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Film

‘Awards bait’ season amidst a pandemic and what it means for cinema

For all film lovers January is usually an exciting time of year. Audiences flock to the cinemas in their numbers to catch a glimpse of the latest blockbusters or even the indie gems vying for award success. But the pandemic has changed everything. The cinemas being closed means our only chance opportunity to view the films casting a bait for the awards are on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. To accommodate for the cinema releases, the Oscars have moved the ceremony to April this year, but with rising Covid infection rates and deaths in the U.S. it is looking unlikely that the ceremony will take place in person – if at all.

The most likely scenario for the film award ceremonies this year would be to have them over Zoom like the Emmy awards did last year. The new, pandemic appropriate format that the Emmy’s adopted seemed lost on viewers as TV ratings fell to an all-time low. But the problems award ceremonies are facing is nothing new. In fact, they had started long before the pandemic. Year on year, the Oscars’ and Golden Globes in particular have been combating increasing audience fatigue as TV ratings fall year on year. Several factors might explain this as to why this is, such as long ceremony run times, poor hosting, or even the increasingly poor quality of the nominated films.

Whilst award ceremonies and the film industry have banded together to tackle these problems, the added variable of the pandemic has thrown a spanner in their efforts. But perhaps the pandemic presents a good opportunity for the struggling industry. Indeed, one good outcome from the crisis already has been seeing all the media attention and space given to indie films, especially those directed by female directors, which has shifted attention away from the big blockbusters.

Furthermore, a much greater interest has been given in the industry to increasing diversity. Some of the best independent films in recent time that have received award recognition are those which have shone a light on marginalised voices and their stories. Amidst the pandemic, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has promised to promote greater diversity in its annual BAFTA award nominations. The Oscars have promised to make similar changes to promote diversity in recognition of the criticism they have received in the past over lack of diversity in the nominations.

For film lovers who have wanted to see changes like these to the award process for many years now, it finally looks as if the powers that be are serious about making meaningful structural and institutional changes. The pandemic has given the whole industry a wakeup call and given the award shows a chance to take a step back and reflect on what could be done better. The question of whether award shows are actually worth fighting for is one that has become increasingly prevalent as they appear increasingly out of touch. The reality is that they can and should survive, as despite their flaws they create amazing opportunities for certain styles of filmmaking and filmmakers alike.

The award show and the film industry is now facing an existential crisis that could present a myriad of potentially good or bad opportunities. Whilst the threat of closure of cinemas is one frightening yet possible outcome, a positive outcome from the pandemic would be the industry creating films that take greater recognition of the changing demographics within our society. This is long overdue.

Image: kalhh via Pixabay