The Academy Awards: Good looks and/or a prolific career

It’s that time of the year: Academy Awards season, once again, has swept the country with its multiple controversies and feuding politicians by simply showing a pretty face in a designer outfit with a big smile. The big payoff isn’t who wins, as Joan Rivers prophesizes, but what they wear and how they look, or how she – as well as other fashion critics – thinks they look.

The Oscars this Sunday is supposed to be an awards show, not a fashion statement. Everyone can admire a movie star for his or her looks and income 364 days a year. One Sunday night was not destined to become the biggest clothing revenue booster of all time, but became one through propaganda.

Looking at the event historically, two professions have surfaced from it: a professional on-screen career and a nonprofessional off-screen career. The results are fairly clear: A performance in a film such as “Gigli” will bring down a professional on-screen career, and an actor who is truculent with the media, such as Viggo Mortensen, will have a less prominent off-screen career.

The awards themselves are now presented almost entirely on quantity, not quality. The actual winners get to walk home with a statue and some acclaim, but they get this opportunity not from their recent performances, but their career performances. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has presented itself as having an awards show that tries to honor the most deserving, yet best, performance from an individual or picture. The career performance theory is illustrated by Johnny Depp’s best actor nomination. However, every once in a while someone like Sean Penn not only deserves the award the most, but actually gives the best performance.

Everything taking place at these ceremonies is based on opinions, and nothing about them ever amounts to anything after daybreak. The actual nominees seem to get nominated based on reviews and release dates. When I read a Sunday edition of The New York Times and see that a critic thinks that “Holes,” Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance in “Freaky Friday” and Ellen DeGeneres’ performance in “Finding Nemo” should have been contenders in the best picture, best actress and best supporting actress slots, respectively, I wonder where the acclaim actually went. Bribery has become a very popular topic in American media lately, but it could just as well be a coincidence that all three of those were Disney productions.

In the end it really does not matter who wins, because each awards show is like a newspaper – it just has a longer expiration date. I think Charlotte Rampling playing Sarah Morton in “Swimming Pool” said what I am trying to say very bluntly when talking to her publisher about this motto, “Awards are like hemorrhoids – sooner or later every asshole gets one.” I am merely analyzing the situation for a few of its faults.

Maybe if these film stars would stop worrying about their egos and start worrying about their professional careers, some things in this modern world could have a more significant meaning.

Matt Fischbein is a University film studies and pre-architecture student. Send comments to [email protected]