This is always a weird time of year to write about movies, because it’s when talk of awards begins to heat up, and it’s also when critics (including me) start to receive links and DVD copies of movies that various studios are pushing for award consideration. It’s nice to get these, sure, but it’s also a reminder of how little I care about awards and how dangerous and misleading I think they can be for viewers. I see good movies every year; some are better than others, but assigning a “best” in any category is inherently impossible. Good things can be good for many reasons, and it feels disingenuous to me to say anything other than “I liked these, and I didn’t like these others.” You can make arguments about why one movie might be better or more rewarding than another, but attempting to crown one as a winner feels like a fundamental misunderstanding of what the movies are trying to accomplish in the first place.
It’s also stomach-churning because awards are purely about marketing, perception, and hype. When Miramax goes on a years-long run of nominations and awards, it’s not because they happen to have acquired the best movies in a given period, year after year, but because those movies are shrewdly marketed and tied to winning campaigns. To believe that Best Picture means “the best picture” is to believe your own press. Viewers have no stake in these awards, either, but it can feel good to root for them or get involved for the same base reasons it’s rewarding to pick a winner in an election: you feel validated for your tastes.
So this is a weird season. It always is. I love movies, and I absolutely hate awards. I never feel more phony than when I vote for them, as I’m compelled to by the bylaws of multiple critics societies to which I belong. It’s something I dread every year because I always feel like I’m lying: about the movies, about my beliefs, about what matters. I’m always trying to get back to what moves me, and awards have nothing to do with it.