Articles: Movie Awards: What Do They Really Mean?




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Jim Stevens

   There are enough movie awards out there to inspire or depress just about everyone. Here are some of the most popular awards. Which one's are meaningful is, well, up to you.

Academy Awards (Oscars):
   Despite the money and Hollywood politics that influence the Oscars, it is still the award most sought by artists and studios. An Oscar on the living room mantel can increase an actor's image, drawing power and higher asking price for a movie role. For studios, it's that "Oscar Winning" tag they can stick on their advertising to get more people to plunk down the cash for a ticket or improve the movie's syndication revenues later.
   The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927 by 36 film artists and studio representatives who wanted to see the improvement and advancement of their craft from within – by fellow craft members. Since then, the Academy Awards has grown into a media event all its own.
   Voting is done by Academy members and membership in the Academy is by invitation of the Board of Governors. It is limited to those who have achieved "distinction" (yeah, it's vague) in the arts and sciences of motion pictures. Members represent 13 branches (14 if you count Feature Animation separately) - Actors, Art Directors, Cinematographers, Directors, Executives, Film Editors, Music, Producers, Public Relations, Short Films and Feature Animation, Sound, Visual Effects and Writers. Oscar voting is strictly limited to motion picture professionals voting on the work of their fellow professionals in the movie industry.
   Unfortunately, if the last awards are any indication, money does seem to have an impact on Academy voting. The two movies that won the most awards for 2000 were also the two movies whose studios spent the most money promoting their films among Academy voters.

Golden Globe Awards:
   Many believe the Hollywood Foreign Press' Golden Globe Awards are less influenced by the cash and promotional efforts of Hollywood studios simply because newspaper and magazine critics generally disdain promotion and are just plain cynical by their very nature.
   The Hollywood Foreign Press members represent magazines and newspapers with a worldwide circulation of over 100 million in the following countries: Argentina, Austria, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Latin America, Lithuania, Malta, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tahiti, Thailand, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia.
   The HFPA currently presents awards in the following motion picture categories : Best Picture, Best Picture – Drama, Best Picture – Comedy, Best Picture – Musical, Best Picture – Musical Or Comedy, Best Picture - Outdoor Drama, The Samuel Goldwyn International Award, Best Foreign Film, Best Foreign Language Film, Best English Language Foreign Film, Award for Promoting International Understanding, Leading Actor, Leading Actor – Drama, Leading Actor - Musical Or Comedy, Leading Actress, Leading Actress – Drama, Leading Actress - Musical Or Comedy, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, New Star Of The Year, New Star Of The Year – Male, New Star Of The Year – Female, Juvenile Performance, Director, Screenplay, Original Score, Original Song, Cinematography - Black & White, Cinematography – Color, Award for Use Of Color, Cecil B. DeMille Award, World Film Favorites Award, Special Achievement/Other Award.

Cannes Film Festival Awards:
   Each year, festival organizers select an international jury from writers, actors, directors and other film professionals from a variety of countries who then sit in review and judgement of those films deemed worthy for consideration. Few films or individuals submitted for award consideration ever make the final cut. (There were over 680 entries for the year 2,000, but only 23 were finally considered for the Best Picture award.)
   This is certainly an international event by virtue of those who attend. Yet, here too, money seems to speak loudly. The unashamed promotion of competing films by their respective studios is nothing short of feline in its fierceness. And because the festival is an actor's who's-who list, the paparazzi are always there to interview and help the shameless promotion along.
   But the promotion of all these films has as much to do with deal making between sellers and buyers as it does with winning an award. Distribution deals and other million dollar decisions are often concluded during the short span of the festival between those with movies to sell and those willing to buy into them.
   This award has its detractors who decry the way the jury is sometimes stacked. . .er. . .selected, or the mercenary business dealings that constantly go on behind the scenes, but overall, this seems to be another one of the few awards that really mean something in both dollars and prestige to those in the business.

The People's Choice Awards:
   The People's Choice Awards are different from most Hollywood award shows. Instead of the winners being selected by a group of their show-biz peers or executives, the winners of the People's Choice Awards are selected through a Gallup poll of the general public.
   People are polled for their opinion about their favorite movie & TV stars, favorite singers, and their favorite films and TV programs.
   Those polled are free to name any star they like as their favorite; their choice is not limited to a handful of nominees.
   The only problem with any Gallup poll result is finding anyone who actually admits to having been polled by the Gallup Organization for the award. Can so few really decide for everyone? It's all statistics, anyway. And it's also no secret that identical numbers have often been used to support diametrically opposed positions in the past. It's all in how you choose to interpret the numbers. Still, this one seems to be a favorite with the actors.

