On the evening following the Golden Globe nominations, one of my Twitter followers, @KarenaDixon, sent me an article from @eonline questioning the point of awards.

"Increasingly, the movies Hollywood likes to honor are not the same movies people like you want to see," writes E! online's Leslie Gornstein. "The answer may kind of insult you...and that's that Hollywood -- the moviemakers and the critics -- seems to kind of not like you."
Leslie's basic premise is that critics and the powers-that-be behind the awards are essentially just effete snobs, thumbing their noses at anything that pleases the masses and does well at the box office (i.e., New Moon). The idea is ostensibly to place themselves in a holier than thou position. On the face of it, I do agree with this assessment. But that argument ultimately falls flat because there are no real reasons why this should be the case.

I have my own theory.

First, traditional Hollywood studios either acquire -- usually at or following film festivals, especially Toronto as it falls in September -- or finance and produce "Oscar" films -- those they feel will garner the most attention come awards season. Next, they distribute these movies, primarily via their "indie arms" (Fox Searchlight, Focus), usually in limited release on the art house circuit. Finally, they mount "Oscar campaigns" (i.e., buy the awards) by placing ads in industry trade publications and sending screeners and lavishing gifts upon potential voters. The goal, it would appear, is to win awards. But to what end?

The more awards a studio has the greater its cachet -- the higher its level of credibility and public perception of its artistic sensibilities. That lofty position then allows them to get the media attention and raise the money needed to produce and distribute the mass-appeal commercial fluff which feeds the bottom line, profits investors, and keeps shareholders happy. In other words, awards are simply a calling card -- a stepping stone to their true motivation -- which is to cater to the lowest common denominator, since that's what they do best.

Unfortunately you can't shine sheet, as they say, and no amount of awards to Fox Searchlight gives owner Rupert Murdoch a clean nose. But, ultimately, it doesn't matter what the public thinks or what the media says. The fact is, it's a formula that works. People still anxiously await awards season, conduct their office pools, and increase the box office profits of the nominated films by assuming they should be seen (not that some shouldn't be). Then the studios can go back to doing what they do best, watering down creativity to get butts in seats and fuel the cash registers.

That said, I can't dispute the fact that in the studios' drive to look proper and present an educated image, they do occasionally give voice to some artists and filmmakers whose work might otherwise never escape the festival circuit, thereby entering the indie ether, never to be seen or heard from again. And, for that, it just might be worth the charade.


Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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