and nothing else. This pattern can be seen even in 2022 with Kenneth Branagh’s heavily criticized movie “Belfast”, often critiqued for its use of Oscar-bait tactics that will inevitably win the film tons of awards.

Another, and possibly more unfortunate aspect to the Oscars is their “pay-to-win” nature. Year after year, amazing cinema will be released to the public, but will fail to even be nominated for an Oscar, simply because the studio didn’t put money into an Oscar campaign. The only movies that the Academy recognizes and pushes for are the movies that spend the most money on a campaign for their movie to win. Studios like Netflix, Disney and Twentieth Century Fox (a subsidiary of Disney), will spend upwards of $20 million. In 2018, Netflix spent $25 million alone on a campaign for Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma”. Meanwhile, a piece like Bo Burnham’s incredible portrait of middle school, “Eighth Grade,” was released the same year to no Oscar buzz, as A24 spent nearly nothing on its campaign.

As excited as I am for this year’s Oscars, it should still be stated that the Academy needs to be criticized far more. Far too often, good cinema will be shafted in favor of movies the Academy feels the obligation to reward because they checked the boxes. An award show like the Oscars should be about rewarding good cinema, not the corporations that distribute them.