Politics of the Academy Awards

As Oscar season approaches, I thought I’d give my readers a little insight into the politics of the Academy. It should come as no surprise that the award season has always been political, but never fear struggling actors, I have three simple ideas that tend to at least guarantee a nod if not the award itself. Now we all know the Academy shells out for Holocaust flicks, thank you very much Mr. Ricky Gervais, so I’m gonna skip the movie categories and dive right into the acting accolades. First and foremost…
1) Play ugly. It sounds simple enough, but in a world of superficiality and a world where Jessica Alba is still getting work, we all know that looks matter. That’s why when people use advanced make-up crews and prosthetics to look like the rest of us average folks or, dare I say even ugly, the Academy pays attention. Prime examples; Nicole Kidman in The Hours and Charlize Theron in Monster. These performances both had merits of their own, but let’s be real, to see Charlize Theron anything less than hot was pretty much mind-blowing. Sure, there was character development but there was also about an extra 30 pounds there we’d never seen before.
2) Play mentally retarded. The Academy goes nuts for that kinda stuff. Ben Stiller joked about the topic in his film Tropic Thunder which sent some overly-PC groups, that hadn’t even seen the movie, into a frenzy. This is one of those things that people don’t really like to admit to themselves, but still holds true. When watching a movie about the trials and hardships of being mentally handicapped, and let’s face it, they rarely end well, don’t most of us feel a little better that we don’t face those challenges? Prime examples; Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. DiCaprio received his first nomination, while Hoffman was in it to win it. What’s ironic is that Rain Man scolds Charlie for taking advantage of his brother’s disability, but at heart, this film essentially does the same thing.
3) Play gay. This is one of the more recent trends in Oscar history that homosexuality has fallen into favor and that’s primarily due to the visibility of issues of gay rights in the media and politics. For a long time it would have been considered career suicide to accept the role, but over the years, attitudes have softened. There still remains an element of stigma to these roles though. Homosexuality is popular with the Academy when it is a recognizable character trait, but essentially reduces them to a caricature. When complexity is introduced, such as issues of gender identity, you can almost be sure that it’ll go to someone else. Prime examples; Felicity Huffman in Transamerica and Sean Penn in Milk. Say what you will about the movie itself, Felicity Huffman’s performance in Transamerica was powerful and complex, but evidently the whole prosthetic penis thing spooked the Academy into handing the Oscar over to Reese Witherspoon that year. Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk was impressive acting, but it felt more like watching hero worship than a fully formed character. Color me biased, but I’d rather hear about the man with all his successes and all his failures.
These are some of the tried and true methods of winning an Oscar or at least receiving a nomination. Doesn’t make it right and nobody said it was fair, but that’s the way it is. Stick to at least one of these three rules and you should be golden. After all, Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron stuck to rules 1 and 3 and they’re both Oscar winners. Coincidence? I think not. Just remember to thank me in your acceptance speech.

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3 thoughts on “Politics of the Academy Awards

  1. Ok, so after working 40 hours this weekend and having no time for my "life" I finally have the day off and got to pay myself a nice visit to your blog! Love it, which isn't a surprise because I love you and your brilliant! And you've been much more productive than I! I got to get my cute butt in gear! I'm working on my next bit of non-sense right now.

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