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Spirit Awards Fri 2.5.2016

Horse Races and Ice Cream: In Praise of Awards Season

For Hollywood, January and February are typically known as “the dump months.” With summer blockbuster season not yet ramped up and the window to release award contenders closed, these gloomy late-winter weeks are the ideal spot to drop projects that the studios feel have little chance of making an impact, monetarily or otherwise. 

For film fans, the early months of each year can be a dispiriting time. Luckily the universe demands balance in all things, which is undoubtedly why this desolate stretch of calendar real estate has been gobbled up by awards season, giving movie lovers a place to put their frustrated energies in the lull between serious-minded dramatic fare and Technicolor superhero sagas.

I personally love awards season, and I’m not alone. In recent years, this madcap horse race for awards statuettes has kicked into high gear, birthing an entire movie media micro-economy of Oscar pundits and prognosticators, podcasts and Tumblr feeds all dedicated to celebrating—and, just as often, bemoaning—the sheer fun of anointing certain films the “best” in this or that category.

Sure, trying to quantify art like this can be a little silly. After all, how can you really compare two different acting performances, directing efforts or sound mixes against one another? Especially when they’re frequently so different? It can be like comparing apples and orange tennis shoes.

This is all true, but the gameification of movie watching is just another way for film fans to extend their involvement with the cultural products that they love. And really, is filling out an Oscar ballot or engaging in “should win, will win” speculation any different than fantasy football?

In fact, if Draft Kings or FanDuel ever crack the algorithm for single-day fantasy awards show gambling, I’d definitely go bankrupt betting on Mad Max: Fury Road to win best documentary short subject (I really, really like Mad Max, you guys.)

"Don't bet the farm, Matt."
“Don’t bet the farm, Matt.”

But that’s just the competitive aspect of awards season. Moreover, I—as well as the majority of film nerds in the world, I’m guessing—have a lot of positive memories associated with watching awards telecasts.

I recall with Proustian fuzziness the 1995 night I spent watching Forrest Gump mop up at the 67th Academy Awards while laying supine on our family’s Reagan-era black leather fold-out sofa, my dutiful mother ferrying in bowls of ice cream and demanding real-time updates about host David Letterman’s performance.

Years later as a very serious Film Major at the University of Utah, my classmates and I professed a deep—mostly performative—loathing of the Oscars, instead throwing our support behind the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Naturally, we all fancied ourselves budding indie auteurs, and it seemed only right to stump on behalf of the Spirit Awards as the punk rock alternative to the Hollywood glitz we all (pretended) to hate.

Since college, my stance on the Oscars and the Hollywood machinery behind it has softened. After all, big budget blockbusters and middlebrow biopics are part of a well-balanced movie diet. But my love of the Spirit Awards has only increased—so it makes perfect cosmic sense that as a 33-year-old I’ve somehow lucked into a career where my literal job is to care about the Spirit Awards. Somehow, I’ve subconsciously willed myself into being a cog in the awards season apparatus.

So despite every case made to the contrary, awards season is important. It gives people who care about film a yearly opportunity to hit pause, take the temperature of the medium and honor the artists who make it all possible.

Celebrating art is never a bad thing—especially when it comes with two scoops of chocolate ice cream.

Oh, and just another small reminder: the Film Independent Spirit Awards will be broadcast live on IFC, February 27 at 2:00 pm PT/5:00 pm ET, hosted by Kumail Nanjiani and Kate McKinnon.

To learn more about the Spirit Awards, click here. For more information about Film Independent, please visit our website or subscribe to our YouTube channel. Learn how to become a Member of Film Independent by clicking here.

Matt Warren / Film Independent Digital Content Manager


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