MTV Movie Awards:
   Joel Gallen, the producer of the 1999 MTV Movie Awards said it best: "We try to keep the show fun and irreverent -- never taking ourselves too seriously. That's why we make no apology for giving a 'lifetime achievement' to Chewbacca or Clint Howard or rewarding the 'Best Kiss' or 'Best Fight.'"
   The MTV folks list the categories and nominees and then take votes from the public. Fun awards show, but with the irreverence so far over the top, can anyone set any real value on the award itself?

Film Critic Societies:
   Well, there's a bunch of them. There's the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Society of Texas Film Critics, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the National Society of Film Critics, the National Board of Review, the Online Film Critics Society, and the list goes on.
   There seems to be a favorite film critic to please just about everyone's taste in films, and awards by groups like these attempt to blend the individuality of those many opinions into a homogeneous standard. A standard even the critics tend to criticize. I guess they just can't help being themselves.

Blockbuster Entertainment Awards:
   This annual award is determined by voters through the Blockbuster video chain. For the 2000 awards, over 25 million votes were cast in over 50 categories, which, according to Blockbuster, makes it the largest publicly voted award/award show in the world honoring favorites in movies, music and video games. Motion picture nominees are chosen from the lead and supporting actors and actresses in top performing movies of the year (which means those that made the most money at the box office). Music artists were proposed based on top-selling albums. And video games were slated from best-sellers in the game world.
   Newly announced was the Independent Filmmaker Award to be given to moviemakers annually, as of 2001. Application information and contest requirements for the Indie award are available at Blockbuster's web site for those interested.
   This is a relatively new award (six years old at this writing). It's importance within the industry has grown steadily, especially with their prime time TV annual awards show. The only problem here could be with a magnificent performance by an actor hidden away in a small movie or one that didn't tip the box office income scale far enough for the movie to get nominated in the first place.

The S.A.G. Awards:
   The Screen Actors Guild recognizes its members each year with this award. Non-members are not considered. The Screen Actor's Guild is the union for actors. They're affiliated with the AFL-CIO through the Associated Actors and Artistes of America.
   Two randomly selected panels of 2,100 SAG members from across the United States select the nominees for television and motion pictures. The final ballot then goes out to the entire active membership of the Guild, approximately 98,000 members.
   The SAG awards began in 1995, and because it takes place just before the Oscars, the competition is seen by many as a prelude to who will win an Oscar, since the Academy is still deciding on who their winners will be when the SAG awards are announced.
   This televised awards show exclusively honors performers in thirteen categories for acting in film and television. The SAG awards focus on both individual performances as well as on the work of the entire ensemble of a drama series and comedy series, and the cast of a motion picture. They also include a Life Achievement Award, and they also take time to acknowledge the work of different segments of the Guild’s membership. In past years, the awards show has paid tribute to stunt performers, background singers, dancers, background performers, animation voice-over performers, and commercial actors (although paying tribute is a far cry from actually winning an award in a recognized category for your work).

The Golden Raspberry Award:
   The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation™ has been annually dis-honoring the worst achievements in film since 1980. The Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards have grown into what The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards (yes, there's that many movie awards today) now calls "the most widely publicized bad movie awards". Categories range from the obvious (Worst Picture, Actor and Actress) to the obtuse (Worst Remake or Sequel and Worst Screen Couple). Only members of the foundation can vote, and anyone can join by simply paying the annual dues.
   Founded by John JB Wilson, The Razzies are a parody of award shows in general and The Oscars in particular. The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation's award has always been directed at Hollywood's big budget box office bombs rather than the easier targeted low-budget fare.
   Worst Picture dis-honorees have included Howard The Duck, Hudson Hawk, Leonard Part 6, Mommie Dearest, Showgirls and Pia Zadora's The Lonely Lady.
   Worst actor dis-honorees have included highly regarded but project-misguided stars such as Bill Cosby, Kevin Costner, Laurence Olivier, Madonna, Burt Reynolds, Prince, Brooke Shields, Bo Derek, Razzie poster child Pia Zadora and all-time Razzie champion (with 8 wins -- and 21 nominations) Sylvester Stallone.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards:
   Tired of playing second fiddle to the Oscars, the Orange British Academy Film Awards has announced The Orange British Academy Film Awards will move forward to February from now on- exactly one month prior to the American Academy Awards.
   This places the BAFTA awards in a higher profile promotion role during the pre-Oscars lobbying process. All films released in any given year are eligible, and film companies will also be able to qualify films due for release in early in the award year. Nominations for The Orange British Academy Film Awards will now be announced at the end of January.
   Winners are selected through the personal vote of the Academy's members following the system of selection with the appointment by the Council each year of a Panel of Judges to select a short-list of films for each category.
   To outsiders, the BAFTA Awards look very much like the Academy Awards, just in a different country.


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