Will the Oscars consider a film without a campaign? No. Which is odd really when you consider that those with the task to pick the nominees should quite like films and you know, watch them without being told to. In short, the Oscars no longer serve to shine a light on the myriad of creative minds responsible for the ever- growing and differentiating cine- landscape; and its list of best picture nominees is all you need as proof of that.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if any of the nominated films are bad, there aren’t any head scratchers but at least that would have been interesting. I’d just like to know why a company has to move heaven and earth to get the Academy to have a look at a Kajillionaire? If they’re truly for the art, then a great film should be enough for it to be considered. Hell, even in it’s white-washed rudimentary days (which arguably it’s never left) a category was tailor-made for the likes of Shoeshine (1947) to get the award it deserved.
They’re never going to please everyone and that’s fine; not everything can be nominated, Bacarau and Saint Maud (both 2019) aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. That is as much leeway as I’m willing to give though. Some things are objective – in what world does The Trial of The Chicago 7 (a film with a screenplay I’m quite fond of), deserve a nomination for cinematography if we can’t make room for the likes of Da 5 Bloods, His house, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, or First Cow.
Thankfully, we live in an age of Letterboxd where people who have access to them can tell us about the indie films stuck in a cycle of festival runs, only really accessible to those already in the industry and the nominators that won’t nominate them. That’s another problem – these films aren’t accessible to anyone because the Western film industry simply doesn’t care. Parasite (2019), a film by an already legendary director that had even won the Palme d’Or, didn’t even really get distributed to theatres nationwide until it won an Oscar.
Without the pandemic shoving the hard craft of last year’s creatives onto our laptops, making it easier to view these films by other means *ahem*, I wouldn’t have seen half the films of 2020 that I did. It’s a vicious, unfair cycle of distribution; without heeling over to piracy how is a regular film fan meant to see the likes of Kill It and Leave This Town? Even a year and a bit later I still couldn’t tell you where you could watch Black Bear.
Covid shoved everyone into the same sinking ship, the upside of that (you would have thought) would have been film festivals would no longer be restricted to random cities that really, only the elite can make time to attend, but brought to us all virtually. That didn’t happen obviously because TIFF, Sundance, and the rest somehow managed to keep ticket numbers finite – what? How is the screening of The Assistant possibly sold out? The event is glorified Netflix at this point. That’s the problem at its core – no one can complain about the Academy’s choices because they haven’t been given the opportunity to see the others; It’s infuriating to stand, shaking my money at The Father but no one will let me see it.
Distribution of film is a tricky one because if you chuck everything into the cinemas, we aren’t going to get a Never Rarely Sometime Always, because whether or not it gets made will depend on how much it can compete with the Avengers. So yes, it’s a blessing that we get a second option, but it also alienates so many potential buyers as well as leaving a host of excited fans to find the films by their own methods. There’s never going to be filmic Bandcamp equivalent, there’s too many mitigating factors, but whether or not someone who knows about a film gets to actually see it shouldn’t depend on if the Oscars appreciate it or not.
Alfie Ayers is a Year One Screenwriting student at the University of Suffolk.