The Cruelty of Award Shows

trophy_chestI used to enjoy watching award shows like the Oscars but not so much anymore as I’ve gotten older and realized how silly it all really is when you think about it. For example, when it comes to art, who do these voters from the Academy think they are to tell the world what the best picture was? It’s an opinion and that means it’s highly personal and subjective. Thus, they really need to stop calling their categories Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, etc. and call them Favorite Picture, Director, Actor, etc. Because at the end of the day the “winners” are just those fortunate ones that this arbitrary group of 6000 plus voters happen to pick that year. Period.

If you look at the selections over its 88 years you will cringe at the dreadful decisions they made. I won’t go into to much detail here with examples but look at the winners for Best Picture and Best Director over the years and compare them to the nominees they defeated and you will not believe your eyes. Again, I will repeat and state that these things are all highly biased and subjective so your mileage will vary.

It seems as if there are too many award shows too. For example, there are like a dozen award shows just for country music! Where do these people have time to ever create their music or films if they are always going to award shows to pickup their hardware?

The other thing I don’t like about award shows is how cruel they can be to certain individuals whose work I truly love. For example, here are just a few people who have never won an Oscar despite their stellar work in distinguished careers. Who knows why the academy has never decided to reward them.

Exhibit A: Thomas Newman.

Thomas Newman is my favorite modern day composer and he has been honored many times in his career with 13 nominations at the Oscars but unfortunately he has never won the golden guy. He’s 0–13! How is that possible? He has had many great chances but his best chance was the year American Beauty won Best Picture, Direct, Actor, etc. His soundtrack was fantastic and played a critical role in the success of the film but somehow he still lost. His soundtrack for “The Shawshank Redemption” is considered one of the best of all-time but still…he lost again. Just like all his other wonderful works like his soundtrack for “Finding Nemo”. Go figure.

Here’s an interesting coincidence. Thomas comes from a talented family of composers. His father is legendary composer Alfred Newman who won an astonishing 9 Oscars! Yet, his brilliant son is 0–13. But wait there’s more. Guess who’s his cousin? Randy Newman. Yup. The famous composer who went a record-tying 0–15 at the Oscars before he finally won an award for his song “I’ve Got a Friend in You” for Monsters, Inc. Randy Newman’s 15 nominations without a victory is a record that he shares with late art director Roland Anderson and late composer Alex North. It looks like Thomas could break it in a couple of years.

I thought this was going to be his year because he was fortunate enough to do the soundtrack for a Steven Spielberg film for the critically acclaimed “Bridge of Spies”. Spielberg usually has John Williams compose his films, which he’s done for over 40 years but due to health issues Thomas Newman stepped in and did a phenomenal job. The irony is that Newman competed again John Williams who was nominated for the 50th time (he’s won only 5 times) for the score for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” but they both lost to Legendary Ennio Morricone who finally won his first Oscar at the age of 87 for his score to Quentin Tarrentino’s “The Hateful 8”. I guess you could look at this as the silver lining for Thomas Newman… who at age 60 still has time to win an Oscar.

Here’s another example of the cruelty of the Oscars. Once again it’s in the music category for some reason. Legendary songwriter Diane Warren has been nominated 8 times for best song but she’s 0–8. Her best chance seemed to be this year with Lady Gaga and their majestic and important song “Til It Happens to You”. However, the Academy chose yet another James Bond theme song… the ponderous and meaningless “Writings on the Wall” by Sam Smith.

Here’s Diane’s 0–8 track record

Sometimes the Academy tries to make up for its mistakes by rewarding someone for something that wasn’t even their best work. Good examples are Martin Scorsese who lost many times including in 1980 for “Raging Bull” to “Ordinary People”!!!! He finally won for “The Departed” which was a good film but not on a par with many of his “Losers”. Another example is Al Pacino (hey, notice a pattern here with the Italians?) Who set a record with 7 losses in a row before he finally won for “Scent of a Woman”

Steven Spielberg is an example of someone who just happened to create something too spectacular to be snubbed again with his historic “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan”. They could not screw those up, huh?

The Oscars aren’t alone in screwing things up. The same things have happened at the Tony Awards, The Grammy Awards, The Emmy Awards and on and on.

For example, at the most recent Emmy Awards the voters FINALLY got it right and rewarded John Hamm for best actor in “Mad Men” on his 8th and final nomination! He had repeatedly lost to a series of different actors including a few times to Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”). If you counted 4 other nominations he had lost in guest roles, Jon Hamm’s victory snapped an 0–12 streak. Hamm had become the male version of Susan Lucci who has the all-time record of losses before winning with 18 losses in a row. Angela Landsberry has the current longest losing streak with 18 losses in a row.

I guess the best analogy I can make is by using the art world as an example. Choosing best film, director, actor and others would be like trying to pick the best painting this year….or the best sculptor this year. Really? Where do you draw the line? Best Abstract painter…. best pastel painter, etc. You get the point.

I loved what Pete Docter said after he won for the wonderful Pixar film “Inside Out” for best animated feature film (deservedly so I might add). “This film was really born out of watching our kids grow up, which is not easy,” Docter said, holding his Oscar. “Anyone out there who’s in junior high, high school, working it out, suffering — there are days you’re going to feel sad. You’re going to feel angry. You’re going to feel scared. That’s nothing you can choose. But you can make stuff. Make films. Draw. Write. It will make a world of difference.”

Pete nailed it. He concluded his acceptance speech by saying “We get to make stuff!” which is really what it should all be about anyway. Forget all of these stupid award shows because it’s just like the days in high school lunch rooms with cliques of tables where the cool kids sit together. Write. Draw. Paint. Play music. Whatever it is you love to do and inspire people and move them.

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