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A Magazine for Sheffield
During the early months of the cinematic calendar, much of Hollywood's elite gather together to congratulate themselves on their wonderful achievements the previous year. Whether it be for realistically chopping one's arm off with a blunt pen knife, or managing to successfully convince people that ballet is actually more than just prancing about in a leotard, those folks sure deserve a pat on the back. And what better way to show this appreciation than presenting those fortunate enough with a gold-coated metal statuette in honour of such noble accomplishments? Awards evenings have long been known as the place where the beautiful go to flaunt their assets to a bay of predatory press, draped in the latest designer label. Just in case we had forgotten how terribly plain and inconsequential our lives are, they are there to remind us. Consequently, most of the media coverage of these events focuses on devising the perfect breast to hip ratio of a Hollywood leading lady, rather than on the very thing these events were created to celebrate. As the earliest and undoubtedly most redundant, the Golden Globes is often regarded as a predictor of which way the Bafta and Oscar judges will lean, with a room of fat, sweaty middle-class white men from the Hollywood Press Association spurting out their equilibrium-sustaining opinions. What better consultants than these could recognise the sorts of subversive movies that have made cinema such an exciting medium? Recent nominations have included the appallingly brash Burlesque (starring Cher and Christina Aguilera) along with deflated, uninspired drags such as The Tourist and Despicable Me. Under-representation of 'other' races is a key topic of conversation during awards season, especially seeing as since 1990, out of the 12 black actors to have been nominated for an Academy Award, nine of those were for roles in biopics. It seems that acknowledgment only occurs for those actors portraying real-life political figures such as Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X and Idi Amin, all of whom wouldn't be too happy with this under-appreciation. The lack of a single non-white nomination in the Actor, Writer or Director categories at this year's Oscars and Baftas helps to cement this inequality, and the lack of effort made to readdress this imbalance suggests that there may still be a racist undercurrent within the studios themselves. There are well-known award-winning formulas that studios tend to conform to in an effort to please the awards judges and release dates normally fall just before nominations are announced to guarantee recognition. The success of films such as Rain Man or Shakespeare in Love have meant judges often reward actors playing English nobility, disabled characters or those who star in holocaust-based tragedies, resulting in a boringly predictable awards season this year with The King's Speech set to clean up at all the ceremonies. The concept of award ceremonies in themselves is absurd. Independent filmmakers are often instantly alienated, as a wide distribution is required for judges to see the films and give them a majority lead in the voting process, meaning those that are seen by more people are more likely to win, as long as their quality correlates in some way to the voters' expectations. In this respect, commercialism dressed up as possessing artistic merit is rewarded, and those films which may be attempting to say something wholly unique but have more of a niche appeal are largely ignored. The tags 'Oscar-nominated' and 'Oscar winner' have become synonymous with 'guaranteed financial gain' as advertisers exploit attempts at recognising filmmaker's achievements in order to increase box office revenue. Missing out on a nomination can often lead to the financial death of a film that is relying on such an honour to persuade people to invest time and money in watching something they may not necessarily want to see otherwise. Investors in the early stage of production are often reluctant to invest in films that don't carry awards appeal for this very reason. Despite my many reservations concerning how necessary and ethical these awards nights are, I can't help but be overcome by a child-like enthusiasm at the prospect of finding out this year's winners. Many a lone night has been spent streaming the Oscars on an illegal pixelated Arabic website, like some sort of cinematic junkie awaiting the next fix of Hollywood self-celebratory crack. Each ceremony is orchestrated with such gloss and to-the-minute precision that it's impossible not to be overwhelmed by the glamour of it all, allowing you to conveniently forget how racist, stagnant and pointless the whole thing is. )

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