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Being on a Judging Panel Made Me Realize How Boring Awards Season Really Is

Relentless campaigning, good PR, and some suggestible quotes from journalists in bed with film companies seems to be the winning formula.

by Priya Elan
Jan 12 2015, 3:40pm

Jennifer Aniston—who may very well win an Oscar next month. Image via

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Film award season went into full swing last night with Oscar's younger, drunker sister, the Golden Globes. The evening mixed the boring (Downton Abbey) with the dubious (Eddie Redmayne) before lapsing into a televisual coma at around the 1:15 mark (just after Jeremy Renner called J-Lo's breasts "globes").

As award ceremonies go, everything was present and correct: a peacock parade of red carpet dresses that look like lampshades designed to be vulvas, the earnest acceptance speeches that make you want to neatly slice your ears off with a craft blade, and the really, really weird award categories (what are they going to roll out next? "Best Use of a Contemporary Thimble?") for films that, often, haven't even been released yet. It's enough to make you really hate the baring-teeth-without-smiling beast that is showbiz.

But there is a point to these things. Or, at least, there should be.

A great film can be a thing of beauty, resonating beyond the two hours you sat in the theater with half a box of popcorn spilled across your crotch. In theory, award ceremonies should be about bigging up the films that somehow become larger than life (but not in a gross, Michael Bay kind of way) and those authentic acting performances which pushed themselves into a place of quasi-reality.

The truth, though, is that ain't how it goes. Most of the judges who make up the film juries haven't actually seen all the films. Case in point: me.

When I was part of a major judging paneI, I didn't end up watching all the films I was supposed to (around 30). Instead, I viewed around half and did the Cliffs Notes version on the other half, i.e., watched some of the trailers on YouTube and read a few Peter Bradshaw reviews in the Guardian. I'm sorry, but life is too short to sit through Snow White and the Huntsman.

Having gamed my way through the judging process, myself and my fellow judges came up with a shortlist of nominees which we debated, threw the occasional cold-stare hissy fit over, and finally made our completed shortlist.

Jennifer Lawrence stacking it on her way to collect her Oscar for 'Silver Linings Playbook'

Like contestants on Big Brother, the most interesting, divisive ones got knocked out at the start and the ones we ended up with were kind of vanilla. Our mild indifference was powered, if I remember correctly, by individuals' need for sandwiches and/or to go to the toilet. By the end of the process there was a lot of: "Where's my complimentary goodie bag, hun?" It wasn't the scrupulous, emotional process you might imagine.

Maybe that's what happens in the run up to all awards shows? Because it seems like the winners never really end up being the best of the lot. Who hasn't sat through the ass-numbing, four-hour televisual shiva that is the Oscars and thought: Has collective amnesia come over the Dolby Theater? That film was utterly forgettable!' Remember The Artist? No? Me either.

The complicated dance of getting to be an Oscar contender was illustrated in a savagely honest article written by Time Out NY's Associate Film Editor David Ehrlich for Slate. In it, he wonders aloud how Jennifer Aniston's performance in "one of the worst films of the year," Cake, became a contender. Ehrlich points out that the race to the golden statuette is one powered by money—not talent.

Relentless campaigning, good PR, and some suggestible quotes from journalists in bed with film companies are all the ingredients you need. Frankly, it sounds like the race to become president—with less drug and sex scandals and more badly photoshopped For Your Consideration posters. Just consider for a second the fact that we could soon be living in a world where Rachel from Friends has an Oscar.

Let's get those slow claps ready for February 22.

Follow Priya on Twitter.

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