May 13th, 2021

Award shows losing their lustre


By Al Beeber on May 1, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Yawwwwn!! If you watched the Academy Award telecast last Sunday, you probably can relate to that sentiment.
Award shows for me have long been tedious affairs; while I’ve made a point to watch as many Oscar contenders as possible before the show, suffering through the whole affair can be tortuous because of the lengthy speeches and the lack of drama.
When I worked Sunday nights, waiting for the show to end so I could send my last page to press was excruciating.
In an era of social-distancing, these shows have lost their lustre with red carpets now rather vacant and in the case of the Oscars where there was a live audience, the guests being spread out and in small numbers.
But this is only part of the problem: the other one has existed for much longer. And that problem is how do we objectively judge one piece of art or one performance to be better than another?
Youn Yuh-jung, the best supporting actress winner for “Minari,” summed it up in one sentence:
“I don’t believe in competition. How can I win over Glenn Close?”
It’s a good point. How does anyone win over another when the competition is based on subjective opinions?
Do politics come into play in voting? Is there ever a sympathy vote for someone who hasn’t ever won an Oscar or Emmy or Grammy?
Some controversy was created when Anthony Hopkins won the best actor Oscar for this role in “The Father” over the late Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
This year, the Academy changed the order of award presentations, putting that award as the last to be handed out instead of the one for best picture which traditionally is the final Oscar winner of the night.
Why? Some say telecast producers were hoping to pay homage to Boseman, who died of cancer in 2020 at the age of 43.
Boseman had the disease for four years but kept his diagnosis private, continuing to work as he dealt with that challenge.
Was the ceremony set up to honour him in a move that completely backfired? If so, then that was demeaning to the other contenders in that category, given awards supposedly are based upon merit.
But how is that merit determined? Unlike sports, artistic awards are not based on goals, times, distances or heights, which are quantifiable measurements.
Art should be taken on its own merit and with viewership of awards shows in decline, maybe it’s time to reconsider the merits of such shows.
Obviously, there is a need for the entertainment industry to celebrate itself – awards shows are spotlights for the work being created by artists, art which needs to make money for the movie and recording studios that produce it.
And so surely in one form or another, we will continue to see awards shows but does anyone really care?
The viewership numbers increasingly say “no.” This year’s ratings were a whopping 58 per cent lower than the previous record low viewership last year. Only an estimated 9.85 million people tuned in Sunday.
And with theatres in Canada still closed, many potential viewers in this country aren’t getting the chance to see films unless they subscribe to various streaming services or manage to catch nominees on pay-per-view if they are released before the Oscar ceremony.
I saw a few this last year, the majority of them on Netflix. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” was a gripping retelling of a drama that unfolded in the summer of 1968 in Chicago. Sacha Baron Cohen was sensational as Abby Hoffman, a role that proved he has serious acting chops if anyone ever doubted it. And nobody should because this wasn’t his first strong dramatic role.
Or course, he was also a hoot in the “Borat” sequel which can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
I also caught “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and yes, Boseman was great in his final role.
Was he better than Anthony Hopkins? Who really can judge that?

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter

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