Little Golden Statues

In the darkness of winter, especially in northern climates, people often succumb to something called S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder. The afflicted often become moody and depressed. I don’t suffer from S.A.D., but around this same time of the year, I do find myself experiencing something I would call A.S.D. or Awards Season Depression.

I know this post will likely offend people or at least generate a response of eye rolls. That is not my intent. Many who know me know my disdain for awards, and I wanted to explain why I find things like awards to be personally meaningless and, even on many levels, dangerous. 

Let me ask a hypothetical question: Your spouse, who works in the art industry in some form, has been nominated for an award. And you can vote in this category. Of course, you love your spouse, and you may convince yourself their art IS the best in the class. But what if you didn’t think it was? What if you have a clear preference for someone else’s art? Do you still vote for your spouse over what you think is better art?

Of course, you will. And to me, the entire validity of the ‘Awards for Art’ idea is now broken. How often do we see posts on social media from friends and relatives, ‘I’m nominated, please click here to vote for me!” Notice what they never say: “Please click here to watch all the nominated projects, and then vote for the film you truly feel was the best work of the year.” Moreover, any of us who have ever voted and would be honest about it would admit that we often vote against something as much as we vote for something. I have not voted for films simply because I held some strong personal opinion about the nominee or the film. Another reason I now no longer choose to vote.

The ideas of ‘best’ and ‘art’ have no possible overlap. There is nothing more subjective than art. There are no measures that can be quantified. How exactly do we decide? Box Office? Avatar would win every award. I doubt most of us would be happy with that outcome.

The entire idea of art awards seems meaningless to me. A Finnish director once told a friend of mine:

“A film is not a racehorse.”

How true. If we’re racing cars, and your vehicle crosses the finish line before mine, congratulations, you deserve a little shiny trophy. If you can sprint faster, score better on a quantifiable test, and achieve more points at ping-pong, great. But art awards, by their very nature, can only be popularity contests, and they should hold about as much weight as who got picked first for kickball in 4th grade.

Sports competitions have limited participation. The World Cup always consists of a set number of teams, with strict rules governing which sections even get to compete. The Oscars, in theory, allow any film released that year to participate (with some specific rules, but most movies released theatrically in a given year are qualified to be nominated). Last year, for example, there were 301 eligible feature films. How many did you see? How could you vote for any category when most of us likely saw somewhere between 20 and 50 films from that list?

People who defend the awards point out that the awards are places to come and celebrate our art. I’ll agree with this, to a point. But the awards have to sew division and set us apart and into competition. They imply and outright say, ‘This art is better than that art’ and by extension, ‘this person is better than that person.’ 

The sound branch for years was divided into two awards, one for editing and mixing. Forget that the vast majority of Academy Members likely didn’t understand the distinction, those of us in the field often recognized a film would win in one category for what we all felt was the world of the other: a film would win the mixing award that most of us thought was due to the editing, or vice versa. I was glad to see the sound awards united into one, if for nothing else to reinforce the idea that a ‘soundtrack’ is unified between the parts: editing and mixing are simply two parts of a joint endeavor. The combing of the awards was the best thing to happen to them.

But the awards also often bring out fighting about who gets nominated. With a certain number of nomination slots, there have been numerous instances where key people have been denied a nomination in favor of others. Last year, there was some drama about who should have received the nominations for Top Gun, a film with two crews working on it from two different countries. I will refrain from MY opinion, but many people saw the outcome as unfair.

And ultimately, that is my biggest complaint about awards. In one instant, I often DO feel something is unfair and unjust. And then I realize just how ludicrous those feelings are. To feel something was unfair and unjust, I must also feel there was something that would have been fair and just. But the very nature of art belies these concepts. They make no sense here, at least not to me.

And so, as we come into A.S.D season, I tend to shy away from social media and the endless campaigning and self-aggrandizing posts, the endless ‘behind the scenes videos’ that suddenly start popping up are full-page ads in the trades. I recognize that the awards are simply an extension of marketing and hold about as much value as a Super Bowl commercial. The entire enterprise is simply a part of the larger money-making machine, another way to sell your movie.

Some good things can occasionally come out of these awards. Winning one, I’m sure, can increase your pay for the next movie. And occasionally, a great, small independent film will be lifted out of obscurity by a nomination, which is always a welcome outcome. But the dark underbelly of the awards is that people believe they are ‘worthy’ of such awards. Which means they have to believe that others are not. Competition is healthy in sports. Not so much in art.

And so I’ll long for spring, the long exhale after the last Little Golden Statue has been handed out, and be happy that for the next eight months or so, I don’t have to think much about them.



  1. I’m currently resisting the urge to submit this fine piece to the G.A.N.G. awards in their publication category! 😉

    Largely in agreement though with some slightly different (admittedly less experienced) perspectives. Enjoyed reading this ahead of a trip this very weekend for just such an event.

  2. Of course I’m sure if I ever get nominated for or win a major award I will think its the greatest thing ever but am very much in agreement with your thoughts and sentiment here. Having a film I worked on this year get nominated for Best Sound at the Academy Awards sure felt very cool despite my name not being on the ballot so I can imagine how I may have felt had my name been on that ballot! Someone once told me that awards (especially the Oscars!) are a bunch of nonsense unless you are nominated, then you think its the best thing ever 😀 But in something as subjective as art and cinema it is near impossible to categorise anything as ‘best’ not to mention it is near impossible for everyone voting to have seen all the films in the early ballots and long lists! I remember when I was growing up and starting my journey in sound as a young teen I wanted to become the BEST sound engineer in the world (I was doing music stuff then). Now I realise how ludicrous a thought that is. There is no such thing as being the best in our line of work. There is only great work and unique voices. So aspiring to find your unique voice and doing great work should be what we aspire to.

  3. Thanks for sharing on your blog! 🙂

    I guess and I believe we’re just in service of the art.


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