The Oscar Awards: Why Only One Film?

Oscar season approaches; a lone film will be hailed as the best picture of 2013. There are other prestigious awards to be given – Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor – but a single film, as whole, is called “the best”. I appreciate that such an award is given, but I have to ask this question: why only one film?

Hundreds of pictures are released per year. Many of them are downright dreadful, while others are finely crafted, elegant works. It’s not at all likely that, in a year, a solitary film so far outshines the others that there can be no doubt of its superiority. Oscar season is a competition. Several pictures are considered for the honor of being the finest of the year, before one is chosen from their midst. Take a look at the candidates from the year 2012, for example. But before continuing, please note…

…that the following summaries were gathered from YouTube and Wikipedia articles. Some I’ve altered; however, I wanted to give credit to my sources since most of these words are not my own.

…that one of the films was given an especially long summary. Not because I thought it deserved the most attention, but because its story weaves the lives of a multitude of people together. It simply could not be explained in one or two sentences.

…that I included no images of the movie posters. They made this post look messy to me.

Now, for the notable works of 2012:

Amour (nominee) — An elderly couple’s bond is strained and tested when the wife, having suffered a stroke, is left paralyzed on one side of her body due to complications from a surgery.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (nominee) — In a forgotten bayou community, an optimistic six-year old girl lives convinced that the natural world is in balance with the universe… until a fierce storm changes her reality. It becomes her mission repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father, the only parent left to her, and her sinking home.

Django Unchained (nominee) — With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

Les Misérables (nominee) — The film tells the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who, inspired by a kindly bishop, decides to turn his life around. He eventually becomes mayor of a town in France and owner of a factory in that town. He is always alert to the risk of being captured again by police inspector Javert, who is ruthless in hunting down law-breakers, believing they cannot change for the better. One of his factory workers, Fantine, blames him for her being cast into a life of prostitution. When she dies, he feels responsible and agrees to take care of her illegitimate daughter, Cosette — though he must first escape Javert. Later, when Cosette is grown, they are swept up in the political turmoil in France, which culminates in the June Rebellion of France.

Life of Pi (nominee) — While marooned on a lifeboat, a young man who survived a tragic disaster at sea forms an amazing and unexpected connection with the ship’s only other survivor — a fearsome Bengal tiger.

Lincoln (nominee) — In a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery.

Silver Linings Playbook (nominee) — After spending four years in a mental institution, a former teacher moves back in with his mother and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. He develops a friendship with a lonely, recently widowed woman who offers to help him reconnect with his former spouse.

Zero Dark Thirty (nominee) — For a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden.

Argo (winner) — November 4th, 1979. As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA exfiltration specialist concocts a risky plan to free six American hostages.

When going over this list, I was impressed with the number of films selected and with the variety they represented. Yes, I meant that bit about variety. Even though three of these works – Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty – have to do with historical US events, they deal with markedly different subject matters. Argo is a story about a daring, undercover rescue. Lincoln centers on a pivotal time in the career of America’s most famous president. Zero Dark Thirty follows the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden. These three films are distinctive works…

…as are all the 2012 pictures that were nominated. And that’s what makes me wonder more than anything else: why only one film? What made Argo more special than its brethren?

I cannot answer that last question, as I have yet to see Argo. Perhaps I will think it’s hideously bad, and that it in no way deserved the Oscar that it won. Perhaps I will find it mediocre. I prefer to think that I will be enthralled by it, that I will enjoy it and be able to say, “Ah, yes, I can definitely see why it won an award!” However, as good as I may potentially find Argo, my thoughts and opinions on the matter of the Oscars will not change. And they are that…

…it’s is a huge feat to be somehow distinct in an enormous crowd. Every year, a small number of films from a mass of literal hundreds stand out as truly noteworthy. I think that is wonderful. But that they’re considered to be the most excellent works a year had to give? That is indeed worthy of praise.

In 2012, and in all the years past, certain films commanded the attention of Academy members. Through their own merits, each work left so strong an impact that it was judged to be worthy of remembrance. I don’t think the relevance of a single one of these films would have been lost if ALL had been named “Best Picture”. Nor do I think that would happen for the nominees of 2013. In my mind, there has never been a reason why the term “best” should be exclusive to one thing alone.

Oscar Award

– Circuit B


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