Having made my feelings about Christmas widely known, I’d like to make at least a small stride toward proving that I’m not the world’s crankiest curmudgeon by sharing with you, Anonymous Eyeballs, my passion for what I consider the third best American holiday (the first being Halloween, the second being Birthdays). Ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about Awards Season.
Specifically, I’m talking about everything beginning with Prestige Season, that wondrous time of year when Hollywood releases all its awards-bait-y films into the wild, at just the right moment—not so early in the year that the nominating committees forget about them—running into the earliest film critics’ awards (New York, Los Angeles), which I don’t care much about but still half-pay attention to, through your Golden Globes and your SAGs, right up until the Big Night Itself: the Academy Awards.
What’s the point? you may well ask. It’s just a bunch of rich and famous assholes congratulating each other on the piles of money they’ve raked in over the last year by duping us all into forking over $15 a pop for every movie we bothered to leave the house for. Or, at best, each ceremony is an exercise in frustration as the judges bestow trophies on the least deserving, least likely-to-endure films (I’m looking at you, 2006 Best Picture Academy Award winner Crash) and performances, while, at home, I rage at my television. (Seriously, how did Crash best Brokeback Mountain, which at least earned Ang Lee a Best Director, but STILL. Have you WATCHED Crash recently?)
Well, that kind of is the point. Who doesn’t love to scream at the television? Starting with the ridiculous red carpet ceremonies all the way through to the trainwreck potential of each years’ hosts (cough Franco and Hathaway cough), every awards night is an opportunity to indulge in some quality MST3K-worthy riffing.
Sometimes, though, there’s genuine entertainment to be found. The last three glorious years have given us the gift of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the Golden Globes, and the Dynamic Duo has managed to approach this duty the way they approach just about everything: with an insouciant goofiness. And because the initial airing of these ceremonies is also typically live, there’s room for actual surprise—mistakes that we can laugh at the next day, like the infamous Adele Dazeem moment:
Or heartwarming bits like the one Amy Poehler organized at the 2011 Emmys:
Or straight up WTF moments:
These shows are glitzy, sometimes self-congratulatory celebrations, but they’re often also tinged with a note of nostalgia, given that they’re commemorations of the best of what’s already passed. Although I’ve got a beef with Christmas, I sort of love the turning of the new year, not just for its symbolic, new-leaf implications, but for the opportunity to indulge in a little nostalgia, even for things that just happened. Sometimes the montages (particularly at the Oscars) get a little heavy-handed, or there are three too many of them, but ask me who’s going to be crying as soon as they fire up this year’s In Memoriam reel. (Based on Philip Seymour Hoffman alone, I will not be able to hold it together.)
But the best part of Awards Season is discovery. All my life, I’ve lived in towns and small cities—places with theatres that always get the blockbusters and family films, show an artsy-fartsy independent film occasionally, and nearly always miss out on a handful of movies I’m dying to see every year. In Anchorage, we’re fortunate to have Bear Tooth Theatrepub, which books a lot of great independent films and hosts an arthouse Monday. But as informed as I am and as many movies as I see, I always miss out on something.
With Awards Season, though, comes not just the bestowing of trophies but a whole conversation about the films that came out over the course of an entire year. Now that the Lord gave us the internet, it’s a lot easier to be part of—or, at least, audience to—that conversation, too. Movie critics, directors, actors, reviewers, writers, and even the average joe weigh in on what the film world gave to us each year, and from those musings I learn about movies I never would have heard of otherwise. When it comes to foreign films, especially, I’d never see most of them if not for the publicity Awards Season lends them.
Just this past month, I watched Love is Strange purely on the basis of the recommendation of a film critic on a podcast I listened to. The One I Love couldn’t have made my personal best-of-2014 list without an Awards Season-adjacent shout out. Likewise, I’ve added Two Days One Night, Force Majeure, and Ida to my must-see list thanks to the recommendations that have come out of awards conversations.
Do film awards ultimately mean anything? My inclination is to say yes when it comes to films and performances I’ve found deserving, and no when something like Slumdog Millionaire wins (I’m sorry; I just can’t with that movie) or when absolutely nothing that’s nominated seems worthy. But Awards Season can be meaningful when it results in creating wider audiences for those movies that don’t get any play on screens in Middle of Nowhere, U.S.A.
So bring on the glitz and glam, the weepy winners and the endless lists of thank-yous. Bring on the Jack Palances doing onstage push-ups and the host-interrupting streakers. (Dude, how amazing would a streaker at this year’s Oscars be?) Bring on my inevitable disappointment when Birdman beats The Grand Budapest Hotel for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) at this Sunday’s Golden Globes. Bring it all, this bounty of movie-related conversation! I am ready to celebrate the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.