K&M Commentary: Awards Season Should Be All About the Movies

(CLICK HERE to read my full essay on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

For movie fans, awards season should be fun. It’s the time when we get to focus on movies, specifically those considered by many to be the best from the previous year. It’s when regional critics groups around the country dole out their lists of big winners. It’s when we watch as voters for BAFTA, SAG, Critics Choice, the Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards (among others) hand out gaudy statues to their favorites films, performances, and so on.

In non-pandemic years, the bigger and often-televised celebrations of movies come with posh, over-the-top, red carpet extravagance, where questions like “Who are you wearing?” are as prevalent as “Tell me about your movie.” Meanwhile we critics are sent everything from massive coffee table books to metal flasks with shot glasses from studios promoting their films during awards season.

But deep down it’s all about the movies (or at least it should be). It’s all about celebrating the people in front of and behind the cameras who impressed us the most. I know for some it’s almost passé to say you enjoy awards season. After all, putting together Top 10 lists, predicting the big winners, watching on Oscar night – it all means little when it comes to the subjective notion of the year’s “best” movie or performance. Still, there’s value to be found in these silly albeit long-running entertainment rituals.

If you frequent the mercurial wildlands of social media it may be hard to tell whether people enjoy awards season or not. In fact, there seems to be a growing urge to critique and criticize everything from the nominees to how the nominations are announced. It’s hard to tell whether folks take these things too seriously or if they find complaining more fun than the movies themselves.

But make no mistake, there is plenty to be excited about this awards season. Take “The Power of the Dog”, an unconventional Western from Netflix that has a lot of Best Picture momentum. And its director, Jane Campion seems to be the front-runner for Best Director. Prior to this year, only two women have ever won an Oscar for directing. A Campion win would be the third and second in a row following Chloé Zhao’s 2021 achievement.

Then you have “West Side Story”, Steven Spielberg’s surprisingly glorious adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s classic musical. There are so many ways this movie could have failed. But after big wins at the Golden Globes, 11 Critics Choices nominations, and Ariana DeBose winning every Supporting Actress award under the sun, “West Side Story” is a legitimate and worthy contender to “The Power of the Dog”.

And what about Kenneth Branagh’s heartfelt and heartbreaking “Belfast”? It too received 11 Critics Choice nominations and is viewed as a potential big winner. But while it does have a passionate following, unfortunately “Belfast” finds itself as this year’s designated punching bag, fashionably dismissed by too many as little more than a feel-good crowd-pleaser. Could it be one of those films that racks up the nominations but wins little? Personally, I’d love to see it ruffle a few feathers on Oscar night.

There are several other compelling storylines unfolding. For example, “Drive My Car” – a three-hour Japanese road drama that has gathered steam as it has made its way through critics circles. Could it pull a “Parasite” and sneak into the Best Picture race? And Kristen Stewart, a sure-fire Oscar nominee coming out of Venice but who has since lost the Golden Globe to Nicole Kidman and missed out on a SAG nomination altogether. Suddenly her Oscar chances are completely up in the air.

Those are the types of conversations that make awards season such a blast. And while crowning any one movie or performance as the year’s definitive “best” is an impossible undertaking, these things still “matter”. In most cases the winners will be added to a long and esteemed list. Many will see boosts to their careers and opportunities opened up that they would have never had before.

So here are a couple of tips going into awards season. 1) Don’t take them too seriously. 2) Keep your focus on what’s most important – the movies. They’re what brings smiles to our faces and tears to our eyes. They transport us to distant worlds and force us to wrestle with our own. They can warm our hearts or trouble our souls. They can be funny, scary, thrilling, or romantic. Movies do all these things and more. So let’s kick back and enjoy the celebration.

9 thoughts on “K&M Commentary: Awards Season Should Be All About the Movies

    • Thanks so much. But that’s kind of my point too. Part of enjoying them is not taking them so seriously. But there are some people out there who get all bent out of shape. I like scrutinizing them and even debating them. But I’m not going to lose any sleep.

  1. Wonderful essay, Keith. If I could find an awards entity that paralleled my own preferences I’d be happy. Is “The Last Duel” in there as a contender anywhere?

  2. I never take these awards seriously. It took me a long time to understand it. Now let’s hope this year’s ceremony isn’t the mess that was last year which I didn’t watch because I didn’t see anything that came out that year. Now, I’ve seen 4 of the nominees for Best Picture with 2 available on my fire TV!

